By suggesting the effects of light and shade, the artist can create three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional flat surface. Light defines and can suggest depth, weight, softness and space. Darks tone down as well as express form, texture and strength. Imagine trees without shadows, or a barn without texture, or a forest of trees without the flickering lights of the sun filtering through the leaves. As important as light is, just as important are the shadows, because the shadows explain whether objects are flat or round, whether it is a bright or a cloudy day. They create a mood and they help tell your story.
When you start your drawing, the sun (the primary light source) will be in a certain position. As you work, the sun will move across the sky, creating new shadows, which can change the feeling that inspired you to select this particular area for a picture. There are several remedies for this situation. One is to work the same time every day, or from one particular hour to the next. Another is to make as many line-and-value sketches as you need to help you recapture the scene when you get back to your studio. Last, if you do not intend to return to a particular spot, use your camera. Sketches, notes and photos should give you enough material to capture that light you wanted to preserve in your drawing.
In the vignette below, you see the open doorway of a barn. The front of the doorway receives the primary source of light; therefore, all objects facing that light will be the brightest in value. As the light recedes into the interior, the values will darken and become almost black. In spite of the dark interior, your eye can pick out a few details. Included are just enough details to let you know that something is there, which is more interesting than just a dark shape.
There's also a secondary light source —the window, which, being on the shady side of the barn, does not allow light as bright as the primary source inside. The papers on the top of the pile receive most of the secondary light, which is a little darker in value than the primary light, which shines on the bottom part of the trash can.
Barn Interior, 14" x 17", graphite pencil on Somerset paper.
Shade and Shadow
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