Thursday, October 09, 2008

The colour of weather and time

St James Park - Tree Study #3 (8th October, 6pm)
8.5" x 11", coloured pencils in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Colour varies according to the time of day and the time of year and where you are on the planet.

It's a maxim of plein air painters to make the most of early morning and early evening light which is often said to be the most beautiful light. That's because you get some wonderful contrasts going on between areas in the light and areas in shadow - plus some wonderful rim lighting from time to time - and some colours that you see at no other time of day.

There's only one problem - the light also tends to move very fast. Consequently, it takes quite a lot of practice to become accustomed to the type of light which prevails at different times of days in different places. If you then throw 'weather' into the equation, it can make drawing and painting the colour of light even more interesting!

When out and about with a sketchbook I very often take the opportunity to linger and do a sketch as late on in the day as I can manage. The fact that I also tend to be going home after the rush hour is an added bonus!

The sketch of trees around the lake in St James Park at the top of this post was done at about 6pm last night. I was sat in a deck chair in St James Park and had to give up when it got too cold. I had by then annotated my sketch with the colours that I saw. If you look at sketches in sketchbooks you'll often see they're monochrome with words substituting for the colours. My habit is to try and complete the sketch while the visual image is still strong in my head. You can read about the rest of my afternoon on town in Evening light in St James Park.

The Colour Project

A while back while doing the colour project I started to collect information links to sites which were good at explaining the impact of weather and time on the colour of light.

Below you'll find links to a lot of posts by James Gurney (Gurney Journey). I found James had provided a number of really useful posts. I very much recommend these. They explain very clearly what's going on and how to tackle some of the issues to do with light and colour. I've split them broadly into two groups but you can make a case for some being in either.

The colour of the atmosphere and weather
  • Sky Blue - looks at testing out the colour of blue in skies and how the colour shifts across the sky
  • Overcast Light, Part 1 and Overcast Light, Part 2 look at what happens when light is veiled because sunlight id indirect and concesequently diffused. It's really interesting how this make painting certain scenes easier than if there was direct sunlight.
  • Color Corona - looks at what happens when you get a very bright light with a corona
  • Annular Highlights considers why we only see some aspects of a scene highlighted in winter.
The colour of time
  • Serial Painting - which focuses on how you can paint a series to explore the changes in light on a single subject
  • Sunset Color Bands - a very informative post about what happens to colour as the sun sets
  • The Golden Hour - a really excellent explanation of what happens when the sun is setting and why that final hour before sunset is so loved by artists and photographers
  • Multi-Colored Streetlights - looks at how the colour of night is influenced by the colour of the street lights
  • Is Moonlight Blue? - looks at what the eye can see in moonlight and how all colours adjust
  • Candlelight - looks at the impact of candlelight on the behaviour of light
If you know any other people who have also produced useful posts like these then please share and 'shout out' in the comments section below.



Oh, I love your rendering of the trees in its variety of colours here. I can feel too the breeze that moved the trees. Excellent piece of work. Hats off!

Felicity said...

This is wonderful Katherine, and I'm very impressed you did this at the end of the day - my thoughts would be on getting home as fast a possible! It's inspiring!

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