People make mistakes. I certainly do, especially when it comes to art. As I’m learning about drawing and painting, I try to share information that I know is correct. Lately, though, I seem to have made a couple of mistakes, so I want to correct them here and now.
First, I recently went on record as saying that you can’t make mistakes when doing quick studies. Oh, how wrong I was with that bold statement. I have learned from personal experience that I can definitely make mistakes when doing a quick study.
Here’s a quick study that proves the point. I made a very big mistake here, and its name is Phthalo Blue!
This quick study was part of a lesson from my 100-Day “Mood and Atmosphere” project. The intent was to understand color temperature. This, obviously, is a quick study based on “cool color temperature.”
From the start, I suspected I would have problems with the painting. I wasn’t in much of a mood for painting, so I suppose that was the first mistake. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by responsibilities — phone calls to make, changes to health plans coming up, deaing with finances and taxes — so maybe I should have just stayed away from the easel. I was hoping, though, that painting might help me quiet my mind and bring me a feeling of peace.
Nope. That didn’t happen.
I was apprehensive about this project from the start, even though I was only doing a “quick study”. The reference photo was complicated — lots of snow covered branches, a wooded background, plenty of lights and shadows. “It’s only a quick study,” I reminded myself. Results didn’t really matter, right?
I used a canvas panel that I’d previously toned with black gesso. That would provide a very cool tone for my winter scene. I used a white charcoal pencil to sketch out a few basic shapes, then studied the reference photo a bit. The background seemed a bit black-brown, so I mixed paint and got to work laying in the dark colors.
That’s when I went for the Phthalo Blue. It’s a color I never use, but it was part of my Mont Marte set, and I’m using a lot of those tubes for my quick studies. Phthalo Blue is as cool as they get, so I chose it thinking it would be perfect for those dark, shadowed areas in the painting.
And maybe it would have been if I were a more experienced artist and had a better idea of how to approach painting the scene. Things seemed to be going along reasonably well… until I tried adding in the pure white snow.
Ha! Yeah. Right. I had the bluest blue snow you’ve ever seen! Indeed, mistakes can be made when doing quick studies, and I was aghast at what I’d done. I tried a lot of things. Adding more white only resulted in more blue snow. Wiping blue off just made a mess.
I fussed and I fiddled, and the scene I was creating bore absolutely no resemblance to the lovely reference photo in Mood and Atmosphere by Carolyn Lewis. Oh, well! I tried. If you have the book, you can look up the photo and laugh along with me at how different my painting is.
But, the changes I made worked. I didn’t end up with the same snowy scene Carolyn Lewis painted, but I did create an almost ghostly winter forest. I think I succeeded with the cool temperature part of the assignment. I made a slight attempt to put in a few shadows, and that brings me to another mistake I’ve made.
When I was learning about mixing grays and making cool grays and warm grays, I spoke of using these variation in shadows. I incorrectly wrote that warm-colored objects should have warm-colored shadows and that cool-colored objects should have cool-colored shadows.
I was wrong on that, apparently, and I now stand corrected. I stand confused, too, but that happens a lot. Here is information I found from “Wet Canvas”:
“If the light on the object is warm, you will have cool shadows. If the light on the subject is cool, you will have warm shadows.”
Carolyn Lewis explains:
“With very few exceptions, if the shadows are cooler than the lighter areas of the painting, the light source is warm; if the shadows are warmer than the lighter areas, the light source is cool.”
This information is provided primarily for benefit of plein air painters — of which I am not. For me, it is confusing. As I work from reference photos and not directly from nature, I’ve never really thought much about light temperature. I’ve looked at the dominant colors of the scene and have judged it to be warm or cool depending upon what those colors are.
Obviously it’s time for me to do a lot more reading and studying here. In fact, I’ve already begun browsing around and I’m finding a lot of helpful information. I’ll be sharing that in tomorrow’s post. I hope that I’ll come away from it slightly less confused, and I hope I’ll be forgiven for inadvertently leading others down a wrongly-shadowed path!
Bear with me, please. I’m still learning!