Let’s talk about light this week and how it plays an important role in a painting. I’m going to use my painting On the Mooring as a reference, as I love how the early morning light played an important role in the success of the painting.
There are a few elements that make a painting successful and one of them is contrast. To get contrast you need strong lighting. My favorite time of year to paint outside is the early morning in the fall. The fall is when the sun is lower, making the light very dramatic, thus the contrast in the subject of your painting really stands out. My least favorite time of year to paint outside is mid-day in the summer when the sun is at its highest making everything flat and washing out the colors.
In addition to contrast, to make a painting successful you need depth and color. If you look at On the Mooring (which won first place in a show by the way), the early morning light really makes the boats stand out and the sun hitting the trees shines on the colorful leaves. The shadows are very defined in the trees and on the backside of the boats and all of this carries into the reflections in the water. When it’s time to go hunting for inspiration for my next painting, the lighting is my number one priority; the second is the subject.
I challenge you to go out early in the morning or even late in the afternoon and see how different the light is than mid-day.