Saturday, December 02, 2006

Artificial Light

I had an ill-founded mistrust of artificial light. For years I did not even entertain the thought. I was afraid of what incandescent light bulbs would do to my colors. In my mind, I would wake up the next day, take a look at my watercolor, and shriek in horror at the ghastly color schemes. But it was during the storms of El Nino that I had force myself to work at night. Winters in the San Francisco Bay Area are wet and dark. Storms follow each other seamlessly, and the pallor of daylight is not strong enough to coax much color saturation. That winter we had so many straight days of rain, that I got tired of waiting for a reprieve and pulled out my tubes, uncertain of what I was going to do. I ended up painting still lives directly under the light, and, to my surprise, the results were not jarring the morning after.

Since then, I've relaxed. I've taught myself to analyze light the same way I analyze light during the daytime. I know, for example, not just that everything will be bathed in a certain yellow, but that some shadows will be greenish and others, bluish. Because of the relative lack of reflected light in the surroundings, these shadows will seem darker and deeper than similar ones cast in the daytime. Polished surfaces lose some of their shine, and glossy surfaces will not show that patch of bluish white where light hits them.

The still life shown here (16 x 20), was done on a hotel room desk. I was tempted to add more objects, but I only had two hours; I was tired. I had stolen a guava from the botanical gardens, collected the passion fruits from the ground in Hana, and bought the papaya at a health market in Paia, Maui. For the shadows, intead of the cobalt blue I use in sunny days, I used indigo. The light is all suffused in cadmium yellow medium. There are no pure white spaces. The paper bag was done with burnt sienna and burnt ochre. I don't love the way I ended up depicting it, which I attribute to the fact I was exhausted, but I love the guava. The next day I ate it, but it was too sour.

No comments: