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View Full Version : Replicating shading/shadows


Grasshopper
01-20-2007, 02:52 AM
I have to use photos as references for my art at this time in my life (I've been on my back for over 1 1/2 yrs. now) and I've noticed that so many photos have a light source that is either straight on, or close to it, or the photo just doesn't have a strong enough light source (and cameras fail us). This results in having to make up where I think the light would hit, where it would cause reflection, etc., etc. With portraits this is hard to "mimic." As a result, my portraits tend not to be heavily shaded/heavily shadowed, resulting in a weaker portrait, imo, which is ok but not always.

I've scanned the info in the portrait classroom on shadows but it doesn't address this particular problem. How does anyone else working with photos solve this? I'm referring to charcoal & graphite mainly but I'm sure this applies to other mediums.

jocelynsart
01-20-2007, 09:48 AM
I tend to think of shadows immediately as not solid, which they are not. Consider the mass under them first, it's tones and shape. Then, cast the shadow over it or bath it in shadow with your paints, thinnly. Shadows are removal of light or absence of direct light at varying degrees, depending on how they are being caused. Shadows have a lot of varying tones in them still but they mute or neutralize the tones of the things they cover or shade. Less light, less differentiation and intensity in pigments. They become more neutral.
What I tend to do, in most mediums, especially with specific cast shadow shapes, is work the thing they are shading first, in it's proper tones. Then, I begin to deepen in a neutralized tone of the colour underneath, where the shapes of the shadows cover it. For example; a yellowy pine floor. I would wash mauves, grey purples or brown purples with hints of greens or blues over it if an object were sitting on it and casting shadow shapes. The tones I use depend on the pigments of the object, any other objects near it, as well as any light that may reflect or come around the object as well as the tones in the floor. The reference will give me that info. Doing it thinnly and transparently will allow the object it lays on to still appear through, as it should. Shadows are not carpets or solid black or brown or grey things on things. Think of them more as a change in the pigment of the object they fall in, in the shape of the object causing it to fall. Then, shadows soften as the spread and are more intense or deep as the absense of light increases closer to the shape casting it. Just study them alot, even little ones you can make yourself with your hand over something or a cup on a surface, etc. Shadows have exact properties and formulas caused by the light source and it's ditance height direction etc., and the light that seeps around an object's edge, and by the objects blocking and bounced light etc.
Working with properly taken photos will have good shadows. Not every photo is so inaccurate as people tend to generalize. It depends on the camera, lense and the techniques used when takign the shot. Some do have darker shadows or varying colour properties but one needs to know what those are form experience or from making notes mentally or physically when taking a shot. If it is a shot taken by someone else, look for well taken shots with good lighting conditions and not snap shots or poorly taken photos in tungstan lighting, etc. Try and look for reference in natural light with some shadow and light contrast for value differences practice. Your brain should know if somethign looks un natural in a photo. Then, it is up to the artist if they want to play on those differences and exaggerate them, or know how to correct and balance what is available in the ref. Basically, pick good reference for practice. Not all photos are incorrect to such a degree as people often say. Bad photos are.
Ask someone to get you a book on shadows and their properties if you like. Then that may help you become familiar with them if you cannot get out and observe many different scenerios yourself.
Jocelyn

Dana Design
01-20-2007, 12:44 PM
Brilliant response, Joss! This belongs in the Classroom. Good question, Grasshopper!

Shadows are not carpets or solid black or brown or grey things on things. Think of them more as a change in the pigment of the object they fall in, in the shape of the object causing it to fall. Then, shadows soften as they spread and are more intense or deep as the absence of light increases closer to the shape casting it.