Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bottle Collection: Overpainting II

detail in progress

It's always satisfying to bring at least a small area of the painting up to the highest degree of finish I can manage. Here are previous stages of this area of the larger painting:

I'm pretty happy with it at this stage, although for several painting sessions I was really struggling over the brightest areas of wax paper in front. It's always hardest for me to figure out how to paint an area with lots of bright highlights.

I've been thinking about highlights and why they are so difficult. They are not, as we are sometimes taught, simply the lightest areas. In fact, in order to paint convincing highlights, I find I have to paint the entire form without the highlights first. Highlights behave in a completely different way than the rest of the light. 

I think understand why: unlike other light effects, the highlights are reflections the way a mirror is a reflection. So light is not merely bouncing off the surface, but there is a depth to the highlight. It's actually hitting a different plane of vision, so we actually re-focus our eyes to see a highlight. 

Which is why it is so hard to paint highlights: we are trying to capture a stereoscopic effect. Our eyes can perceive depth in real life, but a painting is merely the illusion of depth.