Many times we may have heard about an artist looking for that particular “quality of light”. This may prompt us to ask what in world that might mean? I often think of the caricature artist in a blue smock and beret, sporting a Van Dyke beard running around and framing everything with his hands and saying, “Ah-HA!” every fifteen seconds. We might whisper to someone to explain that he is “looking for the right light”. Light is typically everywhere, and daylight especially is beyond our control in the larger sense, so what is there to possibly “search” for?
Well, talk to any photographer and he or she will most likely say that twilight is the “golden light”. The shadows are long and soft, the form of things are readily defined and the sunlight has a flattering amber glow. It’s this “amber glow and soft shadows” that are often referred to as light qualities. A lot of times, painters (and photographers) rib each other if they always work at twilight because it is argued that it is hard to fail if working at that “golden hour”! Although this is a familiar joke, light quality always seems to play a role in artworks.
Consideration of light quality may determine the success of a painting or may even be subject of the painting. Consider the light quality in this painting at Medrona Marsh. The sun was almost a little bit past overhead, the day was hot and frankly, the location was dry and somewhat barren. Like the caricature artist, I actually was walking around framing everything with my hands when I found this natural arrangement of brilliant afternoon light contrasted with the cool under canopy of the shade tree. The light quality was so stark and the location so resilient in the pounding sunlight, that it resonated a kind of silent perseverance – (defined as: persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success). In a way, the shade was an invite from the harshness of the hot fields. I hope that this painting may cause a few viewers to squint momentarily while looking at it and perhaps, sense a place to simultaneously stimulate and rest their thoughts.