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  1. #1
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    Information about light conditions and behavior.

    Hello everyone.

    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.

    Information about light conditions and behavior.

    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.

    Information about light conditions and behavior.

    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
    eye.

    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.

    Information about light conditions and behavior.

    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
    color.

    Information about light conditions and behavior.

    Information about light conditions and behavior.

    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

    Information about light conditions and behavior.

    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.

    So, anyone?

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  3. #2
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    "Color and Light" by James Gurney?

    Nice selection of sample pictures, by the way. A good representative one, ranging from very minimal shading to full-blown realism.

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  4. #3
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    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:
    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithab...sun_yellow.php

    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.
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  6. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    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.

    So, anyone?
    Sounds like your trying to figure out how to use reference INDIRECTLY. Try using not just a few pictures for reference, but a LOT. Some of Gurney's dinosaurs look a lot like croc's, right?

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    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.

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    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
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/012.php

    Specular and diffuse reflection; lighting terminology
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/021.php
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/022.php
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/023.php

    Shading series
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/101.php

    Colour relationhips in light and shade
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/102.php

    The scale of brilliance (including greyness and fluorence)
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/103.php

    Colour relationships under coloured lighting
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/104.php

    Effect of multiple light sources
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/105.php

    Colour relationships in atmospheric mist
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/108.php

    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.
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/077.php

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  10. #7
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    Master studies of Vermeer taught me a ton about lighting plus look very classy on a wall when finished.

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  12. #8
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    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.

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  14. #9
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    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.

    http://www.amazon.com/Light-Artist-T...7524450&sr=8-1

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  16. #10
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    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.
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  17. #11
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    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.
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  18. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    (do I have it right Briggsy?).
    Hard to say from here, but you're asking the right sort of questions. Let me know if you find any of the answers in those links!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    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).
    Develop your "theoretical basis" by working from life. Direct observation trumps theory and formulae. The reason is because of the infinite conditions that life and observation show us. Theory and analysis are just ways to simplify and allow us to talk about specific things and phenomena, but they come from good observation anyway, so that is teh place to start.

    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    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?
    You don't...that's the whole point...Gurney's "Imaginitive Realism", and the example you posted should lead you to the correct understanding. That is why Jim builds real models of characters or complex scenes, puts them outside in natural light and studies them (or under the lighting he wants to illustrate).

    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

    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    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?
    You would study a master work that handled a similar subject in what you think is an interesting manner. Trying to match/copy the work informs you how they handle the medium and solve the problems.

    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.

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