There are two factors to consider here if your aim is to achieve that luminous pearly look that dominate certain landscapes and seascapes. First we must create the 'pearly' look then give it presence and dominance within a framework (painting). It is the nature of that presence that will make it look luminous.

So what makes a mother of pearl shell look pearly? If you look closely it is merely a high value grey-white infused with red, blue and yellow or 'rainbow hues' of equal and similar values (above).
To apply this to a painting as I have done below to a sky by Gerome you will see what I mean by a pearly sky. Obviously its use here is unsatisfactory but the principle was one destined to be developed further by the impressionists.

The impressionists did this exercise using short brushstrokes laden with impasto paint which produced a shimmering effect from a distance. You will often notice when people view many impressionistic works in galleries their main concern is their viewing distance - they will usually move back and forth until comfortable. I find it good policy to wear stout shoes when visiting such galleries.


This painting by Monet is an excellent example of an artist employing equivalent value hues, dramatic contrasts, and uncomfortable undefined edges to achiever that shimmering light the impressionists so loved. It is important to differentiate the values in the foreground from the background. While the figure of the woman may seem to almost merge into the sky in fact she is considerably darker. Squint your eyes to better understand the contrast.

Luminosity is achieved by merely pushing the contrasts until the light dominates everything (below). Many artists spend their life trying to make their paintings glow ... mine probably glow most when I throw them on the fire...

... but I never quite give up! Anyway glow isn't everything.

STUDENT ACTIVITY: Collect at least 5 examples of pictures you consider to have 'that glowing quality' and add them to your folder you created in the lesson titled 'Inspiration'. Allow 40min.

GO TO ... painting portraits

............or back to main lesson list