Q: How do I paint realistic shadows? At 10:30 in ‘Plein Air Painting Indiana White River Fast Motion w/Voice Over Instruction’ you start to darken up the shadow parts on the right side. I see a sliver of the real thing in between the painting and it’s clearly black/dark green but you use a purple/magenta mix.
Why is that? Is it because purple is the reflective shadow color of green?
It works great, I’m just curious on how to think about it when I paint.
A: Great question!
Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson Permanent are the base for my deepest dark values. After those I modify the color by degrees based on whether the shadow is warmer or cooler.
With the shadow under the trees along the right river bank, the shadow is cooler as it comes out into the river because it is a direct cast shadow on a warm-light (the sun) day, so I add more blues (ultramarine or phthalo blue) or greens (phthalo green) to the shadow color.
As the shadow approaches the base of the trees it gets warmer because it’s affected more by ambient light than direct light and ambient light is generally cooler (like north light), so I add warmer colors to the mix like transparent oxide red or a touch of cad red medium – maybe even sap green (warmer green than phthalo).
Complimentary colors and warm/cool color temps are fun to play with, and the warmer reds in the shadow color works well with the cooler green foliage placed on top.
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I’ve noticed that figurative work can take a Landscape and add that life element that brings you further into the painting story. How do I approach figurative work in Landscape showing correct movement?
Simplicity is essential Lee, especially if the figure/s is small relative to the size of the painting.
The reason for simplicity is that trying to fit in too much detail often has the opposite effect of realism because we don’t see all that detail with a glance. We usually see that kind of detail in a photograph only. If we sat and scrutinized what was in front of us we might catch many of those details, but does the average person do that?
Simplifying detail and softening edges will create a feeling of realism. If you look at the best painters of figures in landscapes their work borders on too little detail rather than the other direction. Look at James Reynolds cowboys or Richard Schmid’s figurative landscapes (although Richard said in one of his videos that in his earlier days he would have been tempted to put a figure in it to clarify the center of interest – something he no longer does).
I don’t add figures unless it is a commission or I need something to suggest scale, like Edgar Payne’s Indian on horseback at the base of a massive rock monolith.
Even with the commission piece I did of the young boy and his Golden Retriever the brush strokes are kept to a minimum with one color or value suggesting a plane change. I didn’t get finicky.
I will email you a pic of that commission painting.
I hope that helps Lee
When do you use transparent colors and opaque colors?