This weekend was a busy one. I wanted to get some good outdoor painting in, that’s somewhere you can really learn about the properties of light. When the sun is rising and setting, it gives a warm, yellow glow. When this happens, the shadows become much, much cooler. Think of the way the sunset is – you can see the clouds closest to the setting sun are still lit by it, a bright yellow, and that contrast with the greys, purples, and blues of the shadows of the cloud (as well as any pink turns and highlights) are what give that striking feeling to the sun.
As the day goes on, the sun gets a little less bright yellow/orange. It’s still a warm light, all sunlight is, but it changes hue during the day. This is a very great time to work outdoors, during the day when the light is more steady, to get practice painting cool shadows. Objects and items are almost perfectly their local colour at these times. All you have to do is cool down the shadows by adding some ultramarine. 😀
If you’ve ever tried to capture a photo of the sunset, you know it’s not the same. It’s always too light, too dark, too over or undersaturated. Only when you’re painting outdoors can you really capture those light patterns and the patterns of other natural lighting.
You can see here how warm the sun is in the beautiful gardens.
But here you can see, the local colour of the fixture was “grey.” Instead of making a “warm” grey, I made a cool shadow colour, giving the indication of a warm light by being a relatively cool shadow colour.
In painting relativity is everything. It’s ok to use a cool colour in a warm light, but make sure your shadow areas are even cooler than that, so the eye will perceive the light areas as “warmer.” If you think about this in the case of mixing skin tones – you can start with almost any tone that’s the same value as your subject – because your relative and surrounding colours can make it loook relatively cooler, warmer, brighter, etc. I have done skin tones with white and a touch of cadmium red or alizarin crimson. I’ve also done just white with orange – as long as the shadows were warmer or cooler based on the light, it came out like skin.
Thank you for reading!