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Painting light and lighting up a painting
November 17, 2017
Do you know what I find toughest to paint? Sunlight. It’s too ephemeral, too hard to capture. It seems impossible to depict. Yet you can’t ignore it in any of your paintings. Light inevitably affects the way we see surrounding objects. Depending on whether the sun is lower or higher, whether it shines bright in the sky or covered by clouds, the same scenery will look different And studying that different is the key to painting plausible-looking landscapes.
It took me quite long to figure out how to use sunlight for painting. I concentrated too much on the physical features of the object while I also had to pay attention to how its appearance is impacted by the changing light.
Here are some of the early conclusions I arrived at:
- The best type of lighting to use for a landscape is side lighting. It gives pronounced highlights and shadows allowing you to better understand the shape of objects.
- If you want to visually separate the planes of your painting, you can use back lighting. It’s when the sun is directly behind an object you are depicting - for instance, a tree. That will enhance its silhouette and give a distinct three-dimensional feel to the painting.
- Front lighting, with its source directly behind your back, will provide a clear and evenly accentuated picture, but with flattened details. It is good for getting the scenery as a whole and understanding the balance between its elements.
The one who knows how
That was just a beginning though. I’ve studied hundreds of landscapes by different artists to see how they worked with light. One of these artists particularly amazed me with his painting technique and the exuberant mood of his works. I’m talking about Leonid Afremov. I won’t be surprised to find out that you never heard his name, although he is pretty popular in the web circles. Leonid creates incredible rainy cityscapes and autumn landscapes using thick flakes of color that strike the eye with their vibrancy and contrast. His paintings are certainly exaggerated, but in a delightful way. Those cheerful tints make the light in your room glow a little brighter. When you look at those misty park alleys covered with fallen leaves and multihued reflections, rows of hospitably burning lanterns and colorful trees, you can feel your mood rise. These simple yet so exquisite and stylish images remind you of the most romantic and inspiring moments you had. They can take you back to your first date or carry you away to the places of your childhood. And of course his canvases are awesome examples of sunlight painting, like the one here. Leonid Afremov taught me an important lesson. Do you know what is the difference between painting light and lighting up a painting? If you do everything correctly, there is none! I hope you’ll figure that out, too :)