Portrait of Varvara

Mark as Completed

This video is a quick synopsis of this painting process. Oil on linen adhered to panel. The full tutorial is available on My Patreon.

The Shadow Shape

Here are some concept diagrams to illustrate the shadow shape and the dark halftone. Sometimes it is challenging to make a distinction between the shadow shape and other dark values, but this separation is important to locate as the shadow is uniquely different from other dark values.

Continents of the Shadow Shape

The shadow shape is the only mass and value that is possible to locate with a consistent contour separating it from the light shape. Metaphorically, we could say that on a world map, the shadow shape is like the continents with a distinct structure and separation from bodies of water. In this metaphor, halftones would be the body of water with its fluid nature. As shown in the first illustration, the shadow shape can exist as a larger mass (continent) in the portrait or as smaller shapes (islands) within the light shape. There are also some micro shadows that find their way in locations such as the corners of the mouth and in the separation between the top and the bottom lip in this case. The correct configuration of coordinates is essential for a map to guide the way correctly. Likewise, does the shadow shape in relationship to the light shape configure vertical and horizontal distances that are essential for the proportions to work.

shadow shape

The Shadow Shape Contour

The contour of the shadow shape is also special as it does define an essential structure of planes within the form. The shadow shape contour pronounces the border where the form is no longer receiving direct light. This major plane break thus becomes a structural pillar within the form. To find the shadow shape contour, there are a few phenomena that we can use to guide our observation of it. 1)The shadow shape contour tends to be darker than the value within the shadow shape. 2) In cool daylight, the shadow shape tends to be a warm temperature/color. 3)When squinting and compared to transitional halftones, the value within the shadow shape will usually read as fairly consistent and as an overall uniform value.

Form Shadow versus Cast Shadow

The shadow shape can be created from several factors that will affect the visual manifestation of this structure. The form shadow is often soft and atmospheric as the shadow occurs due to the form turning and moving from the light into dark. In this situation, seen for instance in this portrait in the area of the chin and cheek, there is a gradual emergence of darker transitional values right as the form is increasingly turning away from the light. These halftones then surround the shadow shape border, giving it a softer contour. The cast shadow in turn originates as a form blocks the access of light on another plane. For instance, the tip of her nose blocks the access of light in the area right below the nose. Since the area between the upper lip and the nose is largely in light, the edge of the cast shadow appears sharp. Also, the cast shadow can tell us something about the structure of the form that casts the shadow as well as the planes that this shadow lands on. On the cast shadow from the nose, the contour of this shadow echo both the tip of the nose and the planes above the upper lip. Note that the shadow shape of the nose is both a form shadow and a cast shadow. The form shadow on the nose is placed right on the tip of it in this light situation and expresses the point where the form turns from the light. There is also a cast shadow on her neck/ clavicle area. However, since this area is also in a dark mid tone territory, the edge of this cast shadow is more diffused and atmospheric than the cast shadow of the nose.

cast shadow vs form shadow

The Darkest Transitional Halftone

As illustrated in the diagrams in turquoise, the darkest transitional halftone tends to be especially active in the area surrounding the shadow shape. In many ways we can argue that the darkest transitional halftone is a part of the shadow shape character since it interacts with the shadow shape directly and affects the visual appearance of the shadow shape contour. Where the planes of the form turn rapidly from light into shadow, the darkest transitional halftone may not be particularly present or active. In this case, the area of the chin receives overall more light than in the cheek and the darkest transitional halftone exists as a very narrow band connecting the shadow to the light. Meanwhile, in the area of the cheek, the darkest transitional halftone is a very active mediator between the shadow and the other mid tones.

dark halftone vs shadow

The darkest transitional halftone can be a bit elusive and mysterious. However, when it is included in the development of the values and shapes, it is a powerful tool for both structure and visual translation. When this value is keyed too light in relation to the shadow shape, there is often a loss of volume and three dimensionality. This zone is also tricky, since it is usually an area of soft transitions and atmosphere. However, it is also an area particularly active with shape variations. We can think of the darkest transitional halftone as visual and structural glue for the shadow and the light shape. Investigate the shape design in the halftone areas very much like you do when locating the shape of the shadow. However, allow the values to flow freely and do not design them with a contour. Find the shape, but without the fence to allow the halftones to ebb and flow like bodies of water.

dark halftone

Hope you find this informative!✨🤓☝🏻

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