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  • Writer's pictureJenny

THE COLOR OF LIGHT

Updated: Nov 12, 2023


opening day oil painting by American artist Jenny Berry

When I was a kid we took a trip to the Detroit Zoo. I can't remember the zoo but I do remember going through Detroit and looking up at all of the windows on the tall buildings. I was mesmerized. I remember thinking that each one was like an eye to the world for the people living there. So many stories behind them all.


The fascination for windows has stuck with me since then. I'm sure it's what's driving this series of paintings. I’ve always taken photos and painted windows. The light and shadow can be so dramatic in front of a window and that can help frame a composition in such exciting ways.


I love when the light starts to engulf the subject and there are moments where things get lost. It's just so much fun to paint. And the colors! Especially in this one; every color of the rainbow here. Lavenders and complimentary sunny yellows, glowing oranges and cool blues, even little pops of reddish pinks and a whole spectrum of greens. This one was a symphony of subtle color. And the light and shadow was so much fun to sort out as well. Light and shadow can also be helpful with setting a mood, telling a story. I always look for a strong light and shadow theme when composing a painting idea.


For painters it can be more about the light and shadow on the subjects than it is about the subjects themselves. I can paint any subject, I really don't care. I painted an interestingly lit can of Spam once! It's that perfect light I'm after and it's effects on things around it. We can't see color (or anything without light). You aren't after pizza... you're after the taste of the pizza, right?


Low morning light, or evening. Warm, yellow-pink. It gets too cool and blue once the sun gets too high in the sky. Everything looks better in that warm light and the shadows are long and cool, it's easy to use those longer, dark shadow shapes to help your composition, too. Low, single source, side lighting is good for painting. Too high, flooded lighting is generally not so good.


Put anything in good light and it's imminently prettier and it'll make you look like a more accomplished painter. Put the most beautiful subject in the world in ugly lighting and well, Nicolas Uribe might take a crack at it for a challenge, but he's a master. It's not the subject, it's the light! Light is color - color is light. James Gurney's book Color and Light explains in detail. And shows you how to begin to deal with this very complicated topic.


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2 Comments


docmrs2011
docmrs2011
Sep 05, 2023

Absolutely splendid. We share a fascination with windows, mine has more to do with looking out than up. Looking forward to seeing this in person!

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Jenny
Jenny
Sep 05, 2023
Replying to

Thank you! Out, up, in... What is it with windows? They're just great subjects!

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