Monday, October 12, 2009

What Color is White, part 3: Temperature

We've been talking about how to approach painting white objects. Rather than just focusing on the local or native color of an object (whether it is white, or any other color), we will want to
ask ourselves some questions to help us observe what is really going on with light, shadow, value, color temperature, etc. The third question is:

3. Is the color warmer or cooler than what it is adjacent to?

To really observe what kind of color note to put in your painting, look at how the object in question relates to its environment. Just as the value needs to be evaluated, so does the color temperature. Is it warmer? Cooler? White objects, whether they be part of a still life, or in a landscape, even though they are "white" can still be either a warm white or a cool white. White objects in particular can have really subtle differences and it can take careful observation to see these nuances. The teapot in the painting above is really a creamy white, with some imperfections in the glaze, being quite old. The bowl was more of a bluish white. It was very subtle in real life, and you may not be able to tell from this photograph.

And another question is:
4. Is it getting reflected light? Any remotely smooth surface is almost certain to have some reflected light if there is bright illumination. This happens outdoors just as much as indoors. The shadow side of a white house can have rich, beautiful color reflected back up onto it, from grass, or flowers, or anything else that might be nearby.
The teapot above has reflected light from both the bowl, which shows up as a slightly bluish reflection, and the tabletop itself and grapes, which add a reddish glow to the underside of the spout. Below is the painting and I have edited out those reflected lights. The shadow still reads as a shadow, but the teapot no longer relates to the rest of the painting - without the reflected lights, not only is a chance for beautiful subtle color variation missed, but the unity of the panting suffers as well.

1 comment:

Judy P. said...

Hello Deb- So much great info lately, I'm certain these ideas will make a big jump in my paintings. A long question, please:
For 'cool light, warm shadow' in a still life, do you just mean the form shadow, or does this apply to the cast shadow as well? In your lemon painting I see what you mean, but I see the cast shadow is a bluish color; I've read where the shadow should be a complement of the light color, so if my light is cool and bluish I tend to think of a dark,warm orangy hue.
Your lovely white teapot in form shadow looks like a dark greenish color; I know my first attempts would be to push to that warm orangish color- this is exactly where I run into painting problems, every single time!
You can peek into my window anytime- I'm leaving the curtain open for you! ;)