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Old 11-01-2008, 09:13 AM
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Lightbulb Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Welcome, Soft Pastellists!

First post in this thread is a repeat of the information given in the invitation, gathered in one place. Please look through it.

No matter whether you really love the small cosmos of a still-life, or always found them to be a boring exercise with objects that are uninteresting, this class may be interesting and exciting to you. Focusing on exploring colourhow it behaves, and how you shape forms and space and distance with it – is a fun way of approaching still-lifes. It can open up for a new way of painting, or it can enrich your established style. It can make still-lifes a delightful adventure! We will focus on still-lifes as examples and set-ups for painting as it suits the classroom format. Naturally, the principles are applicable to any subject one chooses to paint. The principles work also for you who like to paint with more subdued colours, so join in!

Weclome to Still-Life the Colourful Way! for Soft Pastellists.


Participation:
Lurking is fine. You can even paint the stuff! Don't have to post, but then, you'll not get any advice. I'll only advice *in the class-thread*, so all can benefit. But doing is way better than reading and looking. (Well, we all know that, don't we, and still we try to read to gain real knowledge... It has to be hands- and brains-on to be internalized.)

Do 'lurk', and when you get the time to do work and post, do it, even if the majority of the class is further down the road. I figure that *very* quickly people will be at different stages. There are jobs and families to take care of, and also, some of us learn slower while others learn faster. As long as the class is active, you can post and get comments.

You can start whenever you want -- the posts will still be there, somewhere, just bookmark it so you can find it. Dianna Ponting has a class she started in March 07, I think, and people are still following it. It is not active, but people do follow the steps, post, and some pop in to comment, even Dianna herself.
So, you can start whenever you can and want.

So, to clarify: It is OK/fine/good to --
- 'lurk'
- start later
- go slower
- take a pause and start again at the point where you left off

Those are what makes a digital class so convenient!

Photo and real Set-ups:
I will have two (or three) very concrete lessons, with photos to paint from, closely tied to the principles I'm teaching, for pedagogical reasons. But after that, it is either your own set-up IRL (best) or your own photo. I'll also provide photos and suggestions for those who want to use them. We do want to paint beautiful paintings we can hang or sell, so I'm planning it so that there are few 'scales to play' for practice.


Materials to be used:

Pastels-- one warm and one cool of each of the primaries, plus secondaries, plus tints.

Most of you already have that in your pastel stick collections.( If you don’t, we’ll be creative with what you have, no need to rush out and spend a lot of $.) You’ll learn how to get by with relatively few sticks, and still get the colours you want. Pastel brand isn’t very important in the outset, but best results will be gotten from artists quality, and medium hard ones.


Lemon Yellow (leaning towards = --> greenish)
Yellow (pure)
Orange (pure)
Warm Red (--> orangeish)
Cool Red (--> blueish)
Violet (both reddish and blueish, if you have them, otherwise just violet)
Blue (pure, or --> violet)
Warm Blue (--> greenish)
Cool Green (--> blueish)
Warm Green (--> yellowish)

Plus Yellow Ochre (no tints needed)

And at least 2 tints of the rest of them.

Unless you are planning to get new pastels anyway, there is no need to get anything special for this class. I will use Rembrandts. AS are of the sameish hardness, and will be great too. If you're lighthanded, real softies will be fine.

The pastels that are harder than Rembrandt/AS won't be perfect for later stages, when we want to build many layers, but they will be fine to start with, for the first five lessons or so, especially if you already have them. Just, don't go and buy them for this class, if you already have a good range of softer pastels.

We'll get by with what you already have, for starters, and then, if one would have or feel the need, one can invest. (I'm protective of your hard earned money. Of course you guys do what suits you. I only recommend.)

Colours

I'm going to use Rembrandt. Again, you can use what you have, so try to find colours that match decently well. See the general list in post no 2 in this thread. In this post, I give you the bare minimum you need. A list of Rembrandt numbers and names, and my own chart:

The List:
30 Sticks (Rembrandt numbers and names, the higher the number after the comma is, the lighter the tint. ,5 are pure, and .3 are shades)

205 Lemon Yellow 205,5 and ,9
202 Deep Yellow ,5 ,9
235 Orange .5
371 Permanent Red Deep ,5 ,8
397 Permanent Rose ,5 ,7 ,8 ,10
536 Violet ,3 ,5 ,7 ,9
OR some of the other blue-violets.

506 Ultramarine Blue ,3 ,5 ,7, 9
522 Turquoise Blue ,3 ,5 ,8
626 Cinnabar Green Light ,5 ,9
627 Cinnabar Green Deep ,3 ,5 ,9
100 White
227,5 Yellow ochre

So far, these are the bare minimum you can get by with, because we layer. (If you blend, the full pigment sticks and a white is enough.) Additional tints are nice to have, if you already have them in your box and brand.

Later, you may want equivalents to
318 Carmine 5, 8, 9
201 Yellow 5, 8
570 Pthalo Blue 3, 5. 7. 9
546 Red Violet 3, 5, 8
505 Ultramarine Light (which is discontinued, if I’m correctly informed. Now there is a plain Ultramarine)

Chart

And my own chart (actually made on white paper, but has to look darker so the yellows read OK) -- the ones we need are marked in black. You won't be able to match your brand with this chart exactly, so use your wisdom. Total correspondence is not necessary anyway. For example, I have not been able to find the Cinn. Green Deep locally, so I make do with two other greens that are close enough.

The Chart:

(note that the shades (,3) are in the last column, illogical, I know)



By the way, this is a general purpose palette. It is the same I use for landscapes too. (With some browns added, as I'm not good at optically mixing browns in pastel.)

Found a decent chart on Fineartstore, but the site loads awfully slowly. But the patches look very accurate.


For pure fun:
On this site, you can see for yourself why we actually do not need very many colours in our boxes (unless we want them, of course, and delight in overspending on pigment, as I do!) Play with the interactive examples under colour, and if you want more fun, do the light and value experiments to the left of the colour ones.


Paper
White or cream plain pastel paper, similar to Canson MT, Ingres, Tiziano. We’ll create pastel underpaintings, and we want to control the colour, at the beginning. (Of course you can use the more expensive sanded papers and boards and whatnot, but please use a white or cream colour for starters. Oh, allright, sand-beige or mist will do too.) Or, as these won't be immortal masterpieces, use an ordinary sandpaper, for sanding wood and such.

Size of support/paper: Smallish is fine in the beginning, somewhere around 8x12 inches, or A4. Not so small you're uncomfortable, and not so big it takes ages and tons of pigment to cover it. Big enough to be able to use the side of pieces of sticks.

Camera or Scanner
You can use any of them for posting your sketches and paintings. Colour will be off no matter which you use. Type a line explaining what looks very different. We all know the limitations of the digital media.

Attitude
And then, remember, the nature, the very essence, of a class is to be kicked out of the comfort zone and denied return to it. We all want to dazzle the others with our masterpieces, so we stay in the comfy space, snug and safe. But, ladies and gentlemen, is that how we *grow* and *broaden our horizons*? Or does that indeed happen when we work a bit outside the edge of our personal "known universes"? Eh? Make being outside your comfort zone to be your new comfort zone. Love the unknown. Love not knowing how to solve a puzzle, and feel the heady rush of joy when you somehow, unbeknownst to you, tumble out at the other end discovering you actually made it work!

Expect to be back on square one in any class or workshop. Be an eye and an ear in order to take in, from teacher and from the other students. Willingly opening your heart and mind will, I guarantee you, make you grow so you can dazzle
your admirers, *after* the class, when new and interesting things will pop up in your regular paintings.


Now, let's get started!
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Old 11-01-2008, 09:28 AM
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Re: Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

The above information on what you need to know for starting in the class will for a time be in this clickable link. It is HTML-tagged, so it is easy to find the relevant parts through the index.

Lesson 1, part 1

Following the great example of Deborah Secor (in her Snow Class) – let’s start with a bit of *thinking*. (We’ll get to actual painting soon, very soon! Today.)

This first part is a little bit informational. And very important. It is pared down to a minimum, as more will be sprinkled throughout the class.

As you all know, colour is simply the emitted or reflected rays of light that reach our retinas, where it causes a neuro-chemical reaction that is transmitted to the brain. (Don’t stop reading here! Go on.) Instead of using a lot of theories and physics and biology of anatomy, we can train our eyes and mind to see and discern more of the subtle colours of light, and open up our minds to perceive a greater beauty in the world around us.

We have light and shadows as the basic elements of a lit scene. We all know what light is. But...

Q 1: How then can we define shadow? What does it consist of?
A. How would you describe the nature of a shadow, be it a cast shadow or a shadow plane?
B. What happens to colour in shadow?


Here is an example of a red block in sunlight, sitting on a pale blue cloth, and a pale yellow-green cloth:



First, please consider this: How would you ordinarily go about painting this simple still-life? Which sticks of pastel would you have used to make the lights and the shadows?

Q 2: What colours do you see in:
1. Top of block?
2. Right side of block? Is it the same as...
3. ... left side of block?
4. Why is it the same/different?
5. blue cloth in sunlight?
6. green cloth in sunlight?
7. What happens in the cast shadow?


And one more tricky question, a bit more advanced:
Q 3: Why are the wrinkles of the green cloth in shadow yellower/warmer when they face away from the block?

And here we have the same block in shadow:



What colour is it? (Duh!, you may think, “it is red, the same as before, does she think we’re dumb or what!? “) Of course you’re smart and talented, but I want you to actually see, not just ‘know’. Compare it to the one in Sunlight.

Q 4:
a) What are the differences you see between the first in Sun, and this one in Shadow?
b) Describe, if you know, why the block in Shadow looks different?


And the more advanced questions:
Q 5:
a) What affects our colour-perception of the block-in-Shadow?
b) Why are we so certain it is a red block on a blue and a green cloth?




You’ll find parts of the answers in these isolated samples taken from the photos:



Block-in-Sunlight: These patches are in the order of:
Red block (pretty obvious, eh?) and from up down green cloth in light, and shadow, and blue cloth in distant light, shadow, and near light.
Remember, this is what the camera recorded. The eye in real life will see much more colour in the shadows.

Patches of Block-in-Shadow:



Block-in Shadow: Patches in order of:
Red block: top and below the sides. Next vertical row is green cloth far away from block and under is near block. Blue cloth: The top blue is distant, and bottom blue is near.

Were these samples a surprise, or had you expected them?

In my next post later today, I’ll give you a Paint-along demonstration, using my pastel technique, and I encourage you who are advanced pastellists to paint it too. It will be of the block in Sunshine. It is a good idea to do a quick (max 30 minutes) sketch of it now, in your usual manner. Then after the Demo, you can compare the effects. That will be really interesting for you to see.

See you soon!

Charlie
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Old 11-01-2008, 01:17 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

;-)

Ain't gonna post no demo until youse guys start thinkin' -- in writing! ;-)

Jokin', of course!

Come on, think/ruminate/speculate and plain guess while I edit the pictures for the Paint-along-demo. Or are ye'all too stuffed with candy, and tired from doing tricks?

Charlie
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Old 11-01-2008, 01:48 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

HI CHarlie!! Looks like you have been busy working hard on this! THANKS! This is going to be a fasicnating!

Some very thought provoking questions... I am amzed at the color blocks that are found in the box that is in shadow..
I am excited to learn the answers to your questions! AND to see what we will be painting!!
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Old 11-01-2008, 01:57 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Hi Charlie,
Already a lot to learn here...
I'm no advanced pastellist (started in august) but I did a sketch of the block in sunlight, and I'm planning to paint along to compare...
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Old 11-01-2008, 02:08 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Hi Charlie,

This is awesome...Thank you!!!

Not sure if you mean for all of us to post our thoughts here...but, here goes...

Q1. Shadow is cast by the object blocking the light. In this case it is cooler, dulled and transparent.

2. Top = warm red, Rt warm going to cooler. Blue cloth washed out in sunlight to light grey. Green cloth light yellow in sunlight. Shadow edges are crisp, I see reflected red in the shadow, stronger and warmer on the yellow cloth near the base of the block, and some more violet on the blue cloth, higher up.

3. Facing the light?

4. Values much closer together

5. not sure

Tracy
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Old 11-01-2008, 02:47 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Thanks, Charlie. Lots to think about.

Pat
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Old 11-01-2008, 02:49 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

I'll give this a try.
Q1: I have to admit, i don't know the difference between a cast shadow and a shadow plane. But i do see that the surface color is blued in the shadow, with a little of the object color reflected into the shadow near the object.
Q2:Top of block is more orangeish (because the nature of sunlight is yellowish?), the right is less orange, and the left is an even cooler red. The blue cloth in sunlight appears grey to me, and more blue in the shadow. The green cloth appears more yellow in the sun, and more green in the shadow.
Q3: don't know
Q4: Block in shadow loses its orangish cast, appears cooler, more bluish red.
Q5:Lack of sunlight causes us to see less yellow, making the block more red, the blue cloth more blue, and the green cloth less yellow.

Lori
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Old 11-01-2008, 03:10 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Okay, here goes with the Q & A...

Q 1: How then can we define shadow? What does it consist of?
It's an absence of light, reduced light when light is blocked in some way.

A. How would you describe the nature of a shadow, be it a cast shadow or a shadow plane?

It's cool and restful when it's hot out. It's cooler in color and it may have soft reflections within it of what cast the shadow. I think the term "shadow plane" is when the shape of a shadow shows that the object casting the shadow is on a horizontal object -- part of the process of turning a two dimensional painting into the representation of a three dimensional world.

The shadow plane is the table or surface the cloths are laying on and the block is standing on. If any other objects were in this example, they would also have separate cast shadows that would help define the angle of the shadow plane.

Cast shadows are easy. It's the shadow of an object, like a tree branch or that block or a figure. They show the shape of what casts them. If you have two lights on something, you can get two cast shadows. Each light casts one where it's blocked. This can be really pretty especially if the lights are different colors.

B. What happens to colour in shadow?

It gets bluer for the same reasons that it gets bluer in aerial perspective in the distance. It will all shift away from yellow and toward blue. Maybe away from orangy-yellow specifically, yellows will get greener. It will also have more muted contrasts as there's less light to define dramatic value contrasts.
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Old 11-01-2008, 03:20 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Q 2: What colours do you see in:

1. Top of block? Bright warm red

2. Right side of block? Is it the same as... Cooler bright red shading darker and cooler toward the bottom.

3. ... left side of block? Cooler than right side of block, also shading brightest at top and darkest and coolest at bottom. I might be able to continue the progression using the cold red at the bottom of the right side as the top of the left side and just smudge a little more red-violet into it to shade it down.

4. Why is it the same/different?
The areas toward the bottom of the block have less reflected light coming from outside the cast shadow from the yellow-green cloth. The light is angled closer to the right side of the block, not dead center, so more reflected light comes onto the right side of the block. Blocks show up best like that if the light's off to one side.

5. blue cloth in sunlight? Very pale Ultramarine.

6. green cloth in sunlight? I'm taking your word for it that it's a green cloth, in the photo it looks like pale buttery warm yellow! This could be because the blue next to it brings out the yellow and makes it look less green. Colors affect those next to them.

7. What happens in the cast shadow?
It becomes a lot bluer, everything is some shade of blue. I took out my handy little value finder, which has White after 9 and Black before 1 and checked.

The light areas of the cloth are values 8 and 9 in their shadows and highlights. The values within the shadow are 2, 3 and 4. So there is a HUGE value jump between sun and shadow, bigger than I thought it was before I picked up my value finder.

The value finder I used was a freebie from Daniel Smith and numbers White as one step lighter than 9 and Black as one step darker than 1. Some value finders number the opposite direction with 10 for black and 1 for white.
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Old 11-01-2008, 03:23 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Q 3: Why are the wrinkles of the green cloth in shadow yellower/warmer when they face away from the block?

They're scared of it and get their color back in relief when they turn their back on that big red scary thing.

Okay, seriously, the light is reflecting off the rest of the lighter cloth in that direction and giving them highlights within shadow that warm their hue and lighten them up compared to the deep shadow of a double cast shadow. The cast shadow of the block and the cast shadow of the wrinkle are combining to double that "darken and blue" effect to make the little shadows on the wrinkles the darkest and bluest areas on the green cloth.
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Old 11-01-2008, 03:28 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Q 4:
a) What are the differences you see between the first in Sun, and this one in Shadow?


Now everything in the scene is within a much larger cast shadow by an object, perhaps the photographer, between the light and the block. The block's cast shadow vanished. The shading on the block remains and that's interesting. Everything has been cooled and darkened to the colors of the shadow side of the block in sun.

b) Describe, if you know, why the block in Shadow looks different?

It's in a bigger shadow, and the light is so diffuse within the big shadow that it does not have a distinct cast shadow of its own. But it still has shadow sides in the same orientation because even this diffuse shadow light is coming in the same direction -- above and slightly to the right. It's bluer and darker. I'd use the cast-shadow color choices to draw this one.
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Old 11-01-2008, 03:31 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

Q 5:
a) What affects our colour-perception of the block-in-Shadow?

The blue is so ubiquitous that my mind adjusts the red-purples of the block to being a bright red. It looks like the light is blue, which it is a blue diffuse shadowed light.

b) Why are we so certain it is a red block on a blue and a green cloth?

There's enough color still within the blued light of the shadow to see that the block is red, and the green cloth looks turquoise, yellower than the blue cloth which now has a great richness of hue. It's contextual, the green cloth is yellower than the blue one and the red block a lot redder than its surrounds, only tinted by the blue of the shadow.

It was an explosive recognition for me not too long ago, only a couple of years ago, to comprehend that a bright blue in shadows reads as natural where a dull gray doesn't look as real. I stopped using gray shadows at that point. Now, I can't help seeing it everywhere.
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Old 11-01-2008, 04:01 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

I drew this with pastel pencils in my Canson Universal Recycled sketchbook, which is okay for pastel sketches -- surface is about as toothy as Mi-Tientes and it's white.

I kept it under half an hour but spent more than half the time getting the block shaded just right. Then noticed the reddish smear next to it AFTER I had put fixative on it so it wouldn't smudge the rest of the sketchbook. Arrgh.

I am embarrassed. lol

Name:  RedBlock1.jpg
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Size:  101.6 KB

Colors on my scan are off because I could not get it balanced right, the block looks more orangy-red overall than it is in my sketchbook where it turns distinctly cold red on the shadow sides.

Last edited by robertsloan2 : 11-01-2008 at 04:16 PM.
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Old 11-01-2008, 04:19 PM
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Re: Exploring Soft Pastels Class: Still-Life the Colourful Way!

This is perhaps my second ever post on Wet Canvas, but I have been lurking almost a year, around Pastels. I may not be able to join in often, but I have been waiting for this thread to start, and want to encourage Colorix to get going by adding my answers!

I read Susan Sarbane's book last month and so picked up the set of pastels she recommended, which is very close to that for this class. I will try to keep up as I have time.

Here are my answers to questions:

Q 1: How then can we define shadow? What does it consist of?

A shadow is an area which is not illuminated directly by a given source of light. [A shadow exsists only in reference to a given source of light.]

Q 1A. How would you describe the nature of a shadow, be it a cast shadow or a shadow plane?

What is seen in a shadow comes from sources of light other than that which defines the shadow. In a scene with a single primary source, these other sources will be from reflections of the primary source off other surfaces.

Q 1B. What happens to colour in shadow?

It will be reduced in value from the portion in direct light. As the portion in direct light tends to be moved in hue toward the natural hue of the light, so in distinction, the shadow appears to be moved toward the complementary. On top of that, the indirect illumination will carry colors from the reflecting surfaces.

Q 2: What colours do you see in:
1. Top of block?

Kind of a dull orangish-red

2. Right side of block? Is it the same as...

Kind of a dull-orange, brownish

3. ... left side of block?

More of a deeper reddish brown.

4. Why is it the same/different?

Sunlight is yellowing, so the top of the block appears yellower, while the left side is the shadow part getting the least reflected light back to our eye.

5. blue cloth in sunlight?

Light, very low chroma blue, almost a grey on my monitor

6. green cloth in sunlight?

Light, very low chroma yellow.

7. What happens in the cast shadow?

The ‘blue’ cloth appears to remain very low chroma but perhaps the blue seems ever so slightly violet-ish. Similarly the yellow has become very gray, maybe just very slightly greenish.

Q 3: Why are the wrinkles of the green cloth in shadow yellower/warmer when they face away from the block?

Very close to the block, of course, there is a reddish-warm tinge. However, farther away, I would guess the difference is caused by how much of the secondary light is scattered back to our eye. The wrinkle side curving away from our eye, is also curving away from the secondary light, and cannot thus reflect as much back toward our eye. Hope that is right.


Q 4:
a) What are the differences you see between the first in Sun, and this one in Shadow?
b) Describe, if you know, why the block in Shadow looks different?

The yellow cast of direct sunshine is gone. Thus, the top of the block now is moved toward the blue, appearing a sort of magenta. The two other sides seem closer in value than before. Deeper browns with slight redness. In fact the value contrast between all sides of the block is much reduced.

The blue cloth appears much bluer, except where light seems to pull a red glow into it close the block, creating some violet. The yellow cloth also looks fairly blue, except for that red reflected light.

Q 5:
a) What affects our colour-perception of the block-in-Shadow?
b) Why are we so certain it is a red block on a blue and a green cloth?

It is the ‘relative’ color perception of the different zones that our brains have learned to interpret. That is, we take the relative differences and interpret them in to ‘local color’ as we have learned to synthesize that color.


Hope this post works.
Mark

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