Shadow Boxing

I varnished two paintings today, along with doing some household chores, and now I can return to writing this blog post; before, I settle down to work on a couple PowerPoint presentations for art class. I really just want to paint some tulips that I photographed before they went across the flower bridge where all cut flowers eventually go.

I wrote the topic or title to this blog and then had to set it aside without any further explanation, so I’m making this up as I go along. One of the most important aspects of a representational painting is light and shadow. That and colors, values, contrast, and edges help to create the illusion of 3D form in space on the 2 dimensional flat surface. There are some other tools like color hue, temperature, and brilliance or chroma that we can use, along with linear and aerial perspective to create depth in space to mimic reality. One aspect that was arrived at after the Flemish painters were mastering linear perspective was selective focus. That and we can use some design and composition techniques, and selective detail rendering to create a focal point.

I recently bought an online course on rose painting to up my still life game and the instructor talked about a particular blossom in a bouquet being the star of the show compared to the other blossoms. Some of the concepts she introduced were the big shapes, the basic shapes of flowers like bowls and cylinders, and form shadows. I also bought an online book of hers on still life painting, but haven’t read it yet. I’m still reading Traditional Oil Painting by Virgil Elliot.

Form shadows differ from cast shadows. In the flower painting course, the form shadows were usually darker colors of the local flower color, with some of the neutral background color mixed in. The cast shadows, those created by the object blocking light, differ from the form shadow created by the shape of object turning away from the light.

On thing that was important to the still life setup was using a shadow box, two sides and a back (at least), used to block secondary light sources, and allow for a single light source and thus distinct highlights and cast shadows. I need to create a shadow box (often painted black), so I can box some shadows, and start working some still life paintings. It’s too late for the tulips, but it’s spring and stuffs gonna bloom.

Oh! And, I should mention that shadows are a rather interesting aspect to painting. David Desiderio says that “the colors live in the shadows.” There is a rule of thumb that says ‘warm light: cool shadow, and cool light: warm shadow,’ but I find it’s more complicated. Some say those darks are not black. The darks have color. In indirect painting, we initially put the darks in lighter, and glaze over them with transparent dark colors. There are transparent black pigments, but in either event, the shadows get darker with every layer of glazing. I prefer chromatic blacks mixed from transparent pigments like transparent red oxide plus pthalo green or ultramarine blue mixed with some burnt umber. Mediums can add to the transparency or painting thinly. Shadows in yellow objects are tricky and can easily turn green. Many paint the shadows on white local object colors as some kind of purple lavender.

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