View Full Version : How do you achieve light in a painting, for example: Thomas Kinkade?
02-12-2000, 11:31 AM
I desparately want to know how to paint light, such as Thomas Kinkade has achieved.
How do you do it?
02-12-2000, 02:01 PM
Wow. Not one for the easy questions, are you? That's like asking "how can I paint"?
Glancing at his website and zooming in on a few pictures, it looks like a fairly standard approach -- thick lights on top of thin darks. Lots of intensity in the colors, even the dark ones.
Broad answers to a broad question? Transparent colors over a white ground glow, like watercolors and glazed oils. Thick, textured paint captures and scatters light from the surface. To show light, there's got to be dark against which to contrast it. Value; form and cast shadow; chiaroscuro. But I don't think I can't ever really answer the question this way, fond as I am of words and technical discussion.
If you like light, take a look at Vermeer, Turner, Rembrandt, Caravaggio.
02-12-2000, 04:40 PM
Two great books on chiaroscuro painting are: "Oil Painting Secrets from a master" by Linda Cateura (David A. Leffel), and "Problem Solving for oil painters", by Gregg Kreutz.
02-12-2000, 05:38 PM
Kreutz is good. (I'm just a sucker for dramatic lighting.) Here's an online pic:
While you're there, click on the "Figurative Painters" link, and check out the next artist up the page from Kreutz.
02-12-2000, 11:52 PM
Interesting question. Kinkaide originally was a scenic painter for movie sets, so I think he carries over some of the value study he learned there.
The ones that are good at it are masters of value. Good to do monochromatic studies. often whole underpainting will be done in warm golden color to get values and then cool tones brought in over that. Parrish did a lot of this type of work. People who are really good at this can get it (color and value at one stroke alla prima, but they are usually ones that work directly from life)
Remember you have only the range from your darkest dark to lightest light and to get something to glow you need to get it to stand out against the dark. The old artist squint gives you a feel for the soft overstated values your looking for where everything is in its proper relatioship. Also color refraction can help with this, (which kinkaide uses some) cools agains warms to intensify glow.
Try glazing and pulling out lights with your brush. That gives you a really fast sense of the soft value you are looking for. Keep it as a study and don't loose that effect as you get more detailed.
There is no real trick to this one. its a matter of learning to see light in its big relationships aned rendering it well with impressionistic color.
Its one of the things that can give a painting its real mood and poetry. something even the great artists never tired of perfecting.
02-12-2000, 11:57 PM
Hey arrow 1,
If you would like to see the ultimate use of chiaroscuro(ie mind blowing luminosity through lights and darks) check out the works by Albert Bierstadt!!!!!! After studying his and many other glowing works of the masters I have found that the secret is NOT usually using color straight from the tube but rather the exacting control of VALUE!!!!!!! If you look at many of the masters works they do not have tremendous amounts of color(hues) but the perfect control of values makes them illuminate.I feel T.Kinkade relies to heavily on bright hue rather than perfecting values in each picture( he does not use the complete value range in most cases). He gets his painting to glow by getting his values down and then hitting you between the eyes with Cad. yellow light straight from the tube.This does work but I feel it is harder to control. The short of it is this; If you get your values down perfect, use the full value scale from white to black, and put your lightest lights next to your darkest darks, your painting will glow. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
Have fun and keep painting!
[This message has been edited by bierstadt (edited February 12, 2000).]
02-14-2000, 01:11 AM
h,,,,you can't get any better teaching than dave and greg. dave, especially, produces excellent results from his workshops. since leffel does many, many workshops, some here might want to check into whether he available near you. they're both classic in approach, and(greg was dave's student)....and dave aligns himself closely with rembrandt....milt
02-14-2000, 10:51 AM
I want to thank everyone who tried to help me answer this question. It seems as though I have my work cut out for me. I did a search on "luminists" and came up with some interesting artists from the past who also mastered the use of light in their paintings, such as Thomas Cole, Frederic Church and Joseph Mallard William Turner. I am still fascinated with their ability to "paint light", and hope to be able to do the same in the near future.
02-14-2000, 08:00 PM
It's very simple.
Where you attempt to show your light, surround it with dark values.
Also use warm oranges and yellows to simulate light.
If you look at Kinkade's paintings he paints low key. In other words, with a tendency of darkening most of the areas and then he pops in highlights using warm colors in windows etc.
Some artists "cheat" and use flourescent paint as well but their permanance is questionable.
Make sure your strongest light-dark contrast is in teh focal point.
02-15-2000, 10:14 AM
My favorite artist who painted light in remarkable ways was Maxfield Parrish, and he guarded his secret to it well.
02-15-2000, 04:28 PM
arrow1, Like you i am on a constant quest for light! all of the replys to your question have been very informative for me too! i especially like Johannes' reply. One of the things i've discovered is that you can underpaint all of the major components of your painting with gesso in all of the different values ranging from black to white, depending on how much "light" you want to portry in different areas. Example: bright light comming from a window would be white. Then thin your paints a little according to the degree of light. I discovered this while playing with transparencies & glazing. Lots of fun to play with one thing & discover anotherbut don't forget to surround the area with the warm colors Johannes discussed.
02-16-2000, 01:26 AM
Glazing was developed prior to impressionism for historic or mythical/religious (r what we would call imaginative) painting because the paining were arranged in various stages and not usually seen all at once. Because of this an artist had to consider light and color in separate stages. The painting was underpainted in umber (bistre) or greys (griselle) to get the value and play of light and shadow correct. Then the local color was applied over the value study and the highlights laid in last. Thereare wonderful effects of luminosity that can be gotten this way, but the original intent was to study the values separately from the color ( you can imagine how this would be necessary if you were designing an imaginary scene with no photos!)
Working directly from life in natural light required a more immediate technique but also since the artist could really see value and color as one effect they didn't have to be separated as different studies. I think this is still the best way to study light and color...and you can often tell a lanscape that is done from a photo instead of life, the coloring just isn't as alive...unless the artist has done a whole lot of work from life; enough to be able to translate.
Parrish was very fasciated with the photo process that was just becoming popular and used to take glass slides and trace out his sudies directly from the photo (sorry to disillusion those who didn't know this!) This way her could do a monochromatic underpainting that was very like a B/W photoonly in color (often a gold) and lay in layers of trnsparant color over that. His work is actually a little more like a color printing process with layers of a single transparant color laid over top of another.
Kinkaide might be working with a value underpainting, but his paint looks pretty opague to me and like he is working with layers of solid local color, the values of evening light give it that glow.
Tremedous light effect can be gotten with opague paiting if the values/colors are right and vibrant.
Working fro life is the best teacher to get this, or doing studis and taking them to the studio to translate into something more interpretive.
Unfrotuantely, I usually find that I want to create soemthing that's in my head rather than stick to just waht I see so I deal with this problem which is extra trouble. The value painting is great for this, for laying in the right relatioships. Its that more than the technique I think that is givng a wonderful glow. Also underplaying colr a little bit to the value effect...though parrishes paintings are wonderfully colored teh contrast of value is what predominates rather than color. You usually have to go with one or the other.
I love great light effects. doing it well though is a matter of a lot of looking and study, there are no tricks that will substitut for that.
02-22-2000, 11:07 AM
I awoke the other night in a cold sweat, dreaming that Kinkade had married Bev Doolittle and they had a brood of kids that grew up to be artists paintin' native American and animal faces staring out of little thatched-roof cottages...gotta quit drinkin' java that close to bedtime!!!
03-11-2000, 11:21 PM
I always thought you had to get down on bended knee and pray really really really hard until a stained glass window opened up in the sky shedding only those photons associated with the legendary "ethereal glow" down onto your rural cabin with heart-shaped windows, bathing it in the dramatic rays of the purest goodieness.
Then you just whip out your disposable and snap off a few quick shots, run get 'em developed at the nearest 1-Hour Photo, scan 'em, enlarge 'em in PhotoShop, and then project 'em onto your canvas. Pop yourself a Budweiser, fire up the oils, and git to paintin'...
Did I miss anything?
03-12-2000, 12:22 PM
Budweiser? That's what you're doing wrong. It never works with Bud.
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