challenges with umbrellas and light

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KatPaints wrote
on 21 Aug 2011 6:26 PM

I was looking over my plein air paintings from this past season and realized that it is at times difficult to perceive color/light outdoors sometimes. I found that several of my painting were too dark when brought indoors. An umbrella wasn't used on one but not the other. Last week I painted a scene under an umbrella which is lined in black and was shocked at the color and values when I took my umbrella down. It was (about 25%) darker and yellower when viewed under the umbrella and lighter and bluer in daylight. The week before, the person I paint with had a similar problem. One color was totally different under the umbrella as compared in the daylight. It's frustrating when this happens.

I was wondering if anyone else had encountered this problem and what was done to counteract this. Yes I know some of you will say that you don't use an umbrella, but it's hard to do this when it's so hot and you have sweat running down your back and you're hair is drenched. Part of this is probably due to the brightness outdoors and my eyes adjusting to what I'm looking at. I'm wondering if I should switch to a white umbrella or make test swatches and view it under the umbrella and in full daylight before starting. I'm starting to think the black umbrella is good for some days and not others. I just don't know. I really need to look into this further. Any ideas?

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crowdaddy wrote
on 24 Aug 2011 6:53 AM

KatPaints,    My suggestion for this is interpret in your own colors, and don't worry about matching the colors of what you are painting,.  It will not only be less tedious, but you will turn out your own mixed colors and they will be far more interesting.  Keep the umbrella, so you don't overheat, and push your colors brighter on your own.  When you are done it will look much more painterly, and less photographic.

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KatPaints wrote
on 25 Aug 2011 4:06 PM

I agree, I've been trying to push the colors more. My most favorite painting is one that I did in an hour using a scrap piece of canvas - just as an experiment.

The problem I am having is some sort of physical/viewing challenge rather than being painterly. Even if I were to push the painting color, when I would bring it indoors or on certain days use an umbrella, the colors I think I'm creating are not what I'm getting because of the different viewing situations. If you've ever viewed a color under a light box and then in different lighting, the color will look different. It's sort of like this. I may see taupe under the umbrella, but in the daylight it could be mauve. It happens depending on the lighting of the day. It's a matter of not getting what I expect. Perhaps this is the just the nature of plein air and I need be consistent with my viewing of light, but I want to keep my umbrella so I guess I need to adjust my expectations?? I'll try the white umbrella anyway.

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Jay Babina wrote
on 22 Nov 2011 10:37 AM

Many times I sacrifice a great composition for a place in the shade on a hot sunny day. I don't own an umbrella. I sometimes paint with sunglasses on to reduce the light on my eyes and especially if  I start with a white canvas. I think after a while you just learn to compensate for the bright light of outdoor painting. I had a few that I had to re-work some values because they were a bit dark. But usually, it's not that big a problem any more. I do try to be careful to not get too dark knowing all of this.


Even inside, galleries have lights on paintings but most homes do not. The work may end up in someone's dimly lit hallway. 

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