Absinthe's Mind-Altering Mystery Solved

Proof positive: High alcohol content responsible for psychedelic effects!

By Charles Q. Choi
LiveScience, April. 29, 2008


Albert Maignan's painting of "Green Muse" (1895) shows a poet succumbing to absinthe's mind-altering effects. Credit: Courtesy of the Musee de Picardie, Amiens

An analysis of century-old bottles of absinthe - the kind once quaffed by the likes of van Gogh and Picasso to enhance their creativity - may end the controversy over what ingredient caused the green liqueur's supposed mind-altering effects .

The culprit seems plain and simple: The century-old absinthe contained about 70 percent alcohol, giving it a 140-proof kick. In comparison, most gins, vodkas and whiskeys are just 80- to 100-proof.

In recent years, the psychedelic nature of absinthe has been hotly debated. Absinthe was notorious among 19th-century and early 20th-century bohemian artists as "the Green Fairy" that expanded the mind. After it became infamous for madness and toxic side effects among drinkers, it was widely banned.

The modern scientific consensus is that absinthe's reputation could simply be traced back to alcoholism, or perhaps toxic compounds that leaked in during faulty distillation. Still, others have pointed at a chemical named thujone in wormwood, one of the herbs used to prepare absinthe and the one that gives the drink its green color. Thujone was blamed for "absinthe madness" and "absinthism," a collection of symptoms including hallucinations, facial tics, numbness and dementia.

Prior studies suggested that absinthe had only trace levels of thujone. But critics claimed that absinthe made before it got banned in France in 1915 had much higher levels of thujone than modern absinthe produced since 1988, when the European Union lifted the ban on making absinthe.

"Today it seems a substantial minority of consumers want these myths to be true, even if there is no empirical evidence that they are," said researcher Dirk Lachenmeier, a chemist with the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory of Karlsruhe in Germany.

Lachenmeier and his colleagues analyzed 13 samples of absinthe from old, sealed bottles in France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the United States dated back to the early 1900s before the ban. After uncorking the bottles, they found relatively small concentrations of thujone in that absinthe, about the same as those in modern varieties.

Laboratory tests found no other compound that could explain absinthe's effects. "All things considered, nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes that was able to explain the syndrome of absinthism," Lachenmeier said. (Ethanol is a word for common drinking alcohol.)

The scientists are set to detail their findings in the May 14 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Fine Line Revealed Between Creativity and Insanity

By Ker Than, LiveScience Staff Writer. 

History suggests that the line between creativity and madness is a fine one, but a small group of people known as schizotypes are able to walk it with few problems and even benefit from it.

A new study confirms that their enhanced creativity may come from using more of the right side of the brain than the rest of us.

In the spectrum between normal and insane, schizotypes generally fall somewhere in the middle. While they do not suffer many of the symptoms affecting schizophrenics, including paranoia, hallucinations and incoherent thoughts, schizotypes often exhibit their own eccentricities.

Near infrared spectroscopy brain scans of schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal controls during creative thinking tasks. Photo Credit: Vanderbilt University

"They may dress or carry themselves in a strange way," says Bradley Folley, a graduate student in clinical psychology at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the lead author of the study. "They're not abnormal, they live normal lives but they often have idiosyncratic ways of thinking. Certain things may have special meaning for them or they may be more spiritually attuned."

Problem solving

The link between creativity and psychosis has largely been based on anecdotal evidence and correlation studies. The Vanderbilt study is the first to investigate the creative process experimentally using brain-imaging techniques.

The researchers defined creativity as the ability to generate something new and useful from existing products or ideas.

"Creativity at its base is associative," Folley told LiveScience. "It's taking things that you might see and pass by everyday and using them in a novel way to solve a new problem."

The researchers conducted two experiments to compare the creative thinking processes of schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal control subjects.

In the first experiment, subjects were shown a variety of household objects and asked to come up with new functions for them.

For example, all three groups would be asked to come up with possible uses for a needle and thread. While the normal and schizophrenic controls came up with pretty typical responses like sewing or stitching, one schizotype said that if a person was poor but wanted to get engaged, he could use the thread to make a ring and use the needle to write "I Love You," in the sand.

Picture this

In the second experiment, the three groups were again aske
d to come up with creative uses for everyday objects, but this time their brains were monitored using a brain-imaging technique called near-infrared optical spectroscopy.

The scans showed that both sides of the brain in all three groups were active when making novel associations. However, in the brains of schizotypes, the activation of the right hemisphere was much higher compared to brains of the control subjects.

Folley speculates that what may be happening is that schizotypes may either have more access to the right hemisphere than the average population or there may be more efficient communication between the two hemispheres.

How To Save Your Oil Paints *



So you're done painting for the day and you have a ton of paint left over - mixed to exactly the correct color and shade. What to do?

At the end of a painting session, I save my oils in an old ceramic pie plate, filled with plain water. 

I use a spatula to scoop the colors off the palette and store them under water in the dish.

When you're ready to paint again, scoop out the colors and put them back on your palette. Since oil and water don't mix, the water drops will evaporate and will not affect your paint or your painting.

The water seals off the paint from the air and I can keep my colors fresh for up to a week...and sometimes even longer.

I do not keep any mediums I have used.

When you "forget" and leave your paints until they harden (tisk tisk) - but you have used a ceramic or glass dish to store your paint - you can clean up hardened paint easily with a single sided razor blade.

My paint storage dish, shown above, needs a razor blade clean up as soon as that dish isn't in use - and I have nothing else to do in the studio.

* Note: You cannot store water-soluble oils under water.

Or...

If you need to keep paint even longer, you can store your piles of paint (without the water and covered of course) in your freezer.

Be It Ever So Humble....



At first I thought, "Home Is Where The House Is" makes a lot of sense if you're the sort who has moved around a lot. 



However, the old antique sampler's message directly above - thanks to Photoshop - is so much more tailored to "me."

But seriously, there's more to a "home..."

“Is a home merely a roof to keep out the rain?
Four walls to keep out the wind?
Floors to keep out the cold?

A home can be so much more than that.
It can be the laugh of a baby,
the song of a mother,
the strength of a father,
the warmth of loving hearts and lights from happy eyes,
Kindness, loyalty, comradeship live here.

Home is our first school,
where we learn what is right, what is good, and what is kind.
It is where we can go for comfort
when we are hurt or frightened;
where joy is shared and sorrow eased;
where family and friends show tolerance and are loved and loving.

It is where all children are wanted;
where the simplest food is good enough for kings;
where money is not as important as love, kindness and respect for our fellow man
that even the tea kettle sings from joy!
This is the home that lives in our hearts and a place we create for ourselves. 

Essential Art Supplies - from the Hardware Store



Cheap white bristle brushes come in handy for nearly everything. The cheapest hardware store kind needs to be fanned out and all the loose bristles removed before using.

These brushes, including the foam brush, are good for gesso and varnish. Toss when done.

Dust is the enemy of a fine art painter.

I couldn't live without a Tack Cloth.  I keep it near my easel an use it to remove dust and fine particles before and between painting sessions (when the surface is dry of course).

A tack cloth is made of cotton gauze impregnated with beeswax - and it mops up dust. Lightly wipe the surface of your canvas before painting. I am always surprised at how quickly the cloth gets "dirty" on an apparently clean surface.

Once the package is open, I store my tack cloth in a zip-lock baggie to prevent it from drying out.

Exacto and/or mat knife - who could function without one of these?

 

Rolls of masking tape come from the hardware store. It is necessary to keep a fresh roll around as they "fragment"as they age and it is nearly impossible to take a piece off the role.

Painters tape (usually blue - but not shown here) is a low tack (less sticky) tape. If you're going to use a piece of tape on a painting (for a short time only) in order to paint as straight line this tape is less likely to ruin the painted surface.

TIP: If ever you get a piece of tape stuck to something - oil will quickly remove the adhesive and allow you to remove the tape without harming the surface.

Shop Towels - they are blue & ugly - but completely lintless - much better than regular old paper towels. I buy them by the case.

Push pins are very useful in my studio.

My home-made Mahl Sticks (pictured above leaning against the painting on my easel) are essential to steady my hand when working on a wet surface that I don't want to touch. Sometimes I also use them when drawing so I can keep my surface clean.

I make my own mahl sticks of various lengths (only short ones shown). I buy dowels from the hardware store, stain them, and glue rubber cane tips on the ends (various sizes also available from the hardware store).



I keep a one pound tub of handy-dandy, super-duper, heavy-duty, industrial-strength HAND CLEANER near my easel. It is for removing grease, tar and oil in an automotive repair shop. 

Sometimes I use Goop, but this one is pictured above is called Gojo. Lots of different brands out there - but they all appear to do the same job.

I consider this item a Studio (& Fashion) Essential.

Now I'm not a messy painter overall, but every now and then I get oil paint on a piece of clothing that I care about. 

When I discover the "accident," I take a glob of cleaner and work it into the material from both sides of the fabric - don't be chintzy with the cleaner - use lots. If the oil paint is fresh you can immediately toss the clothing into the washing machine, with laundry detergent and wash as usual.

If the paint is old and dry, you can rub this hand cleaner into the material and let it sit for a while (for a few hours or even overnight) - then add a little more cleaner, work into the material (both sides) and then wash as usual.

It the paint still doesn't come out after one application and wash cycle - repeat the process....as long as you don't use the dryer to set the paint.

This (non gritty) hand cleaner usually comes packed in a tin or plastic tub - as a thick gel. In hot weather, it "melts" into a thick liquid. This does not make it any less effective.

Cecilia Beaux Exhibit at PAFA


We saw this stunning exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, PA. It is tough to capture the grandeur and elegance of Cecilia's work in a mere photo. 


At the turn of the twentieth century, the celebrated American artist William Merritt Chase named Cecilia Beaux "not only the greatest living woman painter, but the best that has ever lived." 



This handsomely illustrated book (pictured above) presents a range of the artist's strongest work and offers a fresh understanding of her career by examining critical questions of gender, class, and the importance of place. 

You can order this book (and other wonderful art books) here: http://www.portraitartist.com/bookstore/index.html



Cecilia Beaux was born in Philadelphia in 1863. She studied art privately, and then entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. 

In 1889, she went to Europe to study at the Académie Julian and at Colarossi's. She was later appointed to the faculty of the Pennsylvania Academy, the first full time woman instructor there, where she taught for over 20 years. 



A leading portraitist, her favorite subjects were women and children. In later life, she continued to paint, dividing her time between Philadelphia, New York and Gloucester, Massachusetts, where she died on September 16, 1942.



This is a picture of Cecilia Beaux with her longtime friend and intimate companion Dorothea Gilder (pictured on right). 




I'm Awarded the Certificate of Excellence





On April 12, 2008, The Portrait Society of America gave me the "Certificate of Excellence" in recognition for my Portrait of Gwyneth (below) at the 10th annual Art of the Portrait Conference in Philadelphia.



Among the 1300 entries, 30 were chosen to receive awards. I am honored to be one of those chosen.



"Portrait of Gwyneth"
24" x 30" Oil on Linen

My portraits always tell a story that is meaningful to the subject.

I really enjoy painting a "narrative" portrait. I see each one as a little one act theatrical production - all the drama of ideal lighting, scenery & props to tell a story without any speaking parts.

Gwyneth is a musician and poet. She spends a lot of time outdoors and loves the natural, woodsy and isolated mountaintop where she makes her home.

Some of the “props” I have included in this portrait have a very special meaning for Gwyneth. Family is very important to her - the earrings were a treasured gift from her father and the slender volume of poetry once belonged to her grandmother. The “bookmark” she used was an old yellowed ribbon rescued from her mother’'s wedding dress.

Her dedication to preserve a healthy ecology is reflected in the small subtle still life collection of leaves, bugs and raindrops I painted at the bottom of the canvas. At the top, I lettered her name.

I saw her late in the day just as the sky began to clear after a sudden and violent storm. The scene inspired me to make the background of her portrait atmospheric, moody, spontaneous and free – it perfectly mirrors her personality.

I love the dignity and grand style of classical art. I try to reflect the deep influence of the Old Masters in both method, style and use of light.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art


Yup, these are the "Rocky Steps." 

I've been told that visitors to the museum can frequently be seen mimicking Rocky Balboa's famous run up the front steps. Fun, eh? (See movie clip below)



I think I saw the movie "Rocky" before I ever got to see this museum. And in this case, the museum is soooooo much better than the movie.



The collection here is so large and so impressive that I couldn't pretend to do it justice in this Blog.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. It was established in 1876 and is now among the largest art museums in the United States.


On this particular trip I was looking for the delicious details in the great portraits. Sometimes they take my breath away. Sometimes they leave me in tears.

Here's a suggestion for other artists may just be starting out and want to maximize the learning from their museum visits:

Oftentimes I go to a great museum like this just to look at, for example, frames. I learn a lot when I narrow my field of interest. Other times I've focused on composition, foliage, children's faces, backgrounds, drapery, etc. I learn so much more this way.

When visiting a museum, It is very easy for me (and some artists I know) to get into "visual overload" - when we see too much. I need frequent breaks or I simply cannot absorb it all.

Most serious painters I know (myself included) have been known to stand for hours in front of one painting trying to take it all in.


This is me with my husband Peter walking through the galleries. Thank heavens he loves museums as much as I do!

Second Bank of the United States/Portrait Gallery

If ever you're in Philadelphia, this Portrait Gallery Museum ought to be at the top of your "must-visit" list.



I saw this Portrait Gallery for the first time during the PSOA Conference in 2008. It is located at 420 Chestnut Street (Between S. 4th and S. 5th), Philadelphia.

The building was originally a bank modeled on the Parthenon in Greece. Today the bank is home to this extraordinary Portrait Gallery.


Inside the barrel-vaulted structure, graceful Ionic columns compliment the portraits of revolutionary heroes and Federal statesman.

Those painted represent a Who's Who of the 18th century. There are signers of the Declaration and Constitution in addition to military men and foreign emissaries. 

This museum recreates the appearance of Charles Wilson Peale's "Philadelphia Museum" and displays many of the paintings he created for it. Other artists include James Sharples and Thomas Sully.

They have an "Art for Hire" exhibit that explores how 18th century artists painted and marketed their customers' portraits.

It was hard to photograph inside the building and their only catalog shows small black and white pictures.
Drat. Considering that this is our nation's second biggest and most important portrait gallery - I would like to see a decent catalog.

However, the collection is magnificent and as a portrait painter it is certainly a place I'll visit again and again.


I particularly like to study detail of costume and composition. In this picture (detail above) the subject is wearing tiny portraits of various members of her family on both wrists and on her buttons.


This hat really frames the face and makes the portrait. Because of the lighting, I was unable to capture the entire painting. Double drat.

"Clothing does not make the man - but it sure makes a successful portrait!" And you can quote me on this.



Another rule of thumb in a painting is to "Make Every Square Inch Interesting" and you can quote me on this one too.

Calvin J. Goodman's Art Marketing Handbook

I had the great good fortune to meet and chat with this remarkable, unique and charming man at the 2008 PSOA Conference in Philadelphia.




Management consultant Calvin Goodman has devoted more than four decades to advising artists and their dealers, publishers, and agencies regarding art marketing options, opportunities and methods. 

A graduate of Harvard, he is a recognized expert in the fields of marketing, sales, long-range planning and business systems. Goodman has prepared studies for many art and education institutions, conducted marketing seminars across the country and has lectured and conducted classes in professional practices for artists. 

Since it's inception, he has been active on the advisory board of the Portrait Society of America.


In addition to his hardcover book,
Art Marketing Handbook (latest edition pictured above), Goodman's articles on art and the art market have appeared regularly over the years in American Artist.

I recommend this book - it is a good read for any person that seriously wants to make a living as an artist. I have never ever met any person more knowledgeable than Calvin Goodman on the subject of the business of art.

You can read more and order this book here: http://www.artmarketinghandbook.com/

Hughes - My Ultimate Dream Easel



This is my easel above. It is the Hughes Model 4000. Mine is made out of dark walnut wood as I do not like light colors around me when I paint.

This easel is a simple and ingenious design. It takes a beating day after day and has always worked perfectly...my most reliable studio workhorse. It can accommodate a very small to a verrrry large and verrrry heavy framed canvas with ease.


Above is the same easel I use - but this picture is easier to see. The Hughes Easel comes in all sizes with a variety of functions - I have a large studio and this model is a really good fit for me.


This is a revolutionary professional studio easel that only Don Andrews produces. The Hughes Easel permits the artist to work with larger pieces of art more comfortably than with any other easel available on the market today.

No more twisting myself into a painful pretzel - with this easel I merely move the painting with my paint-stained but dainty fingertip!

And I'm not kidding here, the Hughes Easel's patented design actually does allow the canvas to be repositioned with finger tip ease at any time, both horizontally and vertically, without putting down my brushes and losing my focus and concentration. 



You can visit Don's website at: http://www.hugheseasels.com

This is my fourth and last easel. Unfortunately the other brands I used for years caused a lot of back pain. Thanks to the design of the Hughes, all that is history and I can now work long hours in comfort.

Hughes shipped my easel in two pieces - and even I found it easy to put together in a couple of minutes. 

I saw Don Andrews at the PSOA 2008 and he told me that he also does modifications and custom work and maintains a list of artists that own his easels and if you contact him he can tell you where you can go to see one. 

Palettes Made Comfortable - at last!



Turtlewood Palettes* is a small business located in the town of Thompson's Station, Tennessee. 


I was thrilled to meet Sherolyn and Michael Balsley (pictured above) at the 2008 PSOA Conference in Philadelphia. Michael has been hand crafting palettes for the last seven years and makes a palette that is extremely comfortable for an artist to use....and it is just what I have been searching for!



My beloved old studio palette was broken during a flight to europe some years ago (must have been a sleepy old elephant in the baggage section that decided to nap on my luggage that day). Until now I have not been able to find a replacement I liked.

This is a quote from Turtlewood about how these palettes are made:

"We use only the highest quality wood products for our palettes. Our Pro Series palettes are made of Russian Baltic Birch and the 1/4" palettes are made of Northern Birch. Each palette is handcrafted, balance checked, sanded, finished and inspected by wood artisan Michael Balsley to ensure that each palette is of the highest quality. Turtlewood Palettes are lightweight and make painting easier for the artist. Artists can use the palette as a value gauge and a color guide to help aid them in their painting."

Here's the secret to the most comfortable palette I've ever held:


This is a back view of the Pro Series II palette and counterweight (unfinished but also available toned). The counterweight is to balance the palette while the artist is holding it in his or her hand and to provide comfort of the hold.  

Good news - Michael makes both left-handed and right-handed palettes.



This is a front view of a palette that is finished. Since I prefer to mix my paints on a dark brown palette, I purchased an unfinished palette and will make it the color I prefer. 

Lots of artists like to work on a neutral grey palette too.

These wonderful palettes come in all shapes and sizes - and at last - my hand won't hurt at the end of a long day. 

Contact:

You can order from Turtlewood by calling 615 599-3813. 

Or you can email Michael at mturtlewood@aol.com (and say "Palettes" in the subject line).

Be sure to check out their website at: 
https://turtlewoodpalettes.com

* Note: There's a charming and heartwarming story about why Michael and Sherolyn named the company "Turtlewood." You'll have to ask them when you order one of their comfy palettes...

Realistic Painting in a Nutshell *

...or What I've Learned from Copying the Old Masters...

The real measure of a painter’s success is that his or her knowledge can be applied in all cases and not just "randomly or occasionally."

Unfortunately talent alone is not nearly enough.

Knowledge will enable the artist to self-critique accurately and consistently raise the overall level of his or her work.

I think that it is fine to paint what you "see" (if you can see it), but it is much more effective to paint what you "know." The human eye is not always "sophisticated" or "trained" enough to observe reality.

There is a lot of false or misunderstood "knowledge" that "sounds right" but unfortunately cannot consistently be applied to improve the artist’s work.

I have been very fortunate to have been taught by Mr. Numael Pulido, and have had an opportunity to copy the works of some of the Old Masters.

I have found Vermeer to be the best teacher of all the Old Masters. Here are some of the lessons I have learned about realistic painting from the Old Masters in general - and most especially from Vermeer in particular.

FIRST STEPS

1. Build Composition with three values. You must represent a dark tone, a middle tone, and a light tone.

2. Clearly define the silhouettes of both the positive and negative shapes early in the painting and make sure that these shapes are interesting and not repetitive or uniform.

3. Use only a single light source. If possible, have the single light source come from the upper left.

LIGHT AND SHADOW

1. Beginning in the under layer, the light and shadow must be clearly defined in thick paint.

2. Light flows across an object in a path from the center of intensity (highlight) and should not be interrupted by dark shadows in its flow. (i.e., shadows appear lighter in the light).

3. Connect shadows into a pattern whenever possible.

4. Separate light in a consistent manner from shadow. No light should appear in a shadow and no dark shadows should appear in the light. (That is, shadows that break light must be lighter than any single shadow in a shadow area).

5. An effective way to add “reflected light” to a shadow is to mix pure color pigments from opposite sides of the color wheel to get a neutralcolor. Then add enough white to match the surrounding value of the shadow.

6. Whenever possible, find and make a pattern of connected light.

7. Utilize shadows as distinct and important design elements.

8. Light is always built with thick opaque paint.

9. Shadows are to be thinly painted.

10. A halftone is formed on an object where the shadow meets the light. The transition between light and shadow may occur very slowly or very quickly and this will determine the character of the halftone.

11. I begin with an imprimatura (aprox. the value of brown wrapping paper) by painting light as it emerges from this cool middle or halftone.

12. A pleasing light/shadow or shadow/light ratio is 1:3.

FORM

1. There are no hard edges in nature. Blend and soften your edges!

2. Perspective and anatomy ought to be depicted as true and accurate.

3. Man made objects with a straight edge should be painted with a "ruler" (i.e., tabletop).

4. Distant objects tend to become "bluer/cooler" as they recede. Close objects show more "yellow/warmth."

5. Turn edges of objects away from the viewer by making them cooler.

6. Paint objects in the distance less distinctly than objects that are near the viewer.

7. As highlight transitions into deep shadow, warm and cool tones begin to alternate to create each layer that defines form. The overlapping ofwarm and cool color is essential in building realistic form.

(The terms “warm” and “cool” color is relative to the specific color used…i.e., warm and cool blue…)

Highlight is cool. The lightest coolest value paint on an object.

Light is warm. Light warm value paint - gets lighter as it approaches and surrounds the highlight.

Halftone (where light and shadow meet) is cool. Mid-value paint that is cooler than the shadow and light which it connects.

Shadow is warm. Dark warm value paint.

Deep Shadow (cast shadow at the origin) is hot. Darkest warmest value paint.

COLOR

1. Some representation of the following five colors should be included in a painting: red, yellow, blue, black, and white. (“Shadows” do not count as black.)

2. Differentiate and define a background, a middle ground and a foreground in each painting. These levels of depth should eventually be integrated with “lost” and “found” edges.

IN GENERAL:

Out of clutter, look for and find simplicity and pattern.

* Excerpts from a talk by Karin Wells - "Building Art Beyond the Image" - at the Portrait Society of America’s Annual Conference in Chicago, April 2001.

A Quickie Lesson in Layering Warm & Cool Colors to Create Realistic Form

It is OK to paint what you see, but it is much more important to paint what you know. The human eye is not always "sophisticated" or "trained" enough to observe reality and the Old Masters certainly knew this.

Here is a quickie visual lesson in layering warm and cool paint to define realistic looking form. The example with numbers superimposed below is a head painted by Rubens. (Wisecracks about "painting by the numbers" won't be appreciated).

As light strikes a form most intensely at the highlight, it will transition into a deep shadow. As the light flows around the form, warm and cool tones begin to alternate. 


It is important to be able to see and understand this in order to create any form with a paintbrush.

Each band of color temperature helps define form. 

The overlapping of warm and cool color is essential in building realistic-looking form. (The terms "warm" and "cool" color are relative to the specific color used...i.e., warm and cool skin tones)

1. Highlight is cool. The lightest value, cool color paint on an object.

2. Light is warm. The next lightest value, warm color paint - and it continues to get lighter still as it approaches the area of highlight.

3. Halftone (where light and shadow meet) is cool. A mid-value, cooler color paint where light begins to turn into shadow - but can't be defined as either light or shadow.

Halftones can be narrow when light meets shadow quickly as at a hard edge.

Halftones can be wide when light meets shadow slowly as over the surface of a gently curved form.

4. Shadow is warm. A dark value, warm color paint.

5. Deep Shadow (cast shadow at the origin) is hot. Darkest value, hottest color paint.

6. Reflected light within a shadow is as close to pure color as you can make it (see the post just before this one for more detail). The reflected light should match the value of the shadow and it can be either warm or cool in color.

Below is a detail of a face by Rubens. With specific reference to the numbers above, I hope you can see the layering technique I have described. If you can begin to see this, you can begin to paint it.


The above illustration is merely meant to help the beginner "see" and is not meant to be a set of rigid rules. 

Sometimes I think of painting as a bit like learning to ride a bicycle. Some of us don't learn as quickly as others and training wheels come in verrrry handy. Eventually though, those training wheels will get in the way - but in the meantime they are darn useful.

So many begining painters "crash and burn"...sadly, left alone to suffer from an untrained eye. Unless they are taught to "see" they will never learn to paint well.

I feel that any help a beginner can get to produce a good result is valid. With a few successful paintings under a belt, so to speak, a beginner can gain the knowledge and experience that works for them.

Add Pure Color into Reflected Light




When I can, I like to "get away" with adding thick intense pure color into reflected light (under the nose and chin for example). 

So often you can "hide" a bright pure color in plain sight - and nobody will notice it until you point it out.

In my Portrait of Zabie, above, I have added a brush stroke of pure cadmium orange - straight from the tube - underneath her chin.

I define "pure color" as a color without any addition of white to "dilute" it. Instead of adding white, I usually adjust the value (lightness or darkness) of this color with something lighter - usually yellow ochre pale in order to allow it to blend in with the surrounding tones. I am talking about thick paint here - not a glazed color.

I prefer to use the warm colors from my palette - reds, yellows and cadmium orange. But there is no reason not to use the cool colors if it serves the image.

Pure color can greatly enliven and enrich a painting. I try to find as many excuses to use pure color whenever and wherever I can.

Reflected light can be "toned down or neutralized" a bit by mixing two color opposites (i.e., red/green, purple/yellow) if necessary. If a cooler color is required, you can add a dab of white and/or blue  to "cool" the mixture. Sorry, I do not have an example of this handy.

Note that if you're not careful, you can lighten an area too much and run the risk of fragmenting a solid shadow - always a no no.

Although the accepted knowledge is that "reflected light" is actually reflected from a color specific object nearby, I seldom pay much attention to this. 

I say that whatever color looks good and you can get away with..go for it! Painting is not meant to be reality. "Reality" is mostly the task of photography.



Detail of my Portrait of Elizabeth Brewer. I used a streak of nearly pure cadmium orange both under the chin and in the earlobe on the left.


Detail of my Portrait of Whitney. I have added more yellow and a touch of blue here in order to tone it down.



A detail of my Portrait of Gwyneth. I used a little more yellow to tone it down under the nose and chin to avoid overpowering those delicate skin tones. Toward the ear, I used straight-from-the-tube undiluted cadmium orange.