Early this morning the sun was casting the most amazing light through the leaves of a very old stand of trees. Some leaves were glossy with shimmering silver undersides that appeared to dance in the play of light and shadows. Others were lush and broad. The rays shone through them, creating translucence. I was overcome by the most indescribable feeling and was reminded of one of my favorite paintings by Michael Sowa, entitled Kohler’s Pig (Autumn), where the leaves of the trees are being blown by an autumn wind, reflecting silver light on the upturned leaves. I have a framed print of this above my stove. Each time I look at it, I discover some new detail that I somehow missed before. The painting epitomizes the perfect interplay of light and shadows in art.
Painting by Michael Sowa entitled Kohler’s Pig (Autumn)
This morning when I saw before me such a similar scene, I felt my stomach muscles constrict with intense emotion. I wanted to stop what I was doing and sit right down to compose some digital art. But I was on my way to school, and had no choice but to forego the moment.
I intend to go there again with my digital camera to try to recapture that scene. It will likely prove elusive, because it was a particular combination of light and summer breeze, and morning mist still present on the leaves. The intensity of that scene confirmed a recent revelation. I’ve come to realize that the single most important factor in creating digital art is the placement of light and shadows. Together they create a duality, a yin and yang of contrast, tension, and excitement. They simultaneously oppose yet compliment one another. Without them, color remains flat and lifeless.
A Photoshop Secret Revealed
The secret to creating a simulation of light and shadows in Photoshop is to combine Blending Modes along with the use of Dodge and Burn Tools. Use sparingly. Lightly dab the image rather than using strokes. Pixels quickly become degraded unless the tool is used very lightly. The tool’s effects vary, depending whether highlights, mid-tones, or shadows are chosen in the Options Palette. Most often I choose highlights when using the Dodge tool, and midtones for the Burn tool. The effect can make a scene appear to take on a three-dimensional quality and the colors leap off the page.
This is one I made of Danielle, Martine’s daughter