This morning I’m looking out of my kitchen window and there is the most painterly sky. Not many clouds but beautifully formed with a touch of morning colour on them. I’m wondering what makes this mornings clouds so different? I see this scene almost every morning so there isn’t anything different about the sky or the neighbour’s back yard; so, what is it?
After a little thought and a trip, out to my deck wondering if it is the window frame that makes the sky look so beautiful, I decide finally that it is the contrast that makes the sky so painterly. I’m looking at the sky through a screen and the effect is a slightly pixelated quality that actually resembles a photo of a canvas but I don’t think this is it, so, I finally end up with contrast. The screen reduces contrast to a lower level, that might be equivalent to paint on canvas hence the painterly sky.
My take away from this is that most scenes that I am trying to paint have high contrast. In fact, I think that high contrast is one of the traits I look for in scenes to paint; this may come from my time as a photographer, where often contrast is king. It’s curious that even though I’m looking for high contrast, the reality illusion may depend on low contrast, or contrast that is confined to specific levels. I say this because I’ve sometimes been surprised by the sudden appearance of a semblance of reality when I’ve been painting a background, or some other innocuous part of a scene. I’m looking at a high contrast image through the window but the screen artificially reduces the contrast, so it’s similar to paint on canvas.
At present I am working on a Still Life that has a white doily as a background, and that doily is very low contrast. The reality illusion has only presented itself as I reduced the contrast in the doily. Often, I am very surprised when the reality illusion springs to life when I’m working on a very low contrast background. I can’t say this is definitive because sometimes the illusion waits until the last moment to present itself, when I’m applying very light or dark colours. So, I can’t say that the reality illusion is dependent on either high or low contrast, it seems to appear when the colours match what I am seeing.
I’ve been thinking for a while now that scenes that I paint have far more contrast than is useful or even possible to render with paint.