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I've been trying to gather information lately about the types of light conditions and their behavior, how they alter edges, color saturation, color
temperature etc. I haven't been having much time to practice color from life, especially during the daytime, so I am stuck with my indoor fluorescent light,
which isn't very useful, let alone that I can't learn anything about other lighting conditions. Studying from photography for some reason, doesn't
"compute" for me.
I am not looking for a "recipe" to north light, overcast light etc. I know that we all see in a slightly different manner and we make different aesthetic
choices that affect a piece a lot but there must be some general tendencies noted somewhere and how these may translate to painting.
I've been looking at some artists lately and I have noticed a few things, this one by Paul Bonner for instance.
It's drawn in a "realistic" manner and modeled that way too. The lighting, the way it affects saturation, edges and color temperature, although not entirely
realistic (due to color choices I suppose?) seems consistent enough with a logic that convinces that the scene is lit by a particular type of sunlight.
Brom here draws and models this image realistically too, the cool spotlight, although it seems more faked in comparison to Bonner's illustration, has a
consistency and is convincing of it's effect.
Both previous examples don't just "add white" and "add black". And although the color choices aren't consistent with a realistic result they convince the
Here James Gurney creates an even more realistic result, with the use of models (I couldn't find a high res image that's even more realistic sorry) and
hence convinces even more, although the previous two aren't far behind really.
In contrast this image by Glen Fabry and Liam Sharp, as well as the next one by Simon Bisley, just seem to consistently "lighten" and "darken" the local
They do it well no question about it, but they convince only for their volume, not realism or light quality.
All this in contrast to clearly realistic work like this by Richard Schmid
Now, in the case of Schmid, it's easy to understand, he has his subject in front of him, has the experience to simplify well and make the colors needed
to represent his subject realistically, he has color temperature and saturation as affected by lighting conditions right in front of him, his decisions to
deviate, if he does, are aesthetic.
The same almost could be said of James Gurney who creates a whole model of his image and lights it with the corresponding light to simulate the lighting
conditions he wants. Not that it's any easier, I understand he must know what tends to happen during these conditions so he will know what type of
light he will shine on the model and what type of reflector to use to get the back light, reflected light etc he needs so the result can convince that it is
sunrise for instance. He must know what light does during sunrise!
Now, in the case of Bonner, I don't think he uses a model like Gurney (if anyone knows please correct me, I don't have a clue, I am just making an
assumption) yet the results, although not as convincing as Gurney's , are very close. Even Brom's (I don't think he used a model in this image, or any other
he's made) is still pretty convincing and less "comicy" than Fabry's or Bisley's (not to take away anything from the guys, it's clearly a choice).
So, I come to the conclusion that there must be some factors that are constant with light in various circumstances, that produce certain results and
that light causes changes in certain degrees that can seemingly be predicted.
If the opposite were the case, then Bonner's and Brom's work, wouldn't seem so "realistic" and their logic of saturating and desaturating their color based on
light, as well as altering it's temperature, wouldn't convince us I think. It would look more like a colored mess in areas and a "simpler" solution like
Fabry's and Bisley's would seem a better solution for them unless they used a model of sorts.
So, to come to my questions. Is there a book, books, or some resource documenting the tendencies of light under various conditions. How it seems to
affect color temperature and saturation and to what degrees.
Also, if these artists have used some sort of reference (I am talking about Brom and Bonner), how does one use an unrelated reference (I don't think they
found pictures of what they wanted to paint so they probably used something that had the type of light they were after) in such paintings. We
aren't talking about drawing a head correctly, but how a cool spotlight desaturates light grey skin across it's surface and form.
I hope what I am looking for in terms of guidelines is coming across. I don't even know if I've expressed it right, but it's been in my mind some time now.
You can also get Light for the Visual Artist by Richard Yot, which uses more photo examples than Gurney's color and light.
Here is a useful link for knowledge of daylight:
After reading an advice in Yot's book, everyday I am outside, I question and discern the way light acts. E.g. I look at a building during an overcast day and study the harmony of colors and values. I sometimes also do some mental color mixing; I ask myself what colors I have to mix, and how many amount of it to mix, to represent the colors and values I see. I am hoping that it has the same effect as mental music practice, much like the guy who practiced playing piano in his head while in jail.
Last edited by Vay; January 25th, 2012 at 04:29 AM.
If you have the money I can recommend the "advanced lighting" course at schoolism.com. It's taught me lots.
Such things as exposure, rendering style and even personal interpretation also play into it. But I think the simplest way to get a good feel for this stuff is simply to paint lots from life. Just like with anatomy and figure drawing though, a good theoretical basis is needed to understand what you're painting and see things you might otherwise overlook.
It's very good to see that you are not looking for "recipes", and have already made an effort to observe the effects of lighting for yourself. Here's a checklist of some of the most important concepts I'd recommend you be very clear about in order to understand what you observe in nature and in artworks.
Hue, value, chroma, brightness and saturation
Specular and diffuse reflection; lighting terminology
Colour relationhips in light and shade
The scale of brilliance (including greyness and fluorence)
Colour relationships under coloured lighting
Effect of multiple light sources
Colour relationships in atmospheric mist
I'd also be very careful about using the expression "temperature" in analyzing lighting, as it can easily conceal a failure to clearly separate the concepts of hue and chroma. If you learn to think in terms of the basic dimensions of colour you should find you don't need it.
Master studies of Vermeer taught me a ton about lighting plus look very classy on a wall when finished.
Hey Line...understanding light behavior mainly comes from working from life...it's just that simple. The Bonner is nice, but not as realistic lighting wise as you might think.
Both of Jim's books and Schmid's Alla Prima are probably your best bet for in-depth study and awareness...and working from life of course.
There's another light book, by Ted Seth Jacobs... it's a more academic approach as Ted Seth Jacobs ascribes to the east coast Grand Central/New York academy style of teaching but there is some useful information there, particularly about modeling form under light. It is unfortunately out of print though but you can still get it secondhand.
Where do people get their money to travel across the world doing plein air paintings?
I want to go to Alaska to paint the mountains(or anywhere with mountains), but I don't want to get chased by a bear, but I am willing to risk it, because I learned from Bear Grylls that as long as I don't smell like fish, I am A-Ok. I would also prefer the privacy of painting in the wild than in the city, which gives no privacy to the painter as the case may be.
Last edited by Vay; January 25th, 2012 at 04:43 PM.
First off, thanks for all the replies. Awesome stuff people.
Basically Bowlin got a major part right. I am trying to learn to use reference, indirectly. I understand that painting from life and using reference will teach me more since I will observe more. The truth is I miss working from life, it's an awesome experience and unfortunately I haven't painted from life in a year or so! So, reference (at least for the sake of work) is the next best alternative.
But...(and this is a big one) I still want to get the theoretical basis to use as a tool for whatever work I do either from reference, or from life, even if at times the norm seems to not be the case in what I will be observing (which sometimes is the case). This is because I want both to be able to have a sound tool to use intuitively along with my references, when working on a commission and when studying from life. It's not that I fear that I won't come to these conclusions myself in time but, if these things have been observed before, why reinvent the wheel? (although I see it more like pointing in a direction and being said that the gas station is maybe a couple of miles down the road, not being sure if I discover it after half a mile or after 4 miles) Isn't it correct to assume that previous knowledge will help speed up development or at least notice things faster?
Ultimately, learning from life is my goal, I like it and enjoy it, so I'm with all of you on that. I'd even prefer real reference to photos, I don't know why photos aren't my thing.
@arenhaus I ordered Gurney's book last week, should be in any day.
@Vay Thanks for pointing this book out, it looks very very useful.
@Bowlin I hear ya, but here is my dilemma, how to use any number of reference? I understand basing a dino on a croc design-wise, but what about the actual rendering of form? How do I take what I see in a photo and reestablish the color/light relationship in the painting I am making? For instance, how to I interpret a photo of a croc under a summer sky, into a dragon under a cloudy sky? There's many things that are different. different forms, different light scatter, reflective light, relation of color hue, value and chroma on the light as opposed to the shade, or even from plane to plane (do I have it right Briggsy?). I will have to use a photo of a croc in the rain. But if I can't find one? And even if I can, how will I use it to inform me about different form (that of a dragon) that may be also influenced by different reflected or secondary light? Is "just reference" enough, even if I have 20 photos?
@Biggsy Thanks for the link! I hope you find I understand the concept of hue and chroma, from the above. I myself characterize it as basic ie. a first textbook definition of the terms, not in depth understanding and knowledge yet. Let me know if I have something wrong, unless my example above wasn't good.
@Medelo Thanks for the link, I'll check the book out. A bit costly.
How do master studies help one understand light? What if my way of interpreting light isn't the same with a certain master? Also, how is it that by observing the solution (painting) do I understand it more in relation to the problem (thing being panted) especially when I don't see it?
Last edited by Line; January 25th, 2012 at 08:08 PM.
Recipe for photo of croc in the rain on a sunny day:
You will need:
1 croc model/toy
table or support
1 big, gray sheet
Hose with water sprinkler
Place your model on your support
Suspend sheet over model using ladders, branches or scaffold
Turn on hose so fine spray of water showers down on model
Study and take photos
As far as working from life vs. photos goes....you're surrounded by life, by light, by form and by color. You can observe light, color, edges, etc. without a brush in your hand.
Here's a few good tricks/techniques to use to improve your observation:
Squint. A lot. Squint waaaaay down. Squint just a little. You'll notice values merging into big simple shapes.
Focus on one point in the distance....but then, without changing your focal point, try to become aware of the edges of other forms. You quickly realize just how limited the human focus point is and how areas away from the center of interest are blurred and soft.
Try to sort of relax your focus but then let your eyes "bounce around" a scene without you controlling what to look at. You'll find that your eye tends to hit on the dark notes in the scene. Do it enough, or a few times (in a few minutes) and you can start to see where the darkest notes are.
For color you can open eyes up wide and try to go out of focus a bit, and then just see color shapes.
A fun one is to turn your head completely upside down and look at the landscape...it usually looks much more vibrant color wise.
Anyway, there's a few others but that's enough fun for now!
BTW...none of that stuff above is very useful when looking at photos.
Well, what your asking, it depends on exactly what kind of pictures your wanting to make. Brom and Richard Schmid are two completely different artist, for example. Brom and Bonner are similiar, but they are still very different in their methods, I'm sure. They just develop different ways of using indirect reference. You can't lump it all into one way.
Briggsy and Jeff (as well as the other people) definitely have excellent advice. It takes a lot of time to go through Briggsy's site and really try to understand everything, but it's totally worth it! To have that guy give you any thorough answer on light, as he understands it, is not to be taken for granted on these types of threads! I may be kissing up to these guys, but these are the types of people that are sharing a lot of knowledge and really make a difference, in my opinion. I definitely believe in finding as much as you can on the books suggested so far too.
With that said, I honestly believe that artist that use a lot of indirect reference usually don't ever share their methods, because it's just too hard to explain and frowned upon by too many people. People want to believe that your doing most of your work from life, memory or dreams or whatever. Not from a lot of research and hard work (that'd be crazy, man! it's magic! They're photographic memory geniuses!).
If you look in "Imaginative Realism", page 140, especially that last phrase. Also, Jeff's right about using the model, that is what Gurney does to help get that lighting, BUT... you gotta look at page 196. Look at the bottom left picture. There's a lot of information being pulled out of those scrap photos. A LOT! Also, he's not using those models very directly, he's using those indirectly too ... or they would look like paintings of models.
You just gotta try to find the references from artist the best you can. It's extremely difficult. You have to be aware that most of the tutorials, they don't show their references a lot of times either. When you look at videos like Greg Manchess's video on this site, for example. Try to notice his references he uses from the books and even his laptop.
Hmm. I see what you guys are saying. I do notice things around me all the time. Even when I am not supposed to. You can't do otherwise if you like to draw and paint, and read and learn about the stuff right? I squint alot, I check lighting a lot, edges, materials, etc etc. It's different tho when you sit down and paint it 200 times, it soaks in, becomes second nature (damn fluorescent light).
I didn't mean using the theoretical basis as a crotch, nor to use it to replace study from life, but it's good that Jeff called me out on it, because there is a huge danger of turning these things into a formula, such as learning anatomy ONLY from a book...dangerous and not effective. It's a case of the heart, due to passion, forgetting what the mind knows.
As I understand it, reference is probably being used in a manner of trying to understand what might happen in a situation you are looking to build, based on a total of situations your reference provides, thus coming to a sort of "guesstimation" that looks better and better through study and continuous use of many a reference. Of course various types of studies, use of models, or photos and varying degrees of these, shape up each artists' preferred way of work. I understand such a concept having used a model of skeletor sometimes to help with some cast shadow, or with a generic view of what areas catch light, halftone or shadow at instances. Of course, better reference, will yield better information which I assume is the key word here. Correct me if I am wrong, but under this view, using reference in terms of getting information, coupled with knowledge coming from both study and observations of others is the killer move I think. Or am I coming to a wrong conclusion here?
Briggsy's site is awesome yes, and I have taken it from the top, and I ask, Briggsy, you mention in the beginning of the site that "the site now presents a reasonable introduction to the subject promised by the title". Let's hypothesize that the total document is say, 50 pages long. Is there a stash of a detailed document that's say, 500 pages long? If so, how can we access it? Oh and, yes my use of chroma and hue were different to how you define them. I used chroma in the sense of chroma key in an image, not to define the color of a single speck of light as is your definition, a rather exciting and important one as things unfold in your site.
Sorry if I am asking too many questions or if they seem too weird. I am tackling many things now and unless I keep studying and keep them on my mind all the time, I will probably just let them go for another few months and return to drawing in the manner of using "memorized 2d shapes" instead of thinking of the volume of an object while drawing, either from life or imagination, and that is a crotch and a stumbling block to development all of it's own I have found!
I am trying to understand many things here, light being the most important, along with color, because my drawing skills I improve more by practicing, or I can just not be lazy and take my time to draw a damn thing correctly by measuring. Same with tone (sorta), but light needs a different basis of study. This I couple with my passion to evolve my understanding and skills of picturemaking while breaking away, or at least, expanding from my Frazetta roots (a very important goal for me) and move forward into getting more and better work in the future.
There's also the technical aspect of painting along with other things. I don't feel overwhelmed, if anything I feel that I am not getting enough info or finding the correct books to start. So, anything you can add or direct me to, please fire away.
Yeah, I guess you could say better. A lot of the old artist had cabinets full of references.
And when it comes to Frazetta, I have no doubt he could draw awesome figures from memory and did do many paintings from his head. But some stuff it's just easy to see he probably used references. There's nothing wrong with that. And I have no doubt his method involved a LOT of indirect referencing.
Last edited by Bowlin; January 26th, 2012 at 04:30 PM.
For example, if you look at these post of the sea monster, you can see the whale photos he used indirectly as well as the maquette.
Dpaint, Jeff - Ellie's panties perhaps?
Man, what I wold give to have a room like James Gurney's! Right now I have to paint on my laps in my room
@Briggsy: Thanks for all the information, there's plenty to study and I am happy to having got a particular direction on the subject.
@Bowlin: Thanks for the link you sent me! By the way, I always thought Frank was a boxers dude. Even after his passing the man amazes us.
Oh, and thanks for the cool links everyone. Faved this page.