Wednesday, May 30, 2012

View my art online at iwork

I am no longer using this blog site, but you may view my painting by following this link: paintingsbydavidshort
You may also contact me:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lesson #4 Meeting Challenges

Each year millions of How to... or Learn to... books and booklets are sold in order to meet the needs of aspiring artists. Most of these end up in the heap accompanied by murmurs of resignation: "Well, maybe I just don't have the motivation, talent, or whatever's required anyway."
The result: a budding passion is turned to despair because the author of the Steps to... has made a misassumption: There is one (his or her) way to get from A to B.  

I remember long ago attempting to follow instructions that went something like this: "For the sky I use Prussian blue mixed with...". Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "Gee, all I have is a tube of Egyptian blue. Is that OK?"  (Don't expect an answer.) 

To illustrate my point, I have grabbed a few pieces of pastel together and mixed them on paper until I got a certain arbitrary flesh tone. Of course, there is a lot of repetition of primary colours in some of the pieces ("leftovers") I used, but I didn't care -- all I wanted was a flesh tone from the few pieces I had available. Now, this in itself is a lesson: I can achieve a certain direction in my painting without a lot of resources. The swatch and the colours I used to make it are shown in pics A and B.

Pic A (detail shows graininess of paper)

Pic B
Now, suppose I were given this swatch and wanted to achieve the same hue (colour) and value (darkness or lightness). First I tried to see the colours in the swatch. From my little bowl of pieces I applied a white first because the swatch was very light. I could see that there was some pinkness in the flesh tone as well as some yellowness, so I applied a "red" and a "yellow" until achieved the result I wanted. If I erred and applied too much of one, I would "bend" it by applying the others again. If I had goofed completely on a colour I could merely erase the whole thing and start all over. I noticed by experimentation that there must be an ever-so-light touch of blue as well. If I had used a purer yellow, I may have had to apply another colour as well. I would have to look at the results of this decision. The colours I used are in pic C, and the swatch I achieve with these colours is on the right in pic D compared with the original swatch on the left. 

Pic C
Pic D
The point was that in a matter of a minute, I could achieve the same colour by following different steps! (Some of you might notice that the second swatch is slightly too red to the left of its centre... oh well.)

There are two intrinsically related lessons:
1.  There are many ways to achieve your goals in painting.
2.  Look at an obstacle blocking you from achieving a desired result as a challenge. In other words, don't look for the solution, but look for a solution.  Art is improvisation. When I am painting, I meet challenges all the time. I don't say, "how would so-and-so do it?".  I look for my own way through. This is not to say I don't learns from others. I avoid steps and formulas yet absorb the important techniques and rules of colour etc. that others are willing to share, then go off and "do my thing".  

Assignment: Mix a few colours together, then try to achieve the same result using other pastels you have.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Painting Tips #3 The Mirror of the Soul: Part One

Look at a face and what do you see?  Oranges, right?!!  Seriously, light interacts with the surface of an orange in much the same way as it does on facial form.

There are other ways that light interacts with facial features to create form. Look at the image of the water droplet on the leaf.

In one way, light interacts as it does on the orange, creating an image of the primary light source on the upper surface.  If we put a black pupil in the middle, we'd have a green-eyed gecko! Compare it with the drawing of the eye in the next photo.

 There is a transparent bulge over the iris much like a water droplet. What, other than the highlight, tells us that there is water on the leaf and a transparent lens-like bulge over our irises? Notice that light goes through both the droplet and the bulge on the eyeball and focuses on the background surface (leaf and iris respectively) to give a lighter area opposite the highlight. Because much of the light is reflected away in the highlight, there is a darker tone directly behind the highlight. This is accentuated in the eye because we have the shadow of the eyelids and eyebrows.
Assignment: Place droplets on a waterproof surface and practice drawing them with light coming from different angles. You'll learn a lot about painting the eye.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Painting Tips #2 -The Light Unpeeled

How did you do with the orange? In this entry, I include a painting and a drawing of the orange, and an analysis of the values of lightness and darkness I observed. I refer with numbers to the areas I include in the analysis. Don't be too concerned if I get a bit technical. If you can recognize the different light sources, that is enough.
Pastel painting of orange
Numbered areas for analysis
1.  Highlight. This is the area of the orange that would reflect the image of the primary light source if the orange were smooth enough. The highlight helps emphasize the shape of the orange. Because of the angle of reflection, little of the light is absorbed by the orange, so the colour remains largely that of the light source.
2.  The area of the orange that is “in the light” – from the primary light source. This is the light that gives the moon its half or quarter cycle.  In this case, the angle that light hits the surface of the orange means that blues are absorbed and reds and yellows (orange) are reflected.
3.  This is “the dark side of the moon”. Notice that because there are secondary sources of light as well, the half shaded appearance is not very clear.
4.  These are two darker areas of #3 that are relatively unaffected by the secondary light sources.  They are what little remains of “the dark side of the moon”.
5. A cast shadow “sits” the orange, providing further evidence of its shape and relationship to the light source and the viewer.
6.   Light reflected from the table surface. Although the moon will always remain beautiful, it does look rather flat.  Secondary light sources on the orange help provide the spherical appearance.  Light is reflected from the table surface casting a glow that is brightest near the surface of the table and gradually dims a we look up the orange away from this light source.
7.  This is a soft highlight from the tabletop behind the orange. It is the same as a highlight because it is reflected at an angle that means that it is affected mostly by the colour of the background tabletop.
      8.  Since #7 is reflected light from the background, we would expect an “image” of the orange’s cast shadow as well, hence there is a subtle darkness here. Since I coloured the shadow with mostly purple, I have put a hint of this in my painting of the orange.
      9.  This is soft light from many secondary sources. As in #2, blues are absorbed resulting in the orange appearance.
      10. This is probably the subtlest of the light effects. There is an ever-so-light reflection of the bottom  surface the orange on the table surface, hence I've exaggerated it a bit, emphasizing the outside curve of the orange and adding a bit of orange in the shadow here.
     Assignment: Try painting the orange yourself, even emphasizing some of the effects of light. Or take another spherical object and paint it in view of the different light source.

Painting tips #1 Light and Form

Light and form - the two basic ingredients required in order for the mind to give meaning or recognition to objects. However, light alone does not give meaning to form. An image remains flat, like a colored piece of paper, unless the mind continually relates light with a lack of light (relative dimness, shade, shadow, and darkness). Take an orange, learn how light plays with its form, and you have mastered the basics of facial form.
Lay an orange on a table and provide a light source. Find and observe the following:
1.     Depending on the angle the light reflects off the object and smoothness of the object, the light will be perceived as 1) a reverse image of the light source  2) a highlight, or 3) scattered, softer light that gives the surface it’s color (orange). A smooth ball bearing, or even the surface of a droplet of water may reflect the image of the light source. Because of the bumpy surface of the orange, the distorted image is usually recognized as a highlight. Relatively less well-lit areas of the object and its surroundings will be perceived as the shadow side of the object or as a cast shadow. Whether the surface is perceived as 'in the  light' or as 'in the shadow', there will also be areas of relative lightness and darkness within these areas as well. The challenge for the portrait artist is to be able to recognize the subtle differences in light and be able use these differences to direct the painting towards her goal: a finished portrait.
    Assignment: Place an orange or other round object in front of a window or other light source, or study the orange in the photo. How many kinds or sources of light, or lack or light, can you find? Hint: Look for subtle changes in light and colour.  Look for the next post for a discussion of this topic.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Portrait in Pastel

This is a new course, beginning on September 30, for those interested in learning to paint portraits with the brilliance and softness of pastel.  Classes will be held at the Stillwaters gallery at Wall Décor and More in Lethbridge, Alberta. Students will have the opportunity to learn by following tips on this blog as well. Contact the gallery for further details.
Wall Décor and More
10th Street S.
403 328 0923

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Coffee time

For those in the Lethbridge area, I'll be giving a portrait painting demonstration at the Good Earth coffeehouse on Saturday, December 5. Join me there.