May 2013 – Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro… I love saying the word. It just sounds beautiful all on it’s own. I recently purchased a book on portraits that talks about the importance and role of Chiaroscuro when creating portraits.

How do you take a blank sheet of paper and create a 3D image? Well it all depends on how well you can understand and master the art of Chiaroscuro. It depends on how well you can create an illusion.

“When drawings a portrait, you are creating an illusion. If you are successful, the head will appear three-dimension, despite the fact that it is drawn on a two dimensional surface. The technique to create this illusion is called chiaroscuro, an Italian term meaning light (chiaro) and dark (oscuro). Once you have mastered it you will be able to draw or paint anything realistically.”

Source: W. Maughan, The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head, Watson-Guptill Publications NY 2004

I try to pay attention to and interpret the subtle changes in lights and shadows on any object that I’m painting. I then try to recreate these giving life and depth to something that starts as a mere sketch. For me the process is quite involving. Seeing is one thing but knowing how to hold your tools and knowing how much pressure to apply is not something an artist learns overnight.  I tend to do more observing, reading, learning and thinking than actual painting. I find that you have to understand and feel your subject before you can even begin to create it.

“Chiaroscuro is not an invented formula, but rather the result of the observation of light and shadow on form. When illuminated properly, form divides info two major masses of value, that is light and dark, or shadow. Duplicating the exact shapes of both light and shadow, and paying particular attention tot he edges between the two, is fundamental to capturing a likeness.”

Source: W. Maughan, The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head, Watson-Guptill Publications NY 2004

And when it all comes together, my vision and understanding of Chiaroscuro helps me to produce a portrait  that has depth, a 3D quality and one that reflects the  person’s character.

Below is my latest portrait which offered some beautiful light and shadow combinations. Tell me what you think!

20130421 She Can and She Will - Medium

© 2013 Vanessa Turner
Medium: charcoal
Size: 18 x 24 inches