Exploring Shine – Part 2

This week I worked on a small simple greyscale painting of a chrome doorknob. Having read up on various illumination models previously, I now realise how very complex light reflections between objects can be. Since painting from reference was so much more effective than trying to reconstruct reality when painting the human form last week, I decided to paint a simple shiny object just by painting what I see, hoping that the same would be true this time.

I began with a simple outline sketch of all the complex shadows, gradients and specular reflections I could see…

Then I chose a mid-grey and painted all of the areas which seemed to be that colour…

Next I painted all of the darkest darks and then some mid to dark greys. It was only a simple painting but I’m quite pleased with it.

Interestingly it reads better as chrome when the image is smaller. My guess is that this is because my original image was only about 8cm x 12cm so when I make a large scale photo of it all of the imperfections become apparent to the viewer and this gets in the way of the viewer’s brain recognising it as chrome…

I used W&N gouache for most of this with a little lamp black watercolour for some simple gradients.

Anatomical Construction Drawing Vs Anatomical Reference Drawing

For this week’s post I compared two methods of drawing a person, working specifically on male anatomy. The first method was a way of constructing a person by dividing the person into four and building on a basic stick frame. The second method was simply drawing and painting from reference.

The Construction method was based on a brilliant video by a super artist and story teller, Mark Crilley

I’ve followed Mark’s work ever since I read his brilliant Manga Brody’s Ghost. So I thought I’d have a go at using his tutorial to draw a man.

NB: Now at the time I attempted this I’d just hit the Whitsun half term holiday and was really unwell. I’d been in bed for 36 hours with a big fever and massive head, neck and face pain. I was feeling quite sorry for myself.   I still like to draw even when I’m ill, mainly because drawing calms me down and helps me stay OK, but the results were not great.

Anatomical Construction Method

So I began with a basic stick figure construction…

I built on it…

I inked it…(the head is too big here.)

And then, later when I was feeling better, shaded and coloured it. (The shading was done with graphite and the colour was digitally added.)

It was OK, recognisably a man I think, but not what I was hoping for. I do find drawing without any reference VERY difficult.

Next I thought I would compare this to a sketching a male figure from reference.

Anatomical Reference Drawing

I used Michaelangelo‘s iconic Statue of David as my reference. It’s as good an example of male anatomy as I could find. I was also feeling much better by this point thanks to an excellent practice nurse who precribed the antibiotics which I needed. Since I was going to draw this on A3 paper and my reference was A4 I decided to use a grid to help me enlarge my drawing to the right size.

My first job was to mark the outlying edges of my figure, height and width…

Then I used my grid to make a basic sketch…

Once I’d done that I cleaned off my gridlines and worked on the details of the sketch…

Finally I painted it using Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolours. I used a purple (ultramarine, lamp black and Alizarin crimson) with a yellow ochre (yellow ochre pale toned down with a tiny drop of ultramarine to drop the saturation a bit.)

I painted large sections at a time so I could wet a whole area and use the residual dampness in the paper to soften all my edges…

Then I added some wet on dry marks to bring out certain shapes in the knees and face and hands. Finally, I used another purple with more lamp black in it to push the contrast. And here’s the finished piece…

 

 

So, what have I learned?

Well, first of all, while sketching still has a nice calming effect on me when I’m unwell, running a temperature over 38 deg C does affect my ability to draw properly. Secondly, I still struggle with constructing accurate anatomical figures without reference. Lastly, I am stronger and more comfortable at drawing with reference than without it.

Jurassic Line and Wash

This week I made a couple of ink drawings of Jurassic animals – the classic T-Rex in a running pose, and a drawing of Dimetrodon, which was a mammal-like reptile from the clade Synapsida.  I used basic shapes initially to get the general mass of each animal right and then refined each shape towards my reference.  Once I had a basic pencil drawing I switched over to my ink pens to finish the drawings properly.

Here are the two ink drawings…

 

 

Then I had a go at putting a watercolour wash over the top of my ink.  This was really fun to do…

Here are the final pictures…

 

Exploring Shine

This week I had a quick look at painting and drawing shine on objects. Last week’s “Coastal Shiner” painting picked up some shine the simple way, by just drawing exactly what is there. But it got me thinking about the mechanics of shine and reflection and wondering what rules make the patterns of light that I see in glossy objects. The way light reflects from shiny, wet objects is so fascinating but I only know the basics of how any of this works. I can feel the pattern behind the reality of what I see but find it very hard to formalise it into workable rules for painting.

I began with some basic sketches in my sketchbook…

I was playing around with how reflections sometimes show some of the local colour (or in the case of pencil sketches local tone). I found it very hard to get these sketches to read as if the two animals are wet, although the frog’s eye works to some extent.

A deep glossy shine is basically a reflection so it very much depends on the surroundings of the object. In the right light a reflective surface can look absolutely marvellous. But I wanted to know how to simplify this effect we see in nature so as to capture it in a painting in it’s simplest form. I played around with some gouache and watercolour paint on regular copy paper to see if I could find some basic rules. Here’s one of these trials…

It’s more than just the highlights – there are colour reflections between coloured objects and lower light reflections too.

So, my first step was to simplify all of this down to low light reflections and high light reflections and had a go at painting a beautiful little creature called the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).

I painted his body black and then added some grey highlights and some white highlights like this…

It’s not quite there but does read as a little bit shiny (if you squint a bit!)

Then I decided to paint some wet rocks in a stream. I tried to abstract things a little here to see if the basic reflection rules I’d made would go that far…

Again it reads as water but isn’t quite there yet.

I decided that this is something I am going to have to study for a while to really understand.

After reading around I found out that modelling light on objects is called an Illumination Model. In fact there are a number of different models to chose from. The more advanced the model, the more factors are taken into account and the more accurate the surface rendering is when compared to real life. This field of study began with the study of optics during the enlightenment and continues today with the huge advances in computer generated images.

For example a very basic model is called the Lambert Model which was figured out in the 18th Century CE. In this model all surfaces are uniformly matte and reflect light to the viewer according to a simple geometric law (the cosine law). It sounds complicated but really it just means that if an object is illuminated by strong directional light (like light from the sun) then the intensity of the light reflected from it varies with the angle of the object surface to the light. If the surface is perpendicular to the light source then the intensity is maximum. If it’s at an angle it’s less and the steeper the angle the less light gets reflected. This model gives us a basic understanding of illumination but is very far from being accurate.

A more accurate model is the Phong Model, from 1975, which combines three types of lighting effects…

  1. Ambient light – caused by light bouncing around a volume randomly in an atmosphere. This light is low level but the same everywhere. (Interestingly, this lighting is almost completely absent in space which is why spacecraft look very different on earth compared to when they are out of our atmosphere.)
  2. Then there is diffuse lighting which is similar to Lambertian lighting and illuminates an object at each point according to it’s surface angle to the directional light source.
  3. Finally there are specular reflections. These are mirror like reflections of a light source on the surface of an object. In Phong’s model these are white highlights but in more advanced models you can adjust the shininess of an object to get more or less specular reflection from tiny white highlights to a full mirrored surface, like chrome.

Anyway, I’m going to read into this a bit more to try to make an illumination map in my mind for my painting. Only time will tell if this helps at all!