Help me understand overcast skies / pictures "without" shadows.
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    Help me understand overcast skies / pictures "without" shadows.

    Hello,

    for about a year I've been struggling to understand a certain kind of light: the one from an overcast sky that lights the form evenly, flattening it quite a bit. While there are very dark shapes and spots in places, there seem to be no clear borders between "lights" and "shadowshapes". The cast shadows of objects are very weak, sometimes barely there.
    In other words, it's the opposite of what Caravaggio does.

    These pictures illustrate what I mean:

    by Carl von Marr


    Waterhouse does it all the time!




    by James Gurney:

    http://eu.muttpop.com/var/eu/storage...mes-Gurney.jpg
    http://www.artdeviant.ru/files/2011/...mes_Gurney.jpg

    I've tried to do this kind of thing a few times, and after a few painting attempts over the past 1-2 years I thought I'd understand it. But on my newest painting, more than one person has commented that it looks quite flat and the figures seem to be "floating".

    My painting is here:

    http://maidith.deviantart.com/art/Joan-of-Arc-273236316

    Why does it look flat? I want it to work with weak cast shadows and diffuse light/no strong, identifiable light source, like Waterhouse has done. What did Waterhouse do differently? Why don't his figures "float"? I thought I had taken care to include the full value range?

    Not sure if I'm gonna fix things (or I'd have put this in the critique forum); I'd rather discuss the overcast-sky light principles in general here, so I can learn more about it and try to apply them again in a new painting.

    Looking forwards to your thoughts, ideas and knowledge!

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    The paintings above have a great deal of depth indicators, specifically on the ground planes and foreground that your illustration lacks. In each there are diagonal lines or objects that lead into the distance. There are also more significant contrast in scale, particularly with the figures.

    The buildings in the background of you work are truly well done, however perhaps they are not connected enough to the foreground to have the full effect of depth you are aiming for. Perhaps there could be some small breaks between the crowd, windows, that allow our eyes to see the mid-ground as it recedes into the distance. Notice for example, the gap on the steps of the Waterhouse painting, between the soldier on the left and the approaching onlookers.

    I don't feel that your lighting is the weakness of this work, though it seems that you have paid more attention to reflected light on the skin of the men in the foreground, than other objects in the scene.

    Something is off with the pitchfork. I think the perspective is off, and it may be too brightly lit. I would expect more dark darks and shadows around the wood and pyre.


    great work

    Last edited by Lane.; December 10th, 2011 at 02:11 PM.
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    I agree with Lane, I don't think lighting is necessarily your problem. The interaction of the figures and the ground plane is unconvincing. Try a paintover of the stones and feet in the fg, and also the hips and weight-bearing skeletal structure of the two men.

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    The problem isn't with the overcast skies. The problem is that you aren't imagining the scene in a real way. You aren't living the picture in your mind's eye before you start drawing it out. Everything in your picture is straight upright. It looks like a paper diarama. Move your mind through the scene, then move your figures through the scene.

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    You could try selecting areas of your picture in photoshop/painter and changing them in value, saturation, etc.. in comparison to the lighting of the picture you want it to look more like, to help figure out what your aiming for.

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    A few things. Your perspective is off. The camera is at about eye level if we take the guy in front with the red headband so that makes the priest very tall, the guy in the foreground a very short, and the people in the background nba players. Making things VERY flat. Not only that but the buildings then look way off as a result. It's all fundamentals that are wrong. You've built your painting on a poorly constructed foundation. The paintings you posted from other artists as "correct" were done from SOLID REFERENCE, perspective, and observation. Any inconsistencies with value and color are increased 2 fold based on the foundation work. First thing to correct. Draw in where your horizon line is and we can go from there. A lot of the rendering work is done fairly well btw. Look at my quick change here and notice first what's wrong then notice how little I changed and how much depth has been enhanced.

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    OMG!

    Of course. It's the perspective, not the color... I realize it now!

    Thanks so much for the feedback and paintovers. These enlightened me. I actually want to re-work the painting now...

    Next one will be planned more thoroughly, I promise!

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    I suggest you also rework the composition from a storytelling perspective: what is it all about, and where are we supposed to look? My eye first finds the girl, follows her gaze, along the birds, up into heaven, out of the picture, which makes me miss most of it. The priest seems to play an important role, but it is easy to miss him, and the cross in his hand coincides with a tower in the background. Some people look at him, which pulls my eye towards him, others seem to be staring at Jeanne's butt, which is quite understandable, but doesn't really serve the composition. I like the kids in the foreground, but they don't seem to play a role storywise, and don't fit the composition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maidith View Post
    OMG!

    Of course. It's the perspective, not the color... I realize it now!

    Thanks so much for the feedback and paintovers. These enlightened me. I actually want to re-work the painting now...

    Next one will be planned more thoroughly, I promise!
    Actually it is the color and value. On overcast days light is soft and diffuse and its direction is top down outdoors, so all shadows must correspond to this.
    The top upward facing planes get the light, side planes stay with their local color and values and shadows are confined to the underplanes that point away from the light or where the light is occluded by some other object. Shadows also have very little spread from their source and reflected light is absent.

    In your painting you have failed to preserve the top down direction of the light and shadows for the elements in the scene.

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    Maidith, your colouring is "chalky", which is the result of just adding white to make things lighter. Notice in the Waterhouse examples how the flesh colours get greyer as they darken towards the shadows?

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    Also, the lack of texture in digital painting gives me the willies. As a last step, I'd apply some (using a photo or something, not the Texturizer).

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    The examples you are showing have good > great depth to them. Your image does not because it seems to be lacking any middle ground.

    Study the second Waterhouse carefully as it's probably closer to what you are trying to achieve than the others.

    Man on floor - foreground
    People at steps - middle ground
    Buildings and people - background

    Try pushing Joan of Arc, Priest, onlookers etc back a little, away from the boy and the guy carrying the kindling. and it should go some way to achieving the above.


    Hope this helps.

    Byeee

    Last edited by Charlie D; December 12th, 2011 at 05:44 PM.
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    Foreground element - Man with fork,

    Joan of Arc pushed back a little towards middle ground which subsequently pushes back the onlookers towards background

    Good separation of objects = good > great depth.

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    Did you paint over that painting?! It looks like you took the background buildings, flipped them, then painted over them. Or maybe just heavily referenced?

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    Echoing what others have said- overcast skies lead to diffuse lighting. Understanding what happens to the light in this case will help a lot.

    A few specific things I'd like to mention:

    The buildings do not necessarily have to all share the same vanishing point- it's possible that some are turned one way or another and thus would have different vanishing points. However, they must all share the same horizon line, and as Jason mentioned the figures should be drawn in relation to this same horizon line. Now, there may be composition reasons to make the buildings share the same vanishing point, but each building only needs to be consistent within itself and the horizon line (assuming it's not a tower in Pisa) to be correct in terms of perspective.

    Secondly, with diffuse lighting, you will still have areas that get quite dark, but only in areas where very little light is reaching. With an overcast sky, basically anything right under a downward facing plane will be dark as fewer light rays are at an angle that can reach it. In the second Waterhouse you can see this on the wall underneath the structures supported by the pillars (can't remember the name of that- my Greek architecture is rusty). You can also see it underneath the folds along the edge of the rug in the first Waterhouse. In your picture, I would expect to see it in the "deep" parts of the firewood, directly underneath her dress, and other places with a down plane close to the ground or other plane.

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    The lit parts in your picture are very bright while the sky is fairly dark. But in an overcast lighting situation the sky is your lightsource and would therefore be the brightest light, like in the gurney picture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Ross View Post
    Did you paint over that painting?! It looks like you took the background buildings, flipped them, then painted over them.
    And then uploaded it all over the internet as the work of Jules Eugène Lenepveu.

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    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    And then uploaded it all over the internet as the work of Jules Eugène Lenepveu.
    I still haven't quite figured out how artists from the 1800's can plagiarize future internet artists who use Photoshop. He's lucky he's dead for he would be sued for sure.

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    Personally, I think Maidith made a fair attempt to use the picture as ref, but to change it up sufficiently so that it was a legit use of reference. I think you guys are coming down way too hard.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Personally, I think Maidith made a fair attempt to use the picture as ref, but to change it up sufficiently so that it was a legit use of reference. I think you guys are coming down way too hard.
    Yeah maybe you're right Kev. I haven't done a pixel comparison or anything but it makes sense the the perspective would be so off if it was just cut and paste then touched up. The dude Cr...zz is still in my memory.

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    So much valuable info. Thank you very much! I'll need some time to understand all of it, but already have a few questions.

    failed to preserve the top down direction of the light and shadows for the elements in the scene
    Armand, would you elaborate? Since I tried to do exactly that - painting everything lit from above - I'm not sure what escaped me.

    Maidith, your colouring is "chalky", which is the result of just adding white to make things lighter. Notice in the Waterhouse examples how the flesh colours get greyer as they darken towards the shadows?
    Good point, thank you! I will try it the Waterhouse way.
    Why I did what I did: my idea was that from a gray, cloudy sky the lights might actually look rather grayish-blueish on people, rather than bright-sunlight-yellow. Or is it the shadows that would look "chalkier", like you say, not the lights?
    (Usually shadows, especially on skin, seem very saturated to me)
    There's definitely some chalkiness somewhere...

    Charlie D, I will consider this for my next painting, absolutely. Thank you!

    Jason, I referenced the background buildings quite heavily from the Lenepveu painting; it's mentioned along with other references on THAT OTHER website http://maidith.deviantart.com/art/Joan-of-Arc-273236316 (already re-worked it guided by your overpaint - it helped a lot, thank you!)

    dose, thank you! Excellent points!

    tobbA, are you sure the lightest lights here should be no lighter than the sky? In Waterhouse's St Eulalia painting, there are plenty of light areas lighter than the sky.

    Last edited by Maidith; December 13th, 2011 at 03:46 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maidith View Post
    tobbA, are you sure the lightest lights here should be no lighter than the sky? In Waterhouse's St Eulalia painting, there are plenty of light areas lighter than the sky.
    Lighter not brighter. There is a difference.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    Lighter not brighter. There is a difference.
    What difference? Please, tell me more

    (Perhaps you also got example images?)

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    All the things I've circled are competing in value with the top planes and they shouldn't be.

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    I was kinda fascinated by the topic and decided to have a go at changing stuff and see if I could understand what's the difference was instead of trying to discuss it, I hope you get something out of it. I found it strange how pink all the people were, I think I've noticed it in your paintings before. Especially the two working men look kinda weird being baby pink, as they clearly work without shirts during daylight hours outside. Generally I just lighted up skins and darkened dark areas (black robes, dark wood etc) and darkened some shadows.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Personally, I think Maidith made a fair attempt to use the picture as ref, but to change it up sufficiently so that it was a legit use of reference. I think you guys are coming down way too hard.
    Exactly. I thought of Allen St John and Frazetta when you posted that.

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    Playing around with the values in the image to increase drama...

    You really have to watch out when you are painting something like this that things don't start looking gummy. They fellows who painted the pictures you are looking at were sticklers for good reference and working from life. I'd advise you to look at the drapery in particular.

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    tobbA, are you sure the lightest lights here should be no lighter than the sky? In Waterhouse's St Eulalia painting, there are plenty of light areas lighter than the sky.
    I think the reason he did that was simply for pictorial effect. There is no way things would be that bright if the sky was that dark. Unless of course there was a very thick cloud at that particular part of the sky and the rest was a lot brighter. If you google "overcast sky" and look at the values in the pictures nothing in the scene will be brighter than the brightest light in the sky.

    Here's James Gurney quoting another artist on this

    http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...conscious.html

    Last edited by tobbA; December 13th, 2011 at 07:07 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maidith View Post
    What difference? Please, tell me more

    (Perhaps you also got example images?)


    http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/wp-...4271686195.jpg

    Would you call Sea Green a "lighter" or "brighter" color than Electric Lime?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maidith View Post
    Good point, thank you! I will try it the Waterhouse way.
    Why I did what I did: my idea was that from a gray, cloudy sky the lights might actually look rather grayish-blueish on people, rather than bright-sunlight-yellow. Or is it the shadows that would look "chalkier", like you say, not the lights?
    (Usually shadows, especially on skin, seem very saturated to me)
    There's definitely some chalkiness somewhere...
    In this lighting the underlying flesh colour (i.e. the diffuse reflection) would stay essentially the same saturation from dark to light, which means that its chroma in the painting will increase steadily (see my website if you are unclear on this distinction). This increase in chroma will be subdued, but not eliminated, over a large area by the broad specular reflection of the sky. You could get the desaturating effect of this specular reflection digitally by applying white (not grey) at low opacity.

    Here's my dechalked version:

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