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Finding Your Light Source

February 1, 2017

 Today, I figured, was a good day to touch on the light source. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of teaching an art class at Guelph's own, Borealis Grille & Bar. During the event, we spoke a lot about our light source, where to find it, how to utilize shadows and highlights, and more. 
It happens quite often during my events that there is a bit of confusion regarding a light source, where to shadow, and where to highlight. 

In the image to the left, you will see four different paintings/drawings. Each one has a specific light source (LS). The yellow circle indicates the direction from which the light is flowing. When we create a drawing or painting, it is crucial to ensure that we are aware of the light source at all times as it will help determine where we shade and where we highlight. This will help the creation look more three dimensional and therefore more realistic. 

For me, there are two ways to start a painting or drawing. You could complete the outline first, and then determine the light source (this is what I recommend for creations with many levels). For example, IMG:1 - The Cavern, required the outline of objects prior to delving in to the painting. In this instance, determining the light source has no affect on the first step of the painting. Secondly, prior to putting brush/pencil to canvas, determine your light source when the drawing/painting relies on the light source for colouring in the first stages of the creation (ex. IMG:3 - The Blue Cane). Determining the light source before my paint touched canvas was important because my background colouring was determined by the light source. The closer we are to the light source, the brighter the paint colours. Your light source can also be a place off canvas, such as your own head or an arbitrary location on a wall. 

After you determine your light source placement, you can point your finger at the light source and then point away in the direction of the objects in your creation. The first side of the object to be touched by the light source is where we will highlight. Highlighting is typically done with white, but can also be done with yellow, red, or blue depending on the hues and colour palette. In IMG:4 - Clarke - I used my eraser to remove graphite and make certain areas of his face were brighter than the others.

When adding shadow, it is usually done with black, blue or red. Other colours may be used depending on the painting/drawing and colour palette. The shadows are always done in darker hues. In IMG:2 - Calla Lily, I used dark purple and blue to shade (add shadow) away from the light source. 

During my events, I always like to try to make time for artists to explore the light source and determine what works best for the individual painting. Sometimes it happens that those of you attending events will likely choose a different spot for your light source, and that's okay. These creations you make and for you to practice and challenge yourself. Have fun with these explorations, and remember, if you are ever lost or struggling, please let me know. I can come help and we can talk it out together. 


Next week, we're going to talk foreground vs. background. 

Paint on, my friends. 


P.S. Have a topic in mind that you'd like to learn more about? Send me a message and I can cover it in one of my blog posts! 

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