Colour 1 – Shadow colours

Today I wanted to work on shadow colours.  According to the oil painting book I’m using as a training course the things to do with shadows is to darken the tone where you want a shadow and reduce the chroma of the colour (which mean to make the colour more grey and less saturated).  In the book the author goes through a method with oil paints to achieve this.  The basics are:

  1. Find a darker hue of your colour – so if your working in yellow, for instance, you might go for yellow with some burnt umber in it.
  2. Reduce the chroma of the colour – so it looks more dull, more grey but still with the same darker tone that you want.  You do this buy finding the opposite colour on the colour wheel (opposite colours produce greys), then match the tone of that colour with the tone of the shadow you’ve chosen and then mix a bit of that tone-matched opposite-colour into your shadow.

The author of the book I’m working from doesn’t recommend using black to darken a colour because it changes the hue (the colour) as well as the tone (how dark or light the paint is).

All of this contrasts with the method I’ve used for ages which is to use black to darken the tone and then play around with it adding other colours until I get the exact shadow colour I want.  On top of that, with gouache, especially with the starter set I’ve got, I can’t match the colours the author has.  Anyway, I think her ideas are excellent and could produce some lovely effects so I set out to paint a small picture of a fisherman and use her methods to put in my shadows.

I’ve been unwell again for a few days (I had to stop for a while after I finshed the ‘Retreat’ painting posted yesterday) as I have another sinus infection.  (My GP has recommended that I get a wisdom tooth remove because x-rays show that it’s partially inside the maxillary sinus and could be causing repeated infections.)  Fortunately I’m feeling a bit better today apart from my head and face which still hurt quite a bit.  I find it really hard when I can’t paint – my life feels like a sandwich with no filling.  So I am painting I tiny picture on A6 cold-pressed watercolour paper and hoping it’s not too taxing.

While I was unwell I stayed on the sofa reading and watching TV and I saw this great series about the king crab fisherman in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska.  The images really sparked my imagination.  I ended up sketching an amalgum of the fishermen I saw with an old felt tip pen which was lying around.  The pen was running out which gave me some interesting effects to play with:


While I was sketching this I was thinking of one of my favourite hymns.  In the UK it’s known as the Naval Hymn.  My grandfather was an officer in the Royal Navy for a while.  This is the first verse and the refrain…

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep.

Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! Amen.

Anyway, I then made a big mistake – I got right into painting the picture and completely forgot to use the shadow technique I was planning to experiement with.  D’oh!

So, this one is done, unfortunately,  with my usual slightly unconscious, suck it and see, style.


I was also hoping that, in using a tiny canvas, I would not be tempted to remove all brush strokes – mainly because it’s much harder to do on a tiny scale.  I think this worked ot a small extent, but it’s still not as loose and painterly a style as I am aiming to try.



4 thoughts on “Colour 1 – Shadow colours

  1. Great stuff. I love miniatures and large scale work. I often get sidetracked into enjoying what I’m doing so much that I forget my original intention. You’ll be painting it again with your original intent in mind and comparing the two, yes?

    Liked by 1 person

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