Owlets and Shadows – Part 1 of 2

Finally I’ve understood the lesson from my painting book on shadows – the penny has dropped!



I decided to sketch a couple of owlets (baby owls) just coming into their adult colours but still a bit fluffy and ragged – on account of their awesome cuteness!

I’m posting one of these today and the next on Monday.


Then I painted very simply with watercolour what is called ‘local colour’ which is the colour of something without any effects of lighting or reflection or shadow.  (Actually with no light all local colour would simply be black.  What is really meant here is the colour of something in steady, medium, all-around lighting.)


Now I failed at this a bit because my green paint flowed downwards and rather than correct it I decided to use that for shadow.  Also, because I’m working in watercolour and can’t add highlight afterwards I had to think about that with my owlet and his branch too.  So, not perfect but OK.

Now the rule I’ve been trying to understand is that to darken an object (so the ground for a cast shadow or the dark side of something for a body shadow) you do two things   – (1) you choose a darker shade of the same colour (e.g. paynes grey, to me looks like a darker shade of phthalo blue) and then (2) you add a bit of the complimentary colour (which is the colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel).


Now it’s part (2) which I have been having trouble with so I decided to use just that effect for this little A6 painting to see what it does for myself.

Here, I came upon another difficulty, brown isn’t a primary or secondary colour.  In colour theory it’s regarded as a ‘warm neutral‘.  According to a colour theory called ‘Munsell Colour Theory’ (which I know nothing about except what I read on the internet today) neutrals are regarded as a less bright version of a primary or secondary colour.  So I looked at the brown on my owlet and decided that it’s a less bright version of the secondary colour orange.  The opposite of orange is blue.  So I used blue as my complementary colour.  I added just this for the shadows – just to see what effect it has.


So here is my little owlet dude with just the complementary colour used for a shadow.  So now I can see what adding this colour to my shadow colour does – it dims the colour -it makes the colour more grey and pasty.


So my instructions for mixing shadow colours could them be written as:

(1) you choose a darker shade of the same colour

(2) you reduce the strength of the colour by adding a bit of the complimentary colour

So now I understand what this step is doing I’m going to paint some more owlets and put the whole shadow-colour-mixing-plan into action!  I’ll post that on Monday.    Have  a great weekend!  🙂

2 thoughts on “Owlets and Shadows – Part 1 of 2

  1. Thanks! (I just quickly looked up what a ‘tint’ is – lol). The book I’m following kind of misses that subject. It goes into the elements of composition next with a still life exercise (not my favourite thing). She looks at format, interval, shape, space, leading the eye and what not to do. It looks quite interesting, but I think properly looking at tint (that is going to be my word for the day!) would be a good idea. I always thought it was just adding white but I guess it really depends on the colour and quality of the light falling on it. If it’s warm yellow sunlight then maybe yellow would be a better tint? I will have to look it up. Great idea – many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your control over shade is growing. Will you be dipping into tint next? Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

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