Glow is essentially a factor
of value rather than color. How is this achieved? Paint a black
canvas and let it dry. On your finger place a little white and with small
circular smudging motion apply it somewhere to the canvas. It should now
look like a milky smudge. Next take a pinpoint of paint on the end of your
finger and touch it once in the middle of the smudge. The result is the
essence of glow, total value differential as well as the milky area being
a transmission area that will discomfort the eye sufficiently to avoid
looking to the point of the light. That is the why we don't want to look
directly at the sun. It is discomforting. For great glow or luminosity
you must set out to discomfort the eye, that is the secret. To do that
the transition (the halo) is the key.
||Fig 1.Here are a series of milky smudges
||Fig 2. When we combine them we create our glow. Note how I have
deliberately offset to white center in an effort to further disturb the
||Fig 3. Now I add a little color (any will do) some dark shapes
between the spectator and the light and a halo. The halo and spike here
are artificial - like the ones made by a camera lens reflection - it is
not the same type of halo in the example below.
What discomforts the eye in painting is similar
to what discomforts the ear in music. Music is a 'transition' experience
in which time is a fixed element (beat). But the eye roves the painted
surface in a manner hopefully controlled by the painter. The painter may
cleverly force a discomfort in much the same manner a jazz musician will
use a discordant note to lay emphasis on a beautiful (intoxicating) chord.
What discomforts the eye can be many things, adjacent compliments, illogical
form, concave mirrors or, what I mentioned above, unfocused edges. (Rothko
used fuzzy rectangles to try and induce a extra translucent brilliance
to his plain color areas - it is an old formula).
Why a discomfort? Because
the eye naturally avoids looking at bright objects so to paint one the
discomfort must be artificially induced. Painting suns and moons was usually
referred to as a 'brave exercise' and avoided by all but the most accomplished
landscape artists (Turner was accomplished while VanGough experimented). We can
never paint surfaces as light as natural light so we must use device and
illusion to convince the eye what it is seeing is a light as it should
be... that is the fun of illusion!
Painting glow without showing the light
Here the principles are the same with the darks superimposed over the
Detail of morning glow from another painting I did for the 'Bounty' series.
STUDENT ACTIVITY: Do the exercise proposed at the start of this lesson. Allow 20min.