Corona seen in a partial solar eclipse While we reach for the hand sanitizer and hold our breaths, our Thursday drawing/painting class has been thinking about a different kind of Corona. We’ve been studying the effects of light, especially glow. I was interested in exploring why some images seem to glow. Take the image above as an example. Why, if an all-white screen does nothing to harm our eyes, why does this particular image give us the sensation that we need to look away to prevent retinal damage? The light isn’t any brighter than plain white, yet it seems profoundly brighter. I find this incredibly fascinating, and I’ve presented some theories of light to my Thursday “Drawing/Painting the Effects of Light” class. As is usual for my classes, they have responded with some fabulous results. Here are some of the ideas we’ve been playing around with, sparked by conversations with Carlos San Millan: In a painting, an illusion of light can be made from any kind of contrast. The first most obvious contrast is light vs dark. The solar eclipse image is a good example. Most of the image is dark vs a bit of white, so there is a lot of contrast against the white. As an experiment, if I were to decrease the contrast by lightening the dark, the white suddenly doesn’t look as bright. In the image above, it doesn’t look like I just lightened the dark. It looks like I also dimmed the light, but the white is still the same value. See the images below, where I’ve added a white circle for comparison to the moon shape. The white circle shows the moon shape is still the same white. It did not dim. By removing the contrast of dark, there appears to be less light. So, dark makes light. Let’s add another experiment: hard vs soft edges. I’ll take the same image that has a mix of hard edges (the crescent) and soft edges (the light flare). I’ll take away the soft edges using Photoshop’s “cut-out” filter. Take a look at what happens to the glow effect when I harden all the edges: The glow effect decreases when the edges are all hard. Clearly soft edges are helpful to the effect. The original image on the left with some hard and some soft edges is working. But what happens if I take away the contrast of edges and make all the edges soft? …I’m going to have to beg your forgiveness here, I used Photoshop brushes and I didn’t use them very well, so I kinda just made a big white fuzzy banana. The question is, does this big white fuzzy banana increase, decrease, or have no effect on the retinal damage fear you have looking at the original corona with the mix of hard and soft edges? The big white fuzzy banana glows because of the soft edges, but it doesn’t look quite as bright as the original image. Fuzz banana falls short. So the combination of light vs dark, and hard vs soft edges are two kinds of contrast that produce the effects of light. Here’s an example of a sketch by the League’s Siobhan Wilder. She applied hard vs soft edges, and light vs dark to produce the effects of light. Unfinished sketch by Siobhan Wilder (I hope she finishes the rug!) Detail of sketch by Siobhan Wilder Next V. Note: Color Contrast and the effects of light Do you find bright ideas like this interesting? Want to see what you can do with more ideas like this? Take an art class this spring. We have art, we have ideas, and we have hand sanitizer.