Because the eye and the brain are constantly adjusting to the
changing hues and values of sunlight and shadows when painting outdoors, it can
be difficult to see those changes as they happen to our subject. If one is
unaware that the original light has changed, the attempt to make adjustments
can result in the lack of a definite color key and muddy paint colors. Monet
famously changed canvases hourly as his highly trained eye detected that the
light had changed upon his plein air subject.
|The colors and values of the morning light
on the house.
||The colors and values of the afternoon light
on the house.
|The roof color in the
morning (left) and
Shooting a photograph of a solid colored house at different times
of the day is a great way to show the phenomenon because, unlike a landscape,
the colors of the house are uniform. These photos illustrate the importance
of identifying your key colors and values early and getting those spots of
color on your canvas right up front. As you can see in the photos, there are
not only big differences in the colors and values between the light and shadow
areas on the house, but also dramatic differences between the colors and values
of the morning light vs. the afternoon light.
We've chosen six identical points in each photo to show how dramatically different the colors would be if you were trying to paint the house at these different times of day. Indeed, that is an exercise in itself--try painting the same subject at
different times of day and compare the results. You will not only have a new
appreciation for how sunlight works, but you will also have taken a big step
toward sharpening your "color sense."
James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) gave a wonderful example of the
different colors on a white building on a sunny day in his blog, Gurney
Journey. Visit us at The Artist's Road to
see more in-depth articles and interviews, including an interview with James
--John and Ann