The Governing Laws of Light/ Michael Barr

Light is invisible. You cannot paint, draw or photograph Light. An Artist( at whatever medium) displays the effect light has on subjects it touches in the various intensities and effects. In order to “successfully” translate that chosen display, that Artist must learn how to “See” first.

Whenever I get the urge to paint or draw, it’s because I have a good idea that I am motivated about. It’s never about my bank account or making people happy that I am doing artwork for display. Sales are merely a byproduct. I have to truly love the piece I am working on or it won’t come out very well and I will be unfulfilled while doing it and even finishing it. Actually, if I don’t enjoy doing it, it WON’T bet finished because there was no emotional drive behind it in the first place. My studio has a pile of unfinished pieces that simply ran out of steam because I wasn’t jazzed enough about them to finish. So what happens to them? They get burned, thrown away or torn up. Even if I do “finish” a piece and it doesn’t turn out the way I need it to, no matter how long it took me to do it, If I don’t like it, I trash it! It’s mine to keep or throw away as I see fit. Your worst work is just as representative as your best. “Bad” work simply says, “Look! I can screw up, too!” What do you want your work to say, to make a half-hearted attempt and don’t care what it looks like? OR, are you going to make that full blown emotional effort and give the subject its due respect? The choice is yours.

Artists are often asked, “Where does your inspiration come from?”—- Are you kidding! The universe is…well…. PRETTY BIG! God has supplied us with plenty to choose from. Plane Earth and all it contains with people, places, things, situations, the five senses we are born with….. TAKE YOUR PICK! Anyone who lives and breathes in a healthy fashion will be inspired by what they encounter on a daily basis. I personally don’t go out of my way to find inspiration. All my ideas to paint or draw come completely unforced and spontaneously as I wander around in my daily living.

Now, getting down to the business of the title of this article. Instructors will have you believe that each subject you are choosing to draw or paint is its own special thing. Well… sort of. However, ANYTHING that light touches has a shape , size, and color, varying in intensity and tone. I’m pretty sure that Einstein would be more than happy to support that theory. When light is present, there is a direct “hot spot,” a mid shadow, reflected shadow, deep shadow and faded shadow. This is the Law of Light. Rocks are hard and water is wet, there’s no way around it. As an artist who enjoys doing realism, I find comfort in that solid truth. Seeing the way light plays on different objects in different settings and seasons is often what I will display in a quick snippet composition. Rarely will I go ballistic and paint or draw something extremely elaborate. I am most comfortable when the piece is only as large as can be place in front of me and fit on an 18” turntable. Being able to access all the areas of the paper or board is important to me for optimal control, and it’s easier on my wrists due to my arthritis.

The placement of my lighting is important too, because if the lights are shining in such a fashion that ”washes” out my perception of brightness intensities of colors, the accuracy will suffer.

Light bings, bongs and bounces off the rods and cones in our eyes so we can define what it is we are looking at. And if there’s too much direct light in our eyes, we have a hard time getting past it to actually see…. Hmmm….imagine that. And in my case, I am blind in my right eye and have some “Opacity” in my left, so I have to keep my lights relatively dim so I don’t get the washed out effect. The sunglasses I wear are prescription and are polarized to cut down the glare. I, of course, can’t wear them to paint and draw but they do help me save my remaining sight. Now when I have trouble seeing tone intensities accurately, I cup my hands around my eyes to cut out any direct light, like a baseball player does with their caps so they can see the ball better. Clever hu! Hopefully, I have quite a few good years left in my eye because I truly enjoy seeing and being an artist that does the work I do.

———-Michael Barr, 2011


One Response to The Governing Laws of Light/ Michael Barr

  1. Thank you for your reflections (no pun intended, really.) I wish for you many, many years of sight so you can continue to create wonderful works.

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