Ambient Light

ambient light


Ambient Light Notes

I thought it might be good to muse a bit about ambient light in painting. Painters often forget about that in their landscapes.

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Ambient light is based on the strength of the primary light source in a a scene. Anything that has light falling on it becomes a source of light. Different surfaces reflect light differently.

Ambient light color depends on direct light and local color of objects. Ambient light  depends  on atmospherics, color of the primary light combined with local color of objects in light.

When painting, make observations about possible ambient light on the scene in front of you. For example,you will see a lot of ambient light in parking lots and reflected off buildings and cars. You might see a blue roof on a red car, because the light is reflected from the sky onto the car surface. Direct sunlight is often enhanced or diffused by ambient light on objects. We see reflections of ambient light as well. Light is bouncing all around a scene on location so we must train ourselves to carefully observe what we see as well as what we think we know.

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We may know a roof is purple, but it may look blue or pink on some of it’s surfaces due to reflected ambient light. We cannot rely on local color alone to make decisions. Use your observation skills rather than assuming which color will be right. One of my students brought in a photo of his horse the other day and the ambient light colored his back in blue. It looked very cool.

If you observe, you will see various color temperature changes within big broad shapes, like tree canopies, from dark cool greens to light yellow greens in the sunlight. That is what will make your paintings really become more believable. Because of ambient light on surfaces you may have subtle areas of warmth in cool distant trees, and cool areas in closer or immediate areas of the painting. This will keep your paintings from being too flat. When the values are the same, changes in the temperature can add dimension within the space. In fact, don’t always assume that values must change to add depth. Simple color temperature changes can separate planes very effectively.

Graphite Drawings

One of the keys to good painting is good observation skills. Go out and look at things. Take notes and do sketches at least once a week.

More musings for artists and collectors to come…


Today’s Recipe:

Spicy Roll Ups

Recipe from Pita

This recipe makes a good amount but can be tweak to your liking.

2 packages of flour tortillas
4 packages of softened Philly cream cheese
1 jar of jalapeños dices very fine

Spread cream cheese in a nice layer over tortilla and lightly sprinkle with jalapeños. Roll them up and chill for about 30 minutes. Then cut into bite size pieces and enjoy!


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