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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Light & Shadow In Venice (Part II)

Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. Last week I talked about this painting in regard to colors and values and today I will discuss shapes and edges. If you did not open last Sunday's email or if you would like to refresh your memory, please do so now. Reading them together should be really helpful. This painting of Venice is a really strong example of how important shapes can be in a painting. Yes, you still see buildings, water and gondolas but if you can simplify details and elements into shapes you can move forward faster as an artist. For example: the building on the left with its windows, balconies and doorway is in shadow along with its reflection in the canal and this can be considered one shape. The fact that the building and reflection are in deep shadow helps with this and, if you squint, it appears as one shape. Moving to the right, there is another shape in shadow that is a lighter value which includes the back building, a small portion of the building on the right, one of the gondolas, and the middle section of the water in the canal. The reason this building in shadow is lighter than the one on the left is because sunlight is bouncing up from the sunlight on the water. Now we have identified two main shapes. The third shape is the sunlight coming across the water and up the building on the right and also appears as the lightest value in the water. That makes three shapes. Finally, the dark shape which runs along the right border and includes the dark shape on the wall, the front gondola, and the dark water reflection is the fourth shape. Now the four main shapes in the composition have been identified and, if you squint again, you should be able to identify them. This may take some practice but trust me it is worth it. After reducing the painting into these four shapes it was easier for me to decide how much detail to include and how much to leave out. There were a lot of details like cracks in the walls, another gondola, flags, awnings, etc. that I chose to leave out. Now about edges. To many hard edges would make the painting look stiff and to many soft edges would make it look soft and blurry. If you squint at your subject you will see more soft edges and the most important hard edges will still be visible. Like I mentioned earlier, this takes practice but it is worth it. You can use soft edges to make something recede and hard edges will move something forward and also make it more important. For example, hard edges on the gondolas surrounded by soft edges in the water. Values close together also create soft edges and you can see a lot of this in the deep shadows. Look at the front gondola with its passengers and you will see a working combination of hard and soft edges. Working with colors, values, shapes, and edges is a process that develops over time and, with a lifetime of painting, I am still learning. Something that helps me is looking at paintings by the masters and seeing how they used these four elements. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton


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