Sunday, May 6, 2012

Warm below, cold above

The 19th century German instructor Heinrich von Zügel offered his students a memorable tip to help them with color and light as they painted animals outdoors.

Hermann Ebers recalled, "His system was both simple and enlightening. Objects close to the ground were painted in warm tones, somewhere between yellow and brown. Towards the sky the colors are influenced by cold, playing into blue. Vertical surfaces finally show violet influenced tones. "

Ebers continues, "I wrote a humorous song about putting that scheme on an animal, that I had to sing on stage during a live performance:

"The warm part is placed on the belly,
The cold part in the highest light,
The breaking of light is a breeze,
Where? No one knows."

Here's a photo I took on our walk this morning which illustrates the point. In general, on an animal, the warmer areas are lower down the form. But there are exceptions: Note that the pasterns (just above the hoof) are cool, and the area beneath the neck is warm.

A more precise rule might be that the downfacing planes are warm and the upfacing planes are cool.  All these effects are clearest on the shadow side of any white form, especially with a dirt-covered ground and a blue sky.
Previously on GurneyJourney: Downfacing Planes


Julie Kessler said...

Yes, anonymous, if the horse were standing on the grass there would be green reflections in the downward planes, but the greens would be warmer than the sky blue reflections on the upward planes.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed several academic artists would draw their contour drawings with warm pencil on down facing planes, and cool pencil on upper planes.

Mario said...

If I understand well, the coolest parts are upfacing planes in shadow, where the reflected light from the sky is the only light source. In direct light, the neutral (or possibly a warm) light from the sun is much stronger than the reflected cold light from the sky.
Am I wrong?

Mario said...

sorry: "possibly warm", not "possibly a warm".

James Gurney said...

Julie, exactly right. Someone standing over illuminated grass would green underplanes. And in very rare cases (such as someone standing over a swimming pool, with a warmly lit building above them) the warm and cool might be reversed.

Anon -- Great idea, I'd love to try that.

Mario, you're right: the best place to see these effects is in the shadow, where reflected light and skylight provide most of the fill light. And they're more obvious on a white object. But they're often discernable in the light side of a form as well.

Mr. Spaceartist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Spaceartist said...

I posted some infos about Heinrich von Zügle at my blog. It is in german, sorry.

Name Art Alphabet Photography said...

Yes I purely agree with you that many artists draw the down surface objects in warm tons and upper surface in cool tons. It is a very useful tip for art of painting