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Saturday, November 07, 2015

Warm Light vs Cool Light...an Experiment

'Along Silver Creek'             11x14            pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $165
 Some concepts don't come without a struggle. When I began painting the concept of Value eluded me. I had no idea what the fuss was all about. It took a few years of painting and hearing about value in different ways before I finally got it.

The same is true with the concept of temperature....especially temperature as it applies to the light source. I know intellectually the idea that warm light = cool shadows and cool light = warm shadows. I even understand the science behind it. Putting that knowledge into practice was quite another thing. Understanding something and actually making good use of it in a painting is a challenge.

It all boils down to practice. The more you consciously make use of the concept the more it makes sense and the more you will be able to make use of it intuitively. Read about a concept. Understand it and then PRACTICE it!


The original painting had a warm early morning glow
I decided to test my understanding of the idea that COOL LIGHT = WARM SHADOWS. I had been painting a lot of landscapes with warm light....early morning and late afternoon scenes where the sun was low in the sky and the light was warm...yellow-orange, orange, red.  I knew that to make the landscape appear to be lit by this warm sun I needed to use warm colors in the light and cooler, duller colors in the shadowed areas.

But what about cool light? What happens when the sun is high in the sky...noonish? Or when it is cloudy or overcast and the light is cool and silvery?  I wanted to practice a scene with cool light so I decided to change an older painting from warm to cool light.  Here are the changes I made:

  • I changed the sky color from blue to green and pale silvery gray almost white. I used my Terry Ludwig heart pastel which was the perfect color for a cool sky.
  • I changed the water color to reflect the new sky colors.
  • I toned down the warm orange yellows in the trees to a duller, cooler peach.
  • I cooled off the warm green trees and used a cooler green.
  • I made sure that the areas in the shadows were kept warm.
  • I covered the sunlit peachy grass with some gray violet since there was no longer a shaft of sunlight.
  • I added an egret....just because.
This was a valuable exercise. Having to make changes caused me to be very much aware of the color and temperature choices that I needed to make. 

TRY THIS: Take a landscape that you have painted and determine what time of day it is and what is the temperature of the light. Now paint it again (or over it) changing to the opposite temperature.


Thank you Terry Ludwig...this heart pastel was just what I needed!

Frame courtesy of Michaels

1 comment:

Jan Johnson said...

I love reading your posts. Such good information. Thanks!