Owlets and Shadows – Part 2 of 2

Here is me second little owlet painting (A6) where I’m using the advice on how to paint shadows from my painting tutorial book.

I realised when I painted my first owlet (last Friday’s post) what adding a complementary colour is doing to my shadows – it’s reducing the strength of the colour and making it more grey.  I really understood this when I looked for that effect in real life.  Here is a picture of some curtains:


I can see in this how as the colour gets put into more shadow it gets darker but it also looses strength (the colour washes out of it and it looks more grey).  Looking at the shadows in the material above they are going more grey and right down to a greyish brownish black.  If chroma didn’t reduce when light was lower then the dark sections of these curtains would be a very rich strong dark brown.

Thinking about this it makes sense.  In our eyes we have two types of light sensing cells – rods – which are very sensitive but only pick up greyscale images – and cones – which pick up colour.  Now our cones are less sensitive than our rods so as something gets darker they pick up less colour because they are functioning less well.  This must be why this effect happens with shadows.  It all makes sense.


So I made a quick (10 minute) painting of a couple of owlets:


Owlet2_FINFor the shadows here I used a darker brown and then added a little blue (of the same dark shade) to drop down the strength of the colour.  I think it works OK.

Because it’s taken me ages to really understand this shadow colour method, I’m going to do a few more little paintings over the next few days to really make sure I keep hold of this new understanding I’ve got.

PS:  It’s been really interesting over the last week or so while I’ve been struggling with this shadow colour issue to see from both the perspective of a teacher (which I am) and from the perpective of a student who’s simply not understanding (which I also was).  I found I had to use the teacher part of myself to help the stuck-student part of myself.  First I just kept getting myself to try again until I realised that it really wasn’t working.  Then I found out and removed the obstacle I had to learning which was that I was still too interested in how the gouache works to focus on the problem.  And then by isolating the actual part I found difficult, I finally understood it.  Now I’m just going to push that understanding in with some practice.  🙂  It’s been a really interesting journey.


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