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The Colour of Shadows – How Shadows Breathe Life

August 17, 2010
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Today's Reflections - Monet's Garden - Giverny, France

Today’s Reflection – Monet’s garden – Giverny, France

It was quite the experience to be raised in a place of  intense light and colourful shadows.  The prairie light can be so intense it takes the colour out of the objects in your site line.  In the late afternoon, the long shadows can be so bold and deep in value that it takes your breath away.  But, no matter how deep the shadow, the ‘life’ within it, is still there.  The deepest shadows are still charged with variety and colour.

I learned early in my painting career that the deepest shadows contain rich darks that can be capitalized upon for the most dramatic results.    When I first started painting I chose ‘flat’ darks which led to ‘dead’ spaces within my compositions.  When I drew upon the memories of a child and began to put colour into  those shadows, they  began to come alive.   This fact is particularly obvious when painting watercolour or pastel but it is also very true when painting with oil or acrylic.  Variety in colour, within shadow shapes is very important.

Our life experience has a lot to do with the choices we make as an artist.  Quieting the mind and allowing it to draw upon the visual experiences of our past can help us, as artists, make authentic choices when it comes to our work.  The case of the shadow that breathes life is no exception.  As artists, as human beings living at this time, we need to trust our instincts and believe that if we simply take a chance, try the idea that springs forward in the mind, the outcome might surprise.

As artists, we need sound fundamentals but these fundamentals are not enough to make a compelling piece of art.  There is something more.  That something more is fundamentally connected to the emotion created within a piece of work.  That emotion comes from the artist drawing upon memories and life experiences and conveying the feelings of those experiences through colour, value, line and composition.  Not an easy task but doable.

Elegance of Form

Elegance of Form

In conclusion artists, the ‘path’ or ‘way’ is a mysterious one, full of opportunities to help us make the most of our choices.  When painting a painting, try to take your time, to avoid judgment, to follow your instincts.  Dido for your life!

Until next time…. How to Keep a Focus!

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