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Drawing: Local Color

This is something I've touched on in other posts, but it certainly merits it's own. Local color is the natural color of an object. When drawing and painting, this color can make it difficult to understand the light and shadow on the object. And on top of that, local color will have a value of it's own. So let's take a look at how to handle multiple layers of tone and value when drawing.

It's no coincidence that most beginner-level drawing classes will focus on white objects. Anyone who's ever taken a drawing class has certainly drawn eggs in a bowl or eggs on a white sheet. Why white? Because white objects have nearly no local color and they show shadows very clearly. But what if you're not drawing or painting strictly white things?

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The color of an object will not affect the way light hits it. A white ball will cast the exact same shadows as a red ball. So first you must look beyond the color to see the shadows. Ignoring the color can be difficult at first, but it is necessary to defining the form and cast shadows of an object.

As I discussed in The Value of Color, every color has it's own value. Imagine how the color would look in a black and white photo. Purple will be much darker than yellow, for example. This is the value of that particular color. Once you've fully rendered the light and shadow, add the value of the color on top. As you do so, you may find out that the shadows in your drawing no longer match those in the object, particularly if it's a dark object. That's ok, go ahead and darken those shadows.

A great way to practice this is by creating a still life with objects of many different colors. For an even better challenge, draw one object which contains many colors. And whether you're working in charcoal or in full color, these same concepts apply.

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Posted in Home Post Date 06/12/2018


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