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In this recent small self-portrait, made on a gesso-primed piece of cardboard, I deliberately kept the shadow areas very transparent.


It is tempting to paint shadow areas very opaque and with details according to your own perception of the truth, such as in the light areas, but that does not always have the desired effect for me.

Shadow areas are very difficult to define when they are dark due to a lack of visual information. Colors and shapes are vague and your mind tries to give it meaning itself or 'skips it'. Your eye 'gravitates' then on the light areas that receive the most attention.

By keeping the shadow areas in a painting transparent you create more or less the same effect. You consciously give the viewer little or no information, sometimes on entire surfaces, which makes the work more realistic. This transparency allows the light to penetrate locally through the paint, all the way to the canvas, which enlivens the image and enhances dimensionality.

In the portrait you can see the background coming through here and there in contrast to the opaque light areas. This strong contrast provides extra expression and vibrancy.

Just try looking at shadows in everyday life and ask yourself what you actually see or don't see just yet. You will be surprised how limited the visual information is and how difficult it is to define it!


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Read more about my working method and the quality I strive for by clicking on one of the other blogs below.

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