Critical observation

When I talk about sketching outdoors I am well aware that so many artists lose interest – they prefer to stay indoors, warm and comfortable and work from photographs, books, calendars and so on. ‘Sketching’ is a dirty word to many, although for me it is one of the most rewarding things I do. Still, for those of you who don’t wish to venture beyond your front door, you can still learn a lot by critical observation.

This exciting picture was taken in my hotel bedroom last week in London, and if you look carefully you will observe a number of subtle effects concerned with direct and reflected light. The main light is entering through a window to the right, illuminating the right-hand wall and the right-hand edge of the door architrave in the centre, but where this is blocked by an object in the top right-hand corner the most powerful light there comes from the light bulb above the top left-hand corner.

If you look carefully you should be able to see a slight lightening of the vertical thin strip of wall in the centre where reflected light is bouncing back from the illuminated architrave.  Again, at the bottom of the scene you can see further counterchange on wall and architrave caused by a table in the bottom right-hand corner.

Simple scenes like this can provide an excellent idea of how light affects various surfaces and angles. You can observe these effects without having to go out into hostile terrain, or the need to do any sketching. Make it a habit whether you are indoors, outdoors, or sitting in a rickshaw waiting for the traffic lights to change.

In the December issue of Leisure Painter magazine you will find a complete article I wrote on the subject of observation, and I have a further piece on-line at  Critical observation like this can also while away the time as you wait for a train or whatever, and it can be great fun!

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