Each week I have a new painting challenge. Both to develop my eye and brain to really see what I’m looking at, and to execute on it by training my […]
Each week I have a new painting challenge. Both to develop my eye and brain to really see what I’m looking at, and to execute on it by training my hand to paint what I see. But I’ve come to learn that what I think I see is not what I actually see. A good general life lesson, but for now I’ll stick to the painting part.
This particular week the challenge was to paint two white eggs on a white plate on a white tablecloth. I had to scrounge to find white eggs. These are in fact duck eggs.
And then I rambled thru my kitchen to find a completely white plate and totally white table cloth (really it’s a bedsheet, but who can tell right?)
Components in hand, it was time to arrange them in an interesting composition that would be appealing and engaging to our eye as viewers. And to situate a light source that would provide compelling light and shadow effects on the eggs, plate and tablecloth (aka sheet).
This was all just setting things up. I haven’t even picked up a paintbrush yet! Clearly it was time for a cup of tea. Back at the easel I learned thru trial and error how to create an rounded egg yolk and clear flat yet shiny white, the inverted curves and light streaming thru the broken eggshells, the rounded curves of the whole egg, the pale greens and blues playing subtle light and shadow games on the plate and cloth (sheet) and punch up the highlights. I lost track of how many times I went back to fix all these things (and many more) until they were right. It was a breakthrough experience. I’m both nervous and eagerly anticipating the next painting …and the next… and… a lifetime of learning and loving every moment – well, most of them anyway!
Later, in writing this blog, the scientist in me started out reading and thinking about “white”, complete with lots of graphs, charts and facts about details such as the spectrum of wavelengths visible to our eye and the experimental results of Sir Isaac Newton (originally it was thought that white was the fundamental color of light, but he demonstrated white light could be broken into its color components by passing it thru a prism).
But I’ll keep it to an abstract-sized snack: there are a range of wavelengths visible to our eyes (from violet at 400nm to red at 665nm). Objects which appear white to us are reflecting all the visible wavelengths of light that strike them (vs black which absorbs all colors). And objects which appear colored to us are absorbing some colors and reflecting others. The colors we see are the wavelengths reflected by the object. For example: in this graphic you can see that the shirt looks red because it absorbs all other colors and reflects red; whereas the shorts look blue because they absorb all other colors and reflect blue (1).
Interesting stuff for the curious amongst us!
And food for thought as I embark on future paintings. Bring on the white snow, clouds, and sandy beaches – I’ll better be able to capture the many colors there that we don’t even realize we see!
This painting (Two White Eggs, 12×12, oil on canvas) is available: go to my portfolio now to purchase!
Or email me today if you’d like to commission something new just for you!