Light. What would we do without it? Our little blue planet depends on it. At least life on the planet does. And somewhere in the entire hierarchy of beings dwell the artists. Those peculiar people who seek out light in all its forms for their works of art. Sunrise, sunset and in all weather conditions light in its abundance or elusiveness continues to mesmerize the landscape artist. Seems a pity not to do a good job with it then.
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In every landscape we see light not because it is visible. Rather we see shapes and objects revealed by light. Exactly how those shapes and objects appear depends on the quality of light. Warm and cool colour and light and dark shapes are all due to the moods of light. The impressionists obsessed about how the atmosphere was influenced light. In truth the subject was not a tree, house or yacht, but rather the effect of light.
This is clearly seen in Monet's series paintings. Haystacks, for example, painted in all light conditions and seasons. The haystack was irrelevant. It was the nature of the light that mattered. Otherwise these series paintings would have been a complete waste of time.
Values or Colour?
Of course we tend to think of colour when we talk about light. Bright red or cool blue depends on the light not so? But this is to confuse light with saturation of a colour. After all a black and white photograph can convey plenty about light. Colour is not required to make the point although colour sure does add to the impact. What really counts then? Like the black and white photo suggests the primary issue is light and dark shapes. We call these values. Look for strong value contrast and you will find strong light. Work with that in your sun filled painting.
Through Thick and Thin
When painting with watercolors it is transparency that counts. Transparent paint that lets the white paper show through a pigment wash empasises the light. In oil painting it is the thick opaque layers of pigment that emphasises the light filled areas. But in both cases the sense of light is boosted when light paint works alongside dark paint.
Relationships are Key
Romance is all about relationships. Keep this in mind with colour too. Put the rights colours next to each other and goods things start to happen. A warm yellow sunset gets cooking when placed alongside cool violets. Warm and cool makes colour interesting. You can use this technique to break up large areas of similar value colour. To avoid a boring passage of colour add warm and cool colour to create good vibrations. The impressionists loved doing this with skies for example. Look at Monet's paintings above to see this technique perfected.
The Loose Painting Challenge
With all this thinking about impressionist colour play I decided to make a light filled landscape painting the subject of this month's loose painting lesson. Plenty of light steaming through foliage, dappled light and shadows. An impressionist's favorite scene I think. But this is not simply a case of dabbing paint all over the place. I found it a massive challenge keeping a variety of colour effects and still getting a sense of depth.
If you would like to spend a half-hour with me painting light in the landscape then join me here. You will see a three part demonstration called Light in the Tunnel. Plus a host of other lessons and demonstrations. It is like being in the studio with me as I work on the various loose painting challenges.
What is loose painting? I explain more about this concept in the video below: