Splendiferous Threads Teach Form #2

Long ago I "discovered" that the weavers of these masterful threads of splendor (Baroque Tapestries) really knew their stuff and layered their colors by temperature in order to create form. 

It is said that learning to paint is merely learning to "see" - better. And I learned a lot by looking at old tapestries.

This is so darn important I'm going to repeat myself - but with a different example. If you really "got it" on post #1, you don't need to read/reread this post.

This is a detail of an old Baroque Tapestry based on "The Battle of Granicus" by Charles Le Brun c.1664.

In order to create form, it is necessary to layer paint by its temperature. Please note that the color temperature of paint is relative to what surrounds it. 

It is tough to see this in the Old Masters - but if you stand in front of a painting in a museum long enough - and if you know what you're looking for - you can see it.

Funny how this works, eh?

Reproductions of paintings in books makes it hard to see this. It is also hard to see on a computer monitor.

Here's something to help you (hopefully) see better next time you visit the Old Masters in a museum.

Highlights are the lightest color and reflect the "white light" of the sun. Shiny objects have sharp well defined highlights and dull surfaces have soft and often ill-defined highlights.

I usually add a dab of white to the color of light to make a highlight.

General light is warm - relative to the color of the object. We see that sunlight tends to bleach out and warm up a color.

I like a mixture of Winsor Newton's Yellow Ochre Pale + titanium white to add to a color to make a general light.

Halftone is where light and shadow meet. Light can move very quickly into shadow and then the halftone is very small.

Or light can take a long time to turn into shadow and then the halftone is very large.

This very important transition between light and shadow (halftone) defines form and will appear cool between the warm light and warm shadow.

Shadow (no light here) is warm and luminous.

The cast shadow is very warm and deep dark reds often work here when you can get away with it.

For more on this subject, see:


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