Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Dragons: Day 3 – the lighting

A pale blue hat shape filled in with some clouds, against a darker backgroundThe dragon cave is going to be made up of receding layers of rock, going back towards the outside, where a dragon is silhouetted. The further back a layer, the earlier I should be painting it, which in this case is a very good thing. The furthest part of the painting is the sky, complete with sunset, which will be my lighting for everything else. As such, I want to have it positioned as early as possible. I could have a lighting position without painting it, but everything will related to the finished version of the sky, and not just the place where the sky will be. I’ve decided on rim lighting for the silhouetted dragon, so it will go in front of the sun, casting a shadow into the cave. As always, that might change based on scales and sizes, but it should be workable.

A red and yellow cloud bank in a blue sky, viewed through a cave openingThe basic colour I use for most skies is Michael Harding Kings Blue Deep. It’s slow-drying and very liquid, which is good for mixing into. It desaturates beautifully with titanium white, giving the bowl of the sky effect we’re after. Above that, and sometimes mixed into it, the clouds go. In this case I painted them wet in wet for a distant look and a bright, unfocused effect where the sun is. It’s a sunset with pale sky, because that’s the highest point of light in the painting. Absolutely everything else has to be darker than that patch, so I left myself plenty of room to work in. After the sky went in, I edged it in blue and then added smeared yellow for the overspill lighting. I left the highlighted parts until later.

A cave of blue rocks, looking out onto a sunset sky.I added several patches and bands of colour, and put in shadows with ultramarine, using my brush as a chisel. I also added the more severe yellow highlights, using the end of the brush without moving it, to leave patches that were slightly irregular, and would look like they had light on them because of their irregular clarity. A big problem with these rocks is that if I use yellow to make them warmer, it will bring them closer to the colour of the sky. I have to darken them as they come close to the front of the picture, and that’s going to take reds and blacks and browns, but here and there I’m going to have to leave sunshine and highlights. I can also use scale – the rocks will look larger closer to us. The rocks at the entrance to the cave are probably about half the size of a dragon, in my mental notes.

These rocks will need a little more formation, and then a dragon and a dragon’s shadow, but they are already mostly finished, and the sky is the top layer of paint already. Rockin’ day.