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Friday, March 15, 2019

The Trick to Painting Beautiful Shadows


'Path to Peace'          8x10          pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop $155
The photo was dull. It just didn't capture that warm sunny feeling that I felt when I stood at the end of that path to the sea. Sure it had the shadows but they looked ugly and gray. The color was completely washed out. If I had copied what I saw in the photo I probably would have a dull painting.

But I remembered the place in a different light. I felt the sun on my face. I heard the gentle music of the sea. I felt the light breeze and heard the grasses rustle as I walked down to the beach. THAT is what I wanted to paint! But how could I get the feeling of light with beautiful shadows in my painting?

My dull reference photo


Of course there is no 'correct' way to paint light and shadows. You will study all kinds of truths such as....if your light is warm the shadows should be cool.....cool light results in warm shadows. But there is no substitute for direct observation. Photos often don't show the color that you actually see in a real shadow.  But I have a little trick if you want to paint warm light on your scene with cool shadows.

Use the warm and cool colors in your underpainting to give your painting a head start!  This means use reds to yellow in the sunlit areas and blues,violets and greens in the shadowed areas. Orange and blue are a great place to start! Have a look at the underpainting for today's painting. It is an alcohol wash on Uart 400 sanded paper. 

The underpainting.....alcohol wash on Uart


This simple underpainting allowed me to keep the sunlit and shadowed areas in the right place and also worked underneath the upper layers of color to give me color and glow!


Would you like to explore more about painting light and shadows?  I have a step by step demo of this painting over on my Patreon Page. It is just a $4 a month subscription to tons of great content!

close up of the shadows


2 comments:

Gretha Lindwood said...

You've warmed up the scene nicely to the point I can imagine the feeling of walking barefoot on the path with the sun on my face

KAS said...

Thank you for this hint! The shadow area of your pastel looks colorful but true-to-life and not overbearing. I will try this for my next landscape.