Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beach Scenes Are Enhanced by Shadows

Now that we have returned from a refreshing week away, I return to the shadow theme with a few examples of beach scenes.
Reflecting about the importance of shadows in painting (and in any visual experience or art form), I realized how crucial shadows have been in some of my recent beach scenes. Views of the ocean or other large bodies of water and expanses of shoreline can be fairly bare and lacking in obvious shadows. Although such scenes can serve as excellent subjects for serene, minimalist art works, including an object or objects, either natural or built on a beach or dune, creates opportunities for drama in contrast of the lights hitting the objects and the darks of shadow areas.
Particularly at the ocean here in Northeast coastal Florida, the sunlight can be very intense, casting strong, deep shadows. Here are three examples. Each of them has appeared in a previous post or two; clicking on the links will provide more information about them.
In the smallest, 6" x 12" painting, "Away from the Crowd", a bright red beach chair contrasts with the softer natural hues and draws the eye. But try to imagine the exact same scene on an overcast, misty day--or with the sun directly overhead so that the shadow would not extend out. The scene would still be nice, but some movement and interest would be lost. Further, notice the subtle dimensionality in the clouds due to the warmer, brighter light on the sunny side.
In the 12" x 16" vertical, "Dune Shadows", I was most interested in the patterns of the fence and its shadows on the rolling surface of the dune. Again, it seems that the scene would be more static and less interesting without the clear shadow design.
Finally, the 18" x 24" "Spring Breeze" demonstrates the extent to which a bright day at the ocean creates contrasting darks and lights. If the sun were straight overhead, the sand would be more monotonal; the foot bridge would be plainer, and the clouds would again be flatter-looking. Even the sky would have less color variation and less apparent depth.
Question of the day: Do you find yourself drawn to scenes with strong light and shadow contrasts or to quieter views with subtler contrast?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Importance of Shadows in Landscapes

Recently, I have been reflecting on how important shadows have been in some of my landscapes and seascapes. Although a few scenes, either for reasons of the weather or for the perspective involved have few or no obvious shadows, most landscape painting and photography relies on shadows for drama, contrast, indication of light source, and pattern.
This will be the first of several posts about shadows, and I invite artists and non-artist viewers of nature to contemplate the subject with me. Today, the photos show a painting that originated from my interest in shadow patterns one afternoon, as well as one reference photo from the actual location. The rest of the scene evolved gradually, but the foreground shadows were both the starting point and my primary interest in the project. This is an 18" x 24" acrylic painting on gallery wrapped canvas adapted from a location on a private school campus in Jacksonville, Florida.
In early work, I sketched, then rough-painted indications of some of the darker value areas, as shown in a post about a year ago about the painting process. As the painting progressed, I wanted to create liveliness and interest in the shadowed grass, so tried to vary both the patterns and the colors in the shadows. One of the tricks my essentially mathematical mind played on me involved the patterns. Knowing that a nice balance of variety and related rhythms is most attractive to viewers, I painted in much of the grass and shadow area very quickly, trying not to think overmuch about what I painted where. Oddly, what I produced was a very regular, boring, repetitive pattern. Whoops--good thing that acrylics dry quickly and can be painted over relatively easily. In addition to the shadow patterns and variations in lighter and darker regions, notice the variety of colors--not corresponding to nature, really, but added for vividness and glow. This painting has a fairly strong palette to begin with, including the intense (and sometimes difficult to use) phthalo blue and a strong purple. All the darker tones in my palette appear in the shadows--purples, blues, greens, browns, and greys.
I am thrilled to say that our local son and daughter-in-law particularly liked this piece and accepted it as a second anniversary gift recently. Since it is among my personal favorites as well, it will be wonderful to be able to see it often.
Question of the day: Do shadows fascinate anyone else out there? There is so much one could say, both about actual visible shadows and about shadow as metaphor in life.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meaningful Giving--Thinking of the Homeless

Our weather has suddenly turned quite cold for Northeast Florida, with a few nights of hard freezes and days only into the low 40s, though bright and sunny. Last night, high winds just howled, adding to the chill. So, I am especially glad that I had completed a small gift to let just one homeless veteran know that people are thinking about him. Not wanting to seem to brag, I hesitated to write this post, then thought you might like to hear about this project. It's not much, but I know I am hardly alone and that many caring people are also doing for others this winter.
Since I had some soft, thick yarn left from another project and wanted to do some knitting, it seemed like a good idea to knit up a long, warm scarf for someone who needed it. The pastor knows a gentleman who comes to the weekly Second Harvest food distribution at the church who lives in a tent and cannot bring himself to use a city shelter (possibly a PTSD symptom). He said that he could pass an anonymous gift on to "Joe" (not his real name), so my knitting project was set. Of course, I wish I could do something larger and more lasting for "Joe" as well as for many other fine people who come to the food pantry. But, knitting a scarf provided some satisfaction, as I also volunteer in the pantry and give to the Second Harvest organization. The scarf is a simple four-row pattern that knit up thick and soft in this variegated, washable yarn. I was able to make it more than 60" long from my left-over yarn, so that it will wrap around the neck and again around to cover the face, if needed. I included a brief note with Christmas greetings and a reminder that people at the church care about you, Joe.
Question of the day: Our country has seen plenty and excess--as well as recent hard times. For those of us with more than enough, isn't even a small gift worth giving to raise some one's spirits as well as to help meet a need?