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Friday, December 6, 2013

How To Make Lights In A Painting Glow

The one thing that magnetically attracts people to a painting is the use of light.  Subtle tones can work in some paintings, but I personally am bowled over by extremes in contrast.  The 17th century Dutch painters, and Johannes Vermeer in particular, were masters of light and contrast.  Their paintings shimmer with light ranging from velvety blacks to brightest whites.  So magical!
I am a firm believer that new art can build on the foundation of old art, so I strive to implement techniques used by those masters who have gone before.  I almost always employ both black and white in my paintings.  Even my abstract pieces.  That's how much I think that the Dutch Masters got it right.
So how do I make light work in a painting?  One recent example is from my New Orleans series.  I wanted to depict a trolley at night in downtown.  Night scenes have all the right contrast elements of darks and lights which go a long way to making a painting work for me.  The hard part of course is making the lighting in my painting look convincing.  For this I use a tip I learned while watching a painting video by contemporary realist master, David A. Leffel: subtly lighten the area a little nearest the object that light is striking in order to give the illusion of light glowing on the object.
Looking at my painting, Trolley Cheer, you see that the strongest light is inside the trolley and along the top of the trolley.  I put my whites in these areas and then lightened the nearest areas.  The yellow border around the trolley windows adds to the illusion of glowing light.  The white top of the trolley fades into pale blue.  The night sky above the trolley is lighter than the sky at the top of the painting.  All of these elements conspire to make the viewer experience the painting as a glowing night scene.  Just what I wanted!

Copyright Mona Vivar, Trolley Cheer, 11 inches by 14 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now available in my Ebay store at Mona Vivar Fine Art

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