The Secret to Painting Realistic Shadows in Sunlight

“A Painting is complete when it has a Shadow of a God”
Rembrandt van Rijn

I remember being taught at art college that shadows weren’t really present in paintings until the Renaissance period.

And you’d be forgiven for thinking when you look at some beginners work, that they were from Ancient Greece – they didn’t use shadows either!

In live painting classes in the past, when I’ve mentioned the words ‘cast shadow’, students concentration wains or worse, a look of rising panic crosses their faces as if they’ve been duped into a technical drawing class.

I’m not quite sure why cast shadows seem so mysterious, elusive or confusing. Shadows help to ‘ground’ an object and learning to accurately observe them, is the most effective way of making your paintings look convincing.

And just by switching the name around it seems easier to digest.

Shadows cast.

I want to keep it simple without the complications of multiple light sources or atmospheric perspective that occurs in vast landscapes, today I am going to focus on shadows cast outside, by sunlight.

Shadows cast by a tree, by a building, shadows cast by a chair or plant pot. The shadow that is falling onto the ground, or against a wall, or onto a table.

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How to Paint Green Summer Trees with Acrylics – Video Tutorial

adding shadows to a landscape painting

Green.

Love it or hate it, almost all landscape artists want to be able to paint trees, woods and grass realistically.

But mixing greens can be one of the major issues that can start to throw your landscape painting off-course.

Greens can be an Achilles heel for beginners, and the urge to grab a vivid, bright green from the paint box can be hard to resist.

In the past I’ve demonstrated how you can achieve some surprisingly subtle greens by using some seemingly ‘non-green’ colours such and black and brown.

And I advise beginners to throw out their pre-mixed green (usually this is Emerald Green included in starter sets) when they’re first starting, in order to practice colour mixing with acrylics and develop their own mixing skills and gain colour confidence.

Why?..

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New! Acrylic ‘Simple Colour Mixing’ Course

How to transform your colour mixing in a weekend

With so many different colours available, when starting colour mixing, where do you begin?

You find yourself standing in an art store with rows and rows of paints in front of you, scanning up and down the aisles trying to take it all it.

Exotic names and vivid colours vie for your attention, from a Potters pink to a Green gold, and other names you just can’t seem to even pronounce!

How to you even say Anthraquinone blue? (answers on a postcard please!)

Most modern manufactures have over 100 different colours to choose from, from mineral inorganic colours to man made organic colours – the choice is immense…

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Are these 3 Black Paint Myths Holding You Back?

warm and cool black velazquez

Diego Velázquez, portrait of Juan de Pareja, 1650

Are you scared of using black in your paintings?

Or secretly feel they are the missing ingredient to your work?

If you don’t use black whilst mixing colours you could be missing a trick.

A tale from two masters:

John Singer Sargent and Claude Monet used to go out and paint together.

One day, Sargent is said to have left his paints behind and asked Monet to lend him his to work with. “Where’s the black?” asked Sargent.
“I don’t allow myself to use black.” replied Monet.
“It’s against the impressionist theory. In nature all colours are made by mixing.”
Sargent refused to understand how anyone could paint without black.

It’s a matter of taste…

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Is Green Ruining Your Acrylic Paintings? (video)

Ballet rehearsal-Degas

Edgar Degas, Ballet Rehearsal, 1834 – 1917

Green paint is like peanut butter is for dieters, dangerously addictive.

I don’t quite know why, maybe the freshness, the feeling of a landscape, the memory of nature… whatever the reason it’s a bad one.

Step 1. If you buy a starter set of beginners paints throw away the green that is included (usually this is Emerald green)

It is usually terrible and very unforgiving when trying to create harmonious colour in painting.

“Can’t I use it to tone down red? or use red to tone down the green? I know about complementary colours, I’ve only just bought it, I can’t throw it away!”

You must.

Still got it?…

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How to Mix Pink & Purple Paint with Acrylics (video)

Mixing red and white acrylic paint

It seems straightforward.

Red and white make pink. Simple.

However, a quick look at the undertone of a few red paints can show you how mixing the perfect pink can easily allude you.

A cadmium won’t allow you to make a hot pink, this video will show you how.

This is not due to a lack of mixing ability, just the wrong paint colour for the desired result.

Mixing a bright purple

The right choice of red will influence your ability to make a bright purple and Part 2 of this video (at the end of this post) will show you how easily purple can go muted and grey rather than bright and vibrant.

This is due to the ‘muting down‘ effect of complementary colours.

It’s all to do with the colour bias of the pigment that are hidden in paints…

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