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  • Writer's pictureLucy

Light is Life in Art

To borrow a phrase from the hit show Ted Lasso, "Light is Life!"

Light informs everything I do in my art from color to value and those two things make or break a painting.

When light, which is made up of wavelengths matching the 7 colors of the rainbow, hits an object the color we see is a result of which wavelengths are reflected back. Those wavelengths are interpreted by our eyes.

Quick science recap: Our eyes are made up of two types of photoreceptors – rods and cones. Cones detect color while rods let us see things in black, white and grey, or values.

Each of our eyes interpret light waves slightly differently but all colors come in warm hues and cool hues. It's easy to see this at a color swatch counter in any hardware store. Generally these displays are organized by color and within each color you can see some swatches look warmer while others look cooler.

At first it took me some time to wrap my head around how orange can be warm or cool but now I see it. 😊

Colors are also different when viewed inside vs. outside: viewed outside objects in sunlight have a warm color and their shadows a cool color while indoors the opposite is true. I don't pretend to fully understand the science behind it but the reality is easily observed.

Color is subjective to the viewer, constantly changing as light changes, and really fun.

Meanwhile, value in art is basically how light or dark something is on a scale of white to black. When a light source directly hits an object that is at lightest value and where there is no light that is the object's darkest value. Observing the gradual change from one value to another is key to making a painting of an object appear 3D.

Many artists believe that the most important element of a painting is correct value relationships. I think so too.

When you look closely at an object, any object, there are hard edges and soft edges. Sometimes those softer edges are almost indecipherable from the background making what artists call "lost edges". Properly rendering them can make a painting feel "real" because we instinctively know they exist even though we may have never thought about it.

That was certainly my experience. Before studying with Nancy Lucas-Williams at The Masters' Atelier of Drawing and Painting all my painted objects had hard edges and they looked flat, graphic, and not at all real.

Thanks to the training I received at The Masters' Atelier, I now create paintings that look 3D/real and I love it! Below is the very first value study I did at the Masters' Atelier--it's a charcoal drawing sized 18" x 22" of a cast and it took months to complete. Look for the lightest light, the darkest dark, and lost edges. When taken together the results are beautiful.

Light IS life in art!

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