Drawing Light

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Light and Shade Art Book

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The effect of the light upon the principal geometric solids has been studied, and it has been shown that without regard to the color, any object has a light side and a shadow side, and that there is light and shade upon even the blackest object.

Strongest on the lightest object. - When objects are of different colors, the lightest color will reflect the most light, and the light side of a white object will be lighter than the light side of a yellow object which has the same position ; and if the positions of all the objects with respect to the light are the same, the light of the yellow is lighter than that of an orange object ; that of the orange is lighter than green, the green than red, the red than blue, the blue than violet, and the violet is lighter than black[1]. It is well for students to understand this fact, but they must remember that they cannot apply the principle instead of observation of nature ; for the different colors in nature will not be placed so they receive equal amounts of light, and consequently any color, as orange, or even a darker color, may receive so much light as to appear lighter than yellow or even white, which may happen to be so placed that it reflects less light to the eyes than the darker color.

Photographs of colors not true in values. — Photographs do not give the values of colors ; thus photographs of yellow are much too dark and those of blue are too light. The yellow bottle in Fig. 20 seems almost as dark as the upright vase, which was green, and darker than the bottle; and the vase in Fig. 15 seems quite light, while the object was dark blue. But the photographs which are reproduced bring out the most important fact regarding the mass of the light of any object; for they all show how simple it is, and artistically they are much more satisfactory than they would be if they gave all the detail the eye could see, but at the expense of the loss of the broad mass of light.

1 The colors are supposed to be the six standard spectrum colors.

The student exaggerates detail in the light. — The entire leaf in Fig. 15 is covered with veins which the light side of the leaf hardly suggests. In attempting to represent these veins the student is almost certain to exaggerate their strength so that the effect of this half of the leaf is that of a mass of gray, or more often of a series of bands of light and dark alternating. The student exaggerates because contrast effects make detail seem stronger than it really is, and also because the eye sees only a small part at one time, and that part with the amount of light which the eye receives adjusted so as to bring out all details of this part. Thus if we go from the sunlight into a darkened room, we see at first none of the objects in the room, but gradually the pupil of the eye expands to admit more light; and if the room is not too dark, the objects appear one after another, until the eye is fully adjusted to the light and all objects are seen. If now we go into the sunlight, we are blinded by the light, and the light sides of objects seem a blaze of light with no detail, until the pupil closes and shuts out most of the light. When this has happened, a surface which seemed one uniform glaring light is seen to be covered with detail.

The value of any part seen only by comparison. — It is evident that the true effect of any object cannot be seen if the student fixes his eye upon either its mass of light or its mass of dark, for his eye will adjust to the light or the shadow, as the case may be, so that no detail is seen except in the part studied ; thus the detail is not seen in its proper relations to the whole, and detail can only be seen in its real relations as explained in Chap. II. The aim of the serious art student in looking at detail should be to study its form and determine its value by looking, not at the detail alone or the parts about it, but rather at all of them at once.

Causes dark color to appear lighter than light color. — The most important effect of the light is to lighten all that it strikes upon, so that a dark color appears lighter than a light color which receives or reflects less light. This is shown by the red sphere of Fig. 7 and the blue vase of Fig. 15, which, though too light in the light, is still true to the fact that in nature the dark blue appeared very much lighter than the cast shadow upon the cast. In Fig. 16 the contour of the black bottle appears lighter than the gray background. In Fig. 18 the green vase is lighter than the gray cast, and in Fig. 20 the green vase is in some parts of the light lighter than the background, in other parts of the same value, and in some places the light is darker than the background.

Lightens and destroys detail. — Another effect which is difficult for the student to see is that the light often partially or wholly hides detail which is known to exist. Thus in Fig. 15, on the left-hand part of the leaf, we find between the outer edge and the midrib representations of veins which extend continuously, but which are Seen only at their central parts. Similar effects are found in Fig. 18, and these figures illustrate the common case in which continuous detail in the object is situated so as to receive the light at different angles, and be visible for part of its length only. The student who sees the central part of a detail whose form he knows, is very apt to think he sees it all, and represents its entire length ; he is especially apt to draw the whole when he sees the two ends of a detail whose central part cannot be seen, and he must be very careful to draw no more than he sees, for without the careful observation which notes every place in which the light obliterates the detail, an artistic drawing cannot be made.

Lightens small shadows and cast shadows within it. — Not only does the light hide details which are brought out by light tones of shade, but it softens details which are shown by small bits of shadow or cast shadow which come in the mass of the light. When looked at directly, these shadows may seem the darkest ones of the object, but when the eyes are blurred they will appear much lighter than the large masses of shadow. Thus in Fig. 15 the narrow shadow formed by the midrib at the top of the leaf will probably appear to the student darker than the wide shadow the leaf casts on its background, or even darker than the cast shadow of the object on the panelling. The narrow shadow on the leaf is really lighter than the cast shadow of the leaf, for it is lightened by the strong rays of light from the parts about it, which are diffused and slightly blended with the rays from the narrow shadow. In all cases a narrow shadow between two surfaces, in the light, and nearly in line with each other, will appear lightest where it is narrowest, and if a space separating two surfaces becomes very narrow, the light about the narrow shadow may be strong enough to nearly obliterate it. The narrow line of cast shadow under the plinth in Fig. 14 illustrates this point ; it is much lighter under the lightest part of the plinth than under the nearer and darker part of the plinth. The figure/ also shows how strong light hides the form, for in the strong light the upper edges of the pyramid and the plinth are barely visible.

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Infringes upon narrow darks within it. — The black pencil in Figs. 8 to 13 inclusive also shows how light infringes upon and weakens narrow darks, for the pencil seems smaller where it comes in front of the light plinth than where it is seen against the gray background; and the greater the contrast of light and dark in the group, the greater the difference between the apparent diameters of the two parts of the pencil.

Hides soft shadows. — Fig. 17 shows again the way in which darks are lightened by the strong lights near them. The shadow of the cover cast upon the light face of the plinth seems at first glance to come within the shadow of the cover cast upon the foreground, instead of beginning where the shadow upon the horizontal surface meets the vertical surface of the plinth. This effect is often noticed, but careful observation will show a soft shadow on the vertical surface which continues the soft shadow on the foreground, but is so much lighter than that on the shelf that at first it is not noticed. The soft shadow on the vertical is less prominent than that on the horizontal, because it is lightened by the strong light of the surface which receives it.


Brings out detail and local color. The full light changes or hides the color and often makes detail invisible, but the parts of light between the full light and the shadow bring out the local color, and make all the detail most prominent. , Fig. 5 is from a photograph of a wooden cylinder painted white with a brush whose marks were plainly seen, and which show slightly in the figure in the half light only. The brush marks upon the cone, Fig. 6, and upon the plinth, Fig. 14, also show in the half light. The veins in the leaves of Figs. 15 and 18 are most prominent in the tones between the strong lights and the shadows. In Fig. 16 the creases in the tinfoil upon the bottle are seen more plainly between the light and the shadow than in either the light or the shadow.

Detail in half light must be carefully drawn. — The irregularities of surface on the plums, Fig. i8, are seen most plainly near the dividing lines of light and shade, and the rings about the vase are more prominent in the half light than elsewhere. The student must study detail in the half light most carefully, for this detail is most prominent, and gives the character of the object more than detail either in full light or in shadow.


Does not show detail or local color. — The effect of the shadow upon detail is similar to that of the light, detail being lost for lack of light, and local color being so changed that it would often not be known from the color of the shadow.

Varies in value. —The values of objects of different colors are not changed relatively by shadows when they are placed so as to receive equal amounts of the reflected lights ; thus yellow in shadow is lighter than orange in shadow, and so on. But the student cannot determine the values of the different shadows by any theory ; for the objects which receive them reflect light so differently that observation alone can determine the values, and the value of a light object may be darker than that of a much darker one.
At first the student will have great difficulty in seeing any difference between the different shadows of the group, and he may be assisted by thinking of the local colors, as the values of the shadows will often be in harmony with the values of the local colors. In Fig. Is, for instance, to most students the shadow on the cast will seem as dark or even darker than that of the cast on the panelling ; but if the student thinks of the local colors of the two surfaces, — or better still, blurs his eyes and tries to decide what colors he would use if painting the subject with colors, —he will often be assisted to see the true values of the shadows.

Dividing line of light and shade important. — When objects are bounded by edges, the edges define the shadow surfaces ; but when objects are bounded by curved surfaces, the shadows are not sharply defined, but grade into the light and produce the intermediate tones called half light. It is very important that...the...Antal-1g line of light and shade be carefully drawn throughout, and when it is upon a rounded object the greatest pains must be taken that the gradation does not destroy the effect of the general direction of the line ; this shows when the eyes are blurred so that the masses of light and dark are seen.
Defined by an element. — In the cylinder or cone the shadow is defined by an element ; in common objects which are variations of the type forms, the dividing line of light and shade will not always conform to a foreshortened section of the object through the axis, but it may often, in parts, become practically the element of a short cone or cylinder ; and if its direction is not truly given upon parts which are cylindrical or conical, their forms cannot be well expressed.


Varies in strength. — With any given illumination the strength of reflected lights depends upon the smoothness of the objects on which they are found, and upon their surroundings. A mirror in the form of a sphere would reflect the forms and colors of objects about it so perfectly that the effects of light and shadow would be entirely destroyed by the reflections. Perfect reflecting surfaces are seldom found in common objects, but polished silverware gives a near approach to perfect reflection ; the reflection is sharp and gives clearly the form and color of the objects reflected. Polished objects give clear reflections of dark objects as well as of light ones ; and, to be exact, we should require another division of the effects due to light and shade, namely, reflected darks. These reflected darks are generally considered as the parts of the shadow which are not lightened by reflected lights. The student, however, should not study from objects whose surfaces are highly polished until quite proficient in representing the simple effects of light and shade upon unpolished objects.

Makes the shadow visible. —The " light " of any object is the surface upon which direct rays of light fall. By direct rays is meant rays from the sun, the moon, or any artificial light, and also the rays from the window by which any studio or room is lighted. That part of the surface of any object which receives no direct rays is called the " shadow," and the lightest parts of any shadow surface are called the "reflected lights." Shadow surfaces receive no direct rays and would appear uniformly dark if they did not receive light which is reflected to them from the light surfaces of objects about them. If not for this indirect and irregularly reflected light shadow surfaces would be visible as darks by reason of the light surfaces about them, but no detail would be seen in any shadow surface. But, as a matter of fact, every part of the surface of any object receives light which is irregularly reflected to it from all directions; and the stronger these reflected rays, the lighter are the shadow surfaces, and the more prominent is any detail in them.
In Fig. i6 the light top of the plinth is reflected in the bottle as a decided form, bounded by curved lines meeting at points which are the reflections of the corners ; and the plinth in Fig. 17 is reflected in a similar way in the bottle upon it.

Is generally dark. — Objects less smooth than the bottles of Figs. 16 and 17 have reflected lights which cause slight gradations in the mass of the shadow (see Fig. 18); and generally the student will find that in the effect of the whole, reflected lights are not lights but darks, which are simply less dark than the strongest parts of the shadow.
In looking at detail, whether in the mass of the light or in the mass of shadow, the student should blur his eyes and see if the detail belongs to the light or to the dark. He should ask himself, "Does the detail appear light or dark in the effect of the whole? " The tendency is to exaggerate the reflected lights in the shadow just as much as the grays in the mass of the light, and if the student does not often apply the tests explained in Chap. II, he will not realize that generally the lights which he sees in the mass of the shadow are darks, and the grays which he sees in the mass of the light are lights.

May come in the light. — The light top of the plinth in Fig. 14 gives bright reflections on the bands upon the lower part of the pitcher. These are reflected lights, though they come in the mass of the light upon the pitcher, and we see that a light object may so reflect that it lightens the light as well as the shadow of any object. The reflection of any light object upon any surface in light or in shadow is never as light as the reflected object, and the reflection of a dark object is not as dark as the object, for the light reflection is darkened by losing the light which the reflecting surface absorbs, while the dark reflection is lightened by the surface reflecting diffused light received from other objects.


Generally a strong dark. — The cast shadows are generally the _darkest parts of any subject, and together with the shadows are often visible when the light surfaces of the objects are invisible. They show the shapes of the objects casting them, and also those of the objectS receiving them, and are most important features of any subject.

Varies in value. — The value of a cast shadow depends upon the color of the surface receiving it, and when surfaces of different colors are placed so that they all receive the shadow of any object, the shadow will be darkest upon the darkest color if the different colors receive equal amounts of reflected light. This would, however, seldom happen, and only study of nature will produce a true drawing.

Darker than light or shadow. — Cast shadows are generally darker than shadows and all light surfaces, but no rule can be stated, for the cast shadow on a light color is often lighter than the shadow. upon a darker color, and the cast shadow on a light color may be lighter than the light side of a dark object. Thus the cast shadow of dark tree-trunk upon white snow is lighter than the light side of the tree-trunk, and in Fig. 17 the cast shadow of the cover upon the plinth is about the same value as the light upon the cover.

Varies in sharpness. — Shadows cast by sunlight and by artificial light are sharply defined ; those by studio light are sharp near the objects that cast them, and softer as they recede. Shadows cast by a studio light are varied by reflected lights as much as are the shadows, but by sunlight or by artificial light cast shadows upon any surface are more nearly of uniform value.

Masses with the shadow. — The cast shadow and the shadow of any object generally form a mass of dark, which in contrast with the mass of the light produce the effect of the object. When the object is not near the eye, these masses are very prominent, and often no detail can be seen in them.

Hides contours and detail. — As already explained, unimportant detail disappears in the shadow, and in the same way it disappears in the cast shadow, and often even the form or contour of an object is lost in the darkness of the cast shadow. Thus the lower right contours of the bottle in Fig. 16 and the pot in Fig. 17 are invisible for a little distance, and the contour of the cylinder in Figs. 8, 9, and 13 is lost in the shadow thrown upon it by the plinth. The contour should not be represented when it is not seen, for much of the charm of the best artistic work is due to the subordination of detail, and disappearance in part of the contours, due to the shadow and cast shadows.

Must be carefully drawn. —The importance of carefully drawing the dividing line of light and shade on all objects has been mentioned, and from what has been said the student will realize that careful drawing of the cast shadows is of no less importance. The drawing of the masses of dark which are bounded by the dividing lines of light and shade, and the outlines of the cast shadows will often do more to suggest the object than a correct contour ; but if these parts are correctly drawn, the contours will probably be in correct drawing. In general as much attention should be given to the forms of the shadows and cast shadows as to the contours.

Helps in the drawing. — The forms of the shadows and cast shadows are often easier to see than those of the contours which, are often invisible in parts, and generally the shadows are seen first and contours last ; therefore,.in light and shade study it is natural that the student begin with the lights and the shadows instead of with the contours.

Blends with the shadow. — Upon objects such as those of Fig. - 18 the cast shadow and shadows often blend together. Thus the cast shadow of the leaf in light passes around the plum and into the shadow upon the plum. Upon the vase each projecting ring or band about its surface casts a narrow shadow, which passes around the vase and loses itself in the shadow on the vase. Such cast shadows are visible only upon the light of the object, and never extend into the shadow to darken it. They are sharpest and darkest nearest the .parts that cast them, and they must be drawn with great care.. The same care must be exercised in drawing the dividing line of light and shade upon even the smallest details of the object. Fig. 19 indicates the mass of dark formed by the shadow and cast shadows upon the top of the vase, and the student must study such details as carefully as they are indicated in the figure.


Several lights. — The effects due to the most common lights have been briefly explained, and the student will understand that they may be varied in many ways. Instead of one window a room may have several windows. Most rooms not intended for studios have several windows, and the effects of light and shade that may be seen are very numerous. Instead of one artificial light there may be many, in which case the shadows will clearly and sharply cross each other, so that the darkest spot will be that receiving the greatest number of separate shadows. These shadows may be traced clearly through each other just as different washes applied with a brush over washes previously dried are each clearly seen.

Daylight and lamplight ; rules impossible. — An object may at the same time be exposed to daylight and to artificial light, and the light and shade and color effects of any simple subject may be so infinitely varied that the absurdity of the attempts of those who give rules for the production of drawings which shall represent nature's effects is obvious. No one can say how much light there should be or how much shadow, and all that is written upon this subject should be carefully studied to see that it does not attempt the impossible. Leonardo da Vinci says that "the shadows and lights should be united or lost in each other without any hard strokes or lines ; as smoke loses itself in the air, so are your lights and shadows to pass from one to the other without any apparent separation." But even so noted a man as he should not be accepted literally, without study, and if this statement or any other statement does not agree with nature, or with the artist's own drawings, which have been accepted as good, the student may conclude that the artist did not say just what he meant.
Fig. 21 is from a study of drapery by Leonardo da Vinci, and shows the care with which the greatest artist can achieve even after they become famous. It also shows that the advice as to the softening of the shadows into the lights means not what the average reader would suppose, but simply that there must be the gradation of the half lights from the shadow to the light, as previously explained. Art students when given such a subject as Fig. 21, often attempt to make the drawing without carefully studying any of the lights, shadows, reflected lights, etc., of the subject, and if asked to draw them all as carefully as in the figure, they feel that they are imposed upon, and that such study of detail is mechanical and unnecessary.
Fig. 21 shows the careful drawing which characterizes the artist and which he puts into the most important parts of all his work ; and the student should be content to study nature carefully until he knows that he can, if necessary, draw all detail that he sees without destroying the masses of light and dark which are the first in the effect felt, though generally the last that the student succeeds in representing truly.


No rules for the production of drawings can be stated, but the elementary student will be assisted to see correctly if he understands that nature's effects are generally in harmony with the following principles :

1. Objects are seen through contrasts of masses of light and masses of dark.
2. Appearances of light and dark are relative, any tone being light in comparison with darker tones, and being dark in comparison with lighter tones.
3. The shadow and cast shadow form together a mass of dark, in which, especially when objects are at a distance, details are hidden. This mass of dark, in contrast with the mass of light, expresses the forms of the objects. and is thus of first importance to the student of light and shade.
4. The mass of light causes much of the detail in it to disappear, and lightens the effect of all small shadows within it so that whatever detail is seen in the light does not destroy the effect of the mass.
5. In any subject there is one light which is lighter than all others, and one dark which is darker than all the others.
6. When light and dark are juxtaposed, the light seems lightest nearest the dark, and the dark appears darkest nearest the light.
7. A retreating shadow surface or dark object appears darkest nearest the eye.
8. A retreating light surface or light object appears lightest nearest the eye.
9. Of two dark objects of the same color and in the same light, the nearer appears the darker.
10. Of two light objects of the same color and in the same light, the nearer appears the lighter.
11. The cast shadow of any object is darkest and sharpest in outline nearest the object which casts it.
12. When the shadow of any object falls upon two intersecting surfaces, for instance, a horizontal surface supporting a vertical, the shadow must pass continuously from one to the other, and change its direction at the intersection of the two surfaces.
13. The shadow of a straight line upon a plane surface is a straight line.
14. The shadow of a straight line upon a curved surface generally appears curved.
15. When a sphere is exposed to one side light, the highest light is not upon the contour of the sphere but within the contour, and from this glitter or high light there is a gradually increasing tone in all directions toward the contour. The strongest shadow on the sphere is at the dividing line of light and shade, which generally appears an ellipse. The strongest reflected light is between the contour and the strongest shadow.
16. When a cylinder is exposed to one side light, the highest light is not upon the contour, but upon an element within the contour. From this element there is a gradually increasing tone in both directions toward the contour elements. The strongest shadow is upon the element which separates light from shadow, and the strongest reflected light between this element and the contour element.
17. When a cone is exposed to one side light, the highest light is upon an element which is within the contour. From this element there is a gradually increasing tone in both directions toward the . contour elements. The strongest shadow is upon the element separating light from shadow, and the strongest reflected light is between this shadow element and the contour element.
18. Objects are either in whole or in part lighter or darker than the parts against which they are seen, and therefore the true values and effect of any object cannot be represented without representing the values of the parts surrounding it.
19. Any object may present an infinite number of different appearances.



Shading in Pencil
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