Jun 16, 2016

HELP!! I am Flat, I've lost my Shape - Painting and Drawing Tips


You work your heart out, painting a lovely picture.  You step back and look.  Everything is flat. No sculptured form. You just can't feel the 'mass'.  What is wrong? Can you save it? I am here to tell you, yes, it can be saved.  But to do that you need to come with me . . . . to the Dark Side.

What about the lights you ask, yes we need light and there are lots of talks on light but here in the dark you learn about shadows.  They give you the depth.

Little Gems - 7 x 5 - Watercolour - $130 Unframed

For me it is all about the value, who is dark and who is light.  If you think of a value scale of 1 to 10 there is lots to work with.  So lets look at the values in the Shadows. ( I am working on a series of posts focusing on Shadows.  The first post begins here.)  Today I want you to take a look at the highlights within the shadow area of subject.  This is part of the Core Shadow.  My newest picture from my Chickadees in the Garden Series, Little Gems will help to illustrate my point.

To understand the shadow highlight values you need to first return to my "friendly apple".  The Full Light Spot (or Highlight in the light side) is the lightest value for the whole apple.  That is common knowledge.  But now move into the Dark Side.  You first cross over the Terminator, learn more about it here. Next to the Terminator is the area of Reflected Light.  This area is the lightest area in the shadows.  In the case of my apple which was sitting on a light coloured cloth, there is a lot of reflected light. So it is quite light.  (If you placed the apple on a darker material this area would be darker but still lighter than the Terminator.)

As you can see, the dark shadow area does have a highlighted value but no matter how light this value is, it can not be lighter than the highlight on the light side.

My Friendly Apples  - page from my sketchbook

Sounds easy but look at it in practice. See the little chickadee below.  He has a white chest and white area on his head.  The head is in partial light and the chest is in total shade.  There is also a little light on the far side his chest.  Those highlights in the light are my lightest spots.  Now look at the whites in the shade.  They are lightest around his beak and central chest area.  Certainly the lightest part of the shadow area.  However when you compare them on the black and white version you can see they are darker than the white in the sunlight. If you assigned values to them the white in the sunlight might be a 1 but the white in shadow would be a 2 and in some places a 3.

Little Gems - detail #1
This kind of attention to the values in the shadows creates the depth and sculptured shape you are looking for.  Go back to your painting and check the values, not colour, and see what you have.  Remember you have 10 different values on your value scale to create that sense of mass and volume.  Did you use them all??

If you missed my last post series on Drawing Tips for summer fun check them out.  It is a four part series starting here.  

Looking for a starting point in your drawing?  I will be happy to get you up and running.  Call me now and set up a few lessons to get you on the road to a summer of fun with your art.

Special Note: Looking for a fun Plein Air Painting Festival centered on an historic site? Right here in the Fraser Valley. August 26, 27, & 28. Prizes for everyone at all levels.  $15 - www.kilby.ca to register and get more information.  See you there.

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Have a great artful day, Wendy


Brenda Hill CDM said...

It is a little Gem!!!

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

Thanks, I am having lots of fun with this series.