“You can’t cast a shadow over deep water,” says an old law of landscape painting. It’s usually true, but only when the water is clear. If the water is murky you can see cast shadows, but their edges are more diffuse than shadows cast over on land because the light transmits throughout the medium of the diffused particles.
What happens when a cast shadow on water crosses a reflection? That’s what I was trying to capture in this 8x10 oil sketch, painted on location of the bridge leading into Toledo, Spain. It was a mind-bending challenge of color mixing.
The simple answer is that the reflection “wins,” as you can see in the closeup. The light colors reflected from the stone piers (1) don’t get any darker where they cross into the shadow. But to the left, I observed the weaker reflections of the sky and the trees (2) became influenced by the deeper colors of the water in the cast shadow.
I used the light, color, and basic composition of this plein-air study as my source for the painting “Ruined Bridge,” in Journey to Chandara. The main change was to add a half-collapsed tower covered with vines and a makeshift house.
By the way, let me express my regards and thanks to all at Rhythm & Hues, Art Center, LA Public Library, DreamWorks, Imageworks, and Sony Pictures Animation. I'm very grateful for your welcome. Meeting all of you fellow artists—and seeing your incredible work has been so inspiring to me that I have been walking on air. And to my readers, please be patient for the blog posts about those visits, because with all the travel it may take quite a while to catch up.