15 July 2006

A typical book on drawing or painting

has one page, more or less, showing the effects of light and shade on, say, a cylinder, a cube, and a sphere.

Light for the Artist, by Ted Set Jacobs, is a whole book on that subject alone. It talks about light on different kinds of surfaces and how to render changes in hue, value, and chroma depending on the nature of the light and the surface it falls on. Ted reviews different approaches to depicting light, rejecting symbolic methods in favor of careful observation and realistc rendering. He presents a logical terminology for describing light, avoiding confusing terms like half tone (since light travels in a straight line, each point on a surface is either illuminated by a light source or not; there can't be any half illumination or "half tone"). He focuses not on generic geometric solids, but on the kinds of complex, packed curves found on organic forms. He shows how to render a variety of lighting situations realistically, including a single point source, multiple light sources, and diffuse light. If you are interested in realist painting, I can't recommend it highly enough. I've never seen any other source for this kind of information presented this cogently and in this much depth.

Unfortunately, the book is out of print and used copies are often expensive. If you can't find a copy at your local library, it's worth the investment.

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