The simplest, most textural, color friendly, quickest, easiest to apply and most romantic of all light is backlight. It also disguises flaws in the original painting. Visions of swings, bonnets, long grass and afternoon light are the stuff of backlight paintings. The temptation to overuse backlight, is, to some artists overwhelming. So always use less than you think is appropiate.
1. Usually applying the backlight highlights is the last step on finishing the painting. It is applied with thick pure paint (impasto). A dark cool-grey hat can quickly become a brilliant blue. A red shirt can glow with warmth and ripples of water can begin to sparkle with reflections.
2. In most cases backlight only creates an edge of light so be careful to make use of it to also define the texture of the object.
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In this example I have restricted myself to the use of backlight in one small area, Fig 2 and 3. As you can see my original painting was in shades of grey so the opportunities for applying backlight everywhere are manifold. Restraint is needed.
Backlighting, as you see in Fig 3 and 4 is a simple tracing procedure using a high value and high saturated color. I did this in this example with my computer tools - which is equivalent to using a cannon to shoot a mouse. Paint is much more delicate.
STUDENT ACTIVITY: Find some good examples of back lit pictures (magazines are full of them). Pick one and over paint (pencil or paint) the backlight edges. Comment on the differences it makes to the picture that results.
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