Painting Fixes – Option 57 – Dappled Light
Your painting not going the way you intended, or the life in it is dead and soggy? There is a way to save that great composition and concept, and I stumbled upon the solution while visiting the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow 16 years ago while on a Magic:The Gathering tournament signing trip.
I still can recall the moment I rounded a corner in the galleries and was immediately taken in by a painting across the room by an artist I had heretofore never heard of, Henryk Siemiradzki (there are various spellings of this name).
The work in the gallery was was his ‘Dance Among the Swords’, and it held such stunning atmosphere, color, and light. Most impressively was Siemiradzki’s use of dappled light, masterfully executed and in full alignment with the service of the narrative.
Given the scene is a fictitious setting and moment, I knew that his use of the dappled light effect and is placement on objects within the image had to be very consciously chosen. It was not an artifact of random visual inference from painting from life, but rather Siemiradzki used the contrasting effects of the dappled light to drive home his focal points and narrative. It was thrilling to see my eye manipulated in such a way and instantly wanted to know more about this ‘new’ artist I had just discovered.
Luckily for me, the museum book store had a single collection of his art, in Russian, but that did not matter, it was modest in scope but most importantly filled with his paintings and all in full color! I immediately became a fan of his art. Siemiradzki was a Polish painter of the late 19th Century, focusing upon allegorical, historical realism, and oriental-style themes, both biblical and mythological. To state that Siemiradzki is a master of dapple light is an understatement. He rules it, throws it around, and plays with it for your eye without you even knowing.
When I returned back to my studio, I knew I needed to give this newly discovered technical feat a try in my own work. While I did not paint many naturalistic environments as Siemiradzki, I recognized the source material of his tool, that of broken and manipulated light spotting, which I then began to turn ‘on’ in my works.
After a few rough attempts, the ability to manage color/light saturations and values within a composition, guided and defined by dappled/broken light, has become one of my go-to ‘fixes’ for works which need a little punch.
Give it a try, splash some dappled light into your next piece and watch it jump to life…with thanks to Henryk Siemiradzki!