September 16th 2000
YouCanDraw.com's Insiders Communique
In this issue -
1) Mini-Primer on the logic of light
2) Shadowing and shadows specific to the nose
1) Light Logic
Light has logic. That's the first thing to remember about light. We talk a
lot about left brain and right brain stuff but when it comes to light and
shadow, there's a definite logic to it. Still what you see, what's
observable out there in the world is easily broken down into one of the
five categories of perception: perception of edges , spaces, relative
angles, light and shadows, and the overall gestalt. You are using one of
these perceptive faculties every time you drop into "r-mode" while drawing.
Today we're going to race through light and shadows. (The big lesson is
lesson 9 in the Artist's Loft.)
Quick review of Light Logic:
Off the cuff rule #1: light travels in a straight line.
Off the cuff rule #2: Light travels in a straight line until it hits
Off the cuff rule #3: When light hit's something it lights up what it hits
(- even if what it hits is entirely transparent).
Off the cuff rule #4: Light is either partially absorbed by what it hits, or
it's reflected back into space (which gives us color).
Off the cuff rule #5: shadows are formed behind objects that block light.
Seems pretty straight ahead, right? And really, it is. Take a flashlight,
darken the room, point the light at your hand. The part of your hand that's
getting bathed in the light, lights up. The other side of your hand, the
part away from the flashlight, well it's in the dark. Just like the dark
side of the moon. Dah, right? And, if you start making funny figures with
your hand in front of the flashlight you'll get a puppet show on the wall
behind your hand - pretty simple concept and a simple example.
In a real life situation, like when drawing faces, there are other things
to be concerned about - like reflected light - subtle light that lights up
even the shadow spaces. Shadows aren't one plain color in this case. For
today, we aren't going to worry about all that. I just want you to get one
simple idea: Light lights up what it hits, and casts a shadow behind those
things it hits - or said a little differently, light casts a shadow where
it's blocked from going.
Lets put you in the dark for a second. Turn on a light at home. Look at the
light. You see the bulb? It's actually pretty bright. Do the natural thing:
block the light with your hand. Now you're looking at the shadow side of
your hand. And your eyes, well they're not strained any longer. Why? Because
you're casting a shadow on yourself. Again, light travels in a straight
line. (We're not even gonna touch what Einstein said about curved space and
how light refracts in water...no reason to overcomplicate this.) Just like
an arrow shooting from Cupid's bow, light's going to hit you or your subject
if you're in it's path.
Now pretend you're the flash light - look around your room, at any object.
Pretend you're radiating light from your eyes the way Thor tosses out
lightning bolts or Godzilla shoots out his freezing breath. Anything you see
with your eyes, is being lit up by your light or frozen by your breath. The
back side of what you're looking at, the parts you can't see, are in
shadowland, they're protected. Imagine it's dark, pitch black on all those
far sides. They don't get lit up by your light or frozen by Godzilla's
breath. Light from a single source works the same way. That's the simplest
example of how light works - in a straight line.
Still the best test is simple observation. Just for fun, grab that
flashlight again. Go to your bathroom (or any room that you can get dark
that has a mirror). Move the light around your head. Hold the light directly
over your head, then to the left and right. Move it backward and forwards
and watch how the shadows on your face change shape. (Emphasis on "shape".)
Then squint and see the shadows take on much harder edges - hard enough
that you can easily make out the shape of each shadow.
Of course, you have to DO this exercise to get the whole effect. Go for it!
What the heck, take 5 minutes right now. Let your brother or sister, or your
mother or father or your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, whoever -
think you're a little weird for 10 minutes. It'll help your drawing, your
chutzpah, and you'll even get a little kick out of it.
Watch how all the shadows on your face move together. The shadows under your
eyebrows, over your cheeks, in your mouth, under your lips, under tour chin,
from your ears - they're all synchronous. And this makes make sense - one
source of light, one direction of movement to the shadows. Do the Boris
Karloff, Halloween, Friday the thirteenth "underlighting" move: put the
flashlight under your chin and point it up. Yes, looks pretty bizarre. Give
an old werewolf growl for special effect. Still notice that ALL the shadows
move synchronously since there's one light source. Pay special attention to
the shadows cast by your nose.
Shadows are clues
Shadows give you a huge clue about the light source, about where the light
is coming from. Look at any picture in a newspaper or magazine. Locate the
shadows, work backwards and piece together the light source. You might just
figure out why a picture you're looking at looks "weird" - there's strong
shadows coming from two different directions. (A lot of photo-retouching or
photo-comopositing used in advertising gets published without "cleaning up",
that or they haven't taken the YouCanDraw Course :-).
Shades of shadows
Most of the time when you're drawing, your light is coming from above your
subject, and not just directly above them like at high noon, but usually
from above and to the side a little. We're going to look at three positions
real quickly: high noon, from 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock. (Roughly.) I think
when Suzy sent me her pictures, she wanted me to concentrate on the mouth
and lips. I couldn't help but notice a small shadowing conflict though.
The most important thing to remember about shadows next to the idea above
(that light travels in a straight line), is that shadows are shapes lacking
in light, or have diminished light - but they're all shapes. This is a key
point. I'll repeat that again. Shadows are SHAPES. Even a complicated shadow
with lots of different tones in it can be broken down into larger, easily
drawn shapes. How do you simplify all that complicated stuff going on
inside a shadow? Very simple. Squint.
The power of squinting
What's the best way to break down a complicated shadow? Squint! Squinting
instantly simplifies even the most complicated shadows - and it'll collapse
the most complicated contours in to something you can easily manage.
Look at the picture on the far left in the attached picture (the one that
ends with "shadow21.jpg") It's a young women resting her chin on her hands.
There's lots of detail - it's full of complicated shadow shapes and fine
detail. I'll bet there's 20 to 25 or more different shades of gray. Minimum!
Now look at the middle picture: I've simplified this in PhotoShop to where
there's only 5 shades of shadow and light. I've done this with a computer
but you can do almost the same by squinting.
In the last picture on the right, I've reduced the tones of gray down to 4 -
notice how the detail disappears and the shadow shapes really come out. Also
notice that even with the loss of detail, the women is still recognizable.
Look at picture one (the far left picture) and go through a range of
squints. Pretend you're Confucius getting more and more profound as you
squint tighter and tighter, "Yes, veddy impo-tant" . The tighter you squeeze
your eyes, the less detail you see. Very drawable shadow shapes solidify
out of all the confusing detail.
Lastly, back away from your screen 2 or 2 and 1/2 feet. Squint again, this
time scanning back and forth across all three pictures. Notice something
familiar? They look almost identical as you squint. Getting rid of the
detail doesn't seem to hamper your brain one iota from recognizing the girl.
That's the brain's ability to recognize patterns at work. Lets zoom in on
2) Shadows specific to the nose
There are three or four main shadows on the nose - yes you can go for
subtlety and see hundreds of different shades and contours - but we want to
look for generalities when you're just getting started - and this is what
you want to do when your doing caricatures at a gig - you don't want to get
bogged down in all that detail. These main shadows areas are most notably:
1) the general shadows cast directly under the nose;
2) the shadows of the nostrils - (shadows within the shadow cast under the
3) the lighter shadows on the sides of the nose
4) the shadow on both sides of the nose at it's root. (the "root" of the
nose is where it pops out just underneath the forehead, right between the
Look at the second attached illustration (ends with "shadows.jpg"). It's of
three noses with light coming from three slightly different directions. (All
from overhead and in front. The center nose has light coming from directly
over head, the left nose with light coming from our right, and the right
nose with light coming from our left. - It makes sense when you look at it.)
The nose and shadows: "shadows.jpg"
Note how the shadow is cast in line with the light source - just like you
saw when you toyed with the flash light on your face above. (You did do
that, right? :-) Note especially, the shadows at the root of the nose (up
there by the eyes). Note the shadow shapes of the two noses with light
coming at angles. Compare and contrast them to the shadow shapes with nose
in the center.
Back to last communiqué's example
See the third illustration (the one that ends with "mouth11.gif"). Last week
we noted the nose had a small alignment maladjustment, and we discussed how
that could be fixed. Applying what we've seen in this short lesson, you can
tell that the shadow cast on the nose seems to be coming from a different
source than the shadow in the mouth. The light casting shadows inside the
mouth (which Suzy has rendered beautifully), is coming from the right and
front. The shadow on the nose's nostril area suggests that the light is
coming from our left. How to fix this?
Solving the shadow shenanigans
Try this: if you cover the nostril with your finger, (go ahead, put your
finger right up on your computer screen), the shadowing on along the
vertical edge of the nose works - it's consistent with the mouth's
shadowing. So I think the shadowing problem with the nose could be solved
very simply: shadow the area of the nostril's opening (because light would
be blocked from the overhanging bulk of nose from above), and add the shadow
under the whole base of the nose like you see occurring around the nose in
the far left example of "shadows.jpg".
In fairness to Suzy, who has most graciously allowed us to use her drawings
so we all can learn, I don't think she has any problem with drawing shadows
(I've seen other complicated pictures where she's handled it masterfully) -
it just so happens that in this picture I think she threw on a last second
nose without thinking about the "logic of light". So thank you very, very
much again Suzy for your courage and generosity. Let's give her a big hand!
Send me your pictures and questions!
Any one else who'd like their drawings evaluated to the benefit of all
members, and earn a place in the permanent collection, please send them to
c/o Kasbohm & Company
4702-c West 130th street
Los Angeles, CA
(If you send originals and want them back, please include a self addressed
and stamped envelope.)
Until next time, keep on drawing!
Kasbohm & Company's
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