LIGHT

Brightness and concentration of colour

 1. VINCENT VAN GOGH The Potato Eaters 1885 2. HENRI MATISSE The great red inside 1918 The things we see and the way we see them - everything is dependent of light. Objects can suddenly look very strange and unusual when the type of light that falls upon them, its direction or brightness change. Try to stare at the view outside your window many times a day. You will notice that this view is changing all the time - that many various colours and shadows appears. There are various types of colours, as well as methods of combining them in a painting. There is however another factor which causes colours to differ from each other - it is the amount of light it can absorb and reflect. The more light a colour reflects the lighter it seems. The less it reflects the more it absorbs and therefore the darker it seems. This is why we consider yellow and light blue to be light colours, while for example dark blue and brown to be dark colours. We can also put this differently: the value of yellow and light blue is weak, while that of dark blue and brown strong. If in a painting stains of dark colours dominate the work gives the impression of being serious, dignified (illustration 1). Also the other way round - if an artist wishes to paint something cheerful it is often enough to simply use light colours (illustration 2). Certain colours can of course be lighter or darker, absorb more light or less. For example - a green stain made with a thick aquarel will seem darker than the same aquarel but used with a lot more water. We then say that the green of the first stain has a stronger tint or that it is more concentrated than the green of the second stain. It is also correct to state that the value of the first stain is stronger than that of the second one. On the other hand if we use oil paint or poster paint the tint of the colour depends on the amount of white added to it.

Light and space

The objects that surround us aren`t flat, but three-dimensional. They have a width, height and depth and are always found in a three-dimensional space. Light thanks to whom we can see these objects always has its source. In an open air the sun is the source and if it is a cloudy day the lighter part of the sky provides light. Inside buildings light is obtained either through windows or thanks to lamps. The lightest are always the parts of objects which face the light source and thus have the weakest value. However ones that are furthest from the light and don't face it have the strongest value (they are the darkest). Parts of objects which are placed sideways of light or under small angles have walors of various intensities. We call this occurrence in art a chiaroscuro. It is thanks to this that when we paint any fragment of the world we can show that it is not flat, but three-dimensional. If value is spread correctly - black stains, white stains and ones in between the two, every object we paint gives the impression of being three-dimensional.

 3. Diffused, strong light 4. Diffused, dull light 5. Spot light

To avoid mistakes in spreading values it is essential to decide where the light comes from and what its strenght is. Compare the same composition of some objects at various types of light (illustration 3 - 5). You will easily notice that the value in both paintings is different. Also the contrast is bigger with stronger light.
Now you already know that the strength of value depends on the colours of objects in nature, as well as on the strength and direction of a light.

Value

 6. MICHELANGELO MERISI   DA CARAVAGGIO    Salome with the head   of Saint John the Baptist    around 1610 The spread of values (lights and shadows) depends on the direction of a light and their contrasts - on the strength of a light (illustration. 6) and that`s why artist should accurately define what is the direction and strength of a light falling before he or her starts creating. A sculptor considers what will be the position of a sculpture towards the sun. Just the full shine will brighten some fragments of a work (and will make it full of live) leaving other in the dark (ilustration 7). 7. HENRY MOORE    The restful figure    1936

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HOW TO UNDERSTAND A WORK OF ART   1998