Jan 14, 2016

Have You Considered the Light? - Art Tips on Using Multiple Photos


  Inspiration has hit!
A project is on the go!  References are ready.  
You take the bird from this photo, the branches and leaves from that one, put them together beautifully . . .but . . .  something is wrong!

A Friendly Face in the Forest - Watercolour - 12 x 16 
That darn bird looks out of place, it doesn't seem to blend into the setting. 

Have you considered the Light?

Not the shadows, but the light.  There are several things about light that need be looked at in order to properly integrate that bird into its setting.

1. Reflected Light: Here you need to go back to that Apple you had to draw in drawing class. (You just knew I would get my drawing stuff in here somehow.) There is the shadow on the subject but next to it is the reflected light.
Apple with shadow and light patterns 
  This area is very much affected by the colour of objects just below or beside it.  In the case of my Stellar Jay, the glow of the mossy branches are very much in evident below the bird so there would certainly be a green/yellow glow added to his chest and under his tail. See detail picture below.

 For another example see my post on "Afternoon Tea" where the pink of the fuchsias washes over the underbelly of the humming bird.  

2. Ambient light: 
Here I mean the combination of light reflections from various surfaces to produce a uniform illumination over the whole area.  Both subject, background and foreground.

In the case of my Stellar Jay, there is a definite ambient light surrounding him.  In the forested areas that are rich with the greens of moss there is very little direct sunlight.  It is reflected light through the trees and branches.  When everything is draped with moss you just know that the usual rules of sunlight colour will not apply.

I originally had the backlighting on my jay white. I had carefully saved that white while I washed the background, painted the background and painted the Jay.  A real job!  (You acrylic and oil people can chuckle at that as I know if you want a white you can find it in a tube.)  Once things were all in place it was time to evaluate that white.  It definitely needed some of that green/yellow glow - soft and subtle -  but it needed to be there.  
Picture Detail:  Stellar Jay before the colour was added to the white area - his back and crown.

Picture Detail: Stellar Jay after the colour was added to the white area on his back and crown. 

Take a second look at your bird/person/building that you have put into a new setting.  Are there issues with the reflected light and ambient light that you have not addressed?  Put a plastic sheet over your picture and experiment with some colour on the plastic in those areas. 

Step back to evaluate. 

Standing too close makes it hard to see the whole image.  Putting green on a blue bird's belly seems strange up close but stepping back brings it all into focus.

Let me know how it works out for you. 

Special Note for Readers coming from the "Adding Salt to theMix" post, Dec 10, 2015
In the step by step pictourial demo for using salt with watercolour I talked about cleaning up funny spots creating by the watercolour washing up against the frisket.  In this case there were some funny lines near my Stellar Jay's face, an important area in the picture.  As you can see from the picture details above,  once the glazing was done for the background, things are fine. If the background had been a plain smooth surface it would have been much harder to lift and blend things in.  But with a mottled background lights and darks blend into the foliage. 

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Have a great artful day,


Brenda Hill CDM said...

Lovely Wendy, the Jay just pops right off the page

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

That fellow has been our friend all through the fall, he has modelled for lots of pictures for me! The Jays are so colourful and quite the characters.