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Getting LIGHT

into your pictures


When we work on completing a picture, we are taking a

subject which is three dimensional in real life, and showing an

image of it in two dimensions, on a flat surface that may ( or

may not ) be white.

The white we see on the paper is as light as we can get. Sunlight is exceedingly bright but we can only use that flat paper white to show it - or even possibly with a tint of added colour …..which is even less white. So how on earth can we convince a viewer of our picture that what they see on our paper surface is in bright sunlight? Simply by showing it against dark. The darker the contrast - the brighter the light that it is compared with. To show sunlight we need shadow. Light falling on a surface also shows up the type of surface - from brick and stone to the delicate surface of a child’s skin compared to the wrinkles in an old man’s face. It is all down to light and shadow more than it is down to colour so we need to look at general pencil techniques for tone and shape. What I am trying to do in this topic is to show the various ways we can demonstrate light and convince the viewer they are seeing a solid and recognisable object on our flat paper. Whether my efforts prove successful is probably in doubt, but I will be developing this page over the coming month or so, and you may be able to follow my progress ( or lack of it ! ).
FIRST OF ALL, I need to consider the techniques for using pencils to give that crisp warm feel we get from a bright sunny day - through to the portrayal of different types on light on different surfaces which enable us to determine what sort of a surface we are looking at ( smooth, rough, ribbed etc ). Light reveals shape , We must consider how we use light and shadow to show that shape.
How about if we fill it in. Is it now a convincing ball ? Possibly not ! We can agree that it is the general shape of a ball, It is certainly circular but currently it is just a round circle on the paper which has been filled in.
This is progress ! We have moved on to what could be a solid shape. BUT It is clearly not a ball…. perhaps just a solid disc of some sort
Fair enough - I am sure you get the point. This is more like a ball. but it could be a round floating balloon
This is a much more convincing effort. Not only does the highlight and the grading of the colour show us the rounded shape, the shadow shows us that it has solidity and is also rounded
Let us take a simple example Here we have a round ball ……………or is it ?
BUT we have another point we can see from this illustration. The left hand yellow globe above has quite a roughened surface, which we have obtained by using two colours on a fairly rough paper. The first colour, yellow, has covered the surface and a highlight has been left white, which tells us that the shape is in direct light coming from the upper left hand side, and that the shape surface is rough like an orange. We have used watercolour pencils for this first lower shape so we can take a damp brush and manipulate the pigment on the paper. We now represent a smooth object simply by brushing in the colour in an even way. The lower right hand shape now has a shadow, so we know it is resting on a surface and the fact that the light is on the left hand side is confirmed by the opposing right hand shadow. The result of our efforts is to portray a round ball in a lit situation. The way that light has been shown gives solidity to the shape.