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Elements of art: Light

LIGHT
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Slide 1: Tekstslide
Art and designSecondary Education

In deze les zitten 29 slides, met tekstslides.

time-iconLesduur is: 45 min

Introductie

Through the work of Vincent van Gogh, the students will learn about light as an element of art. After an interactive introduction to the terms light source, light direction, light-dark contrast and shadow, they will practise what they have learned and make sketches.

Instructies

General learning objectives
- The students will learn about light as an element of art.
- The students will learn to recognise and use the terms light source, light direction, light-dark contrast and shadow when talking about their own art works and other people's.

Materials required
- For the chiaroscuro assignment, the students need a camera or mobile phone.
- For the two sketching assignments, the students need paper and pencils.

Optional variations
- The sketching assignments can be extended by having the students paint, rather than draw. Keep in mind that at least 60 minutes of class time will then be required.
- The lesson can be shortened by doing only the exercises, or by doing the rest of the lesson and leaving out the exercises

Onderdelen in deze les

LIGHT

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

When we talk about light as an element of art, we are talking about the effect of light on 2D and 3D forms.

Undergrowth, 1889.

LIGHT SOURCE
Light source: the object that gives off light.

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

Explain the term light source, or click on the hotspot for a definition.

Then ask the students to identify the light source in the painting Undergrowth.


Natural light is light given off by a natural source, such as the sun, the moon, the stars, fire or lightning. In The Harvest, the source is the sun.
Artificial light is light from an artificial source.  In The Potato Eaters, the source is the oil lamp.

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

If necessary, explain the difference between natural and artificial light.
Then ask the class in which painting Vincent used each kind of light. The answers are in the hotspots.

  • The Harvers, 1888
  • The Potato Eaters, 1885


Slide 4 - Tekstslide

Before Vincent began work on The Potato Eaters, he wasn't sure whether to paint the family in daylight or in the evening. He decided to paint an evening scene with an oil lamp. Go on to the next slide, which has a question for the class.
What is the effect of the oil lamp?
The light from the oil lamp and the placement of the lamp draw the viewer's attention to the family. The light makes them all seem connected to each other. Around them, there is darkness. But inside the family circle, there is light.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

LIGHT DIRECTION
Light direction: the direction from which the light comes.

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Explain the term light direction, or click on the hotspot for a definition. Ask the students what direction the light in this painting comes from, and why they think so.


If you, the viewer of the art work, are looking into the light source, you call that backlight. In this case, you're looking into the sun.
Light that comes from behind the viewer and shines on the front of the subject is called frontal light. The frontal light in this painting makes it easy to see all the details, like the letters on Joseph Roulin's cap.

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

If necessary, explain the terms 'backlight' and 'frontal light'. Then ask in which painting Vincent uses each kind.
Tip: You can draw the light direction on the paintings using the pencil on the bar at the bottom.

  • The Sower, 1888
  • Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1889, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo



What is the main difference in effect between using backlight and using frontal light?
Backlight almost always creates silhouettes. In contrast, frontal light illuminates the subject very clearly. You can hardly see any shadows.

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies



Side light is light that comes from the side. It creates very obvious shadows, like the shadows in the skeleton's eye sockets and on its forehead.
Raking light is light that 'rakes' along the surface of objects. It reveals their texture very clearly.

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

If necessary, explain the terms side light and raking light. Then ask the class in which painting Vincent used each kind. The answers are in the hotspots.

  • Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette, 1886
  • Woman Sewing, 1885


Can raking light ever be side light?
In fact, raking light is almost always side light. So the answer is yes.

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies


Here, the light comes from all sides. This is called indirect light or diffuse light.

Slide 11 - Tekstslide

Ask the students where the light in this painting comes from.

Boulevard de Clichy, 1887

Sketch 1: Still life

            

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5:00
You have five minutes to draw a still life using:
- artificial light
- raking light.


Tip: Too easy? Then draw in Vincent's style, using, dots and dashes.

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

Give the students five minutes to sketch. Click on the timer to start the countdown.

After five minutes, you can discuss the sketches with the class. Tell them to save their sketches. They'll need them later in the lesson.

LIGHT-DARK CONTRAST
Light-dark contrast: the difference between light and dark areas in a painting.

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

Explain the term light-dark contrast, or click on the hotspot for a definition. Discuss the various light-dark contrasts in the painting.


Here, Vincent mostly used a weak light-dark contrast. There is not much difference between the light and dark sections.
Here, you can see a strong light-dark contrast. There is a large difference between the light and dark areas: the black shoes, in contrast to the light brown background.

Slide 14 - Tekstslide

In one of these paintings, Vincent used a strong light-dark contrast. In the other one, there is mostly a very weak light-dark contrast. Ask the class which is which.
  • Montmartre: Windmills and Allotments, 1887
  • Shoes, 1886


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This effect is called chiaroscuro, from the Italian words for light (chiaro) and dark (scuro). The light-dark contrasts in this painting are stronger than they normally would be in everyday life. That makes the painting look dramatic.

Slide 15 - Tekstslide

Explain to the class: This self-portrait also involves a strong light-dark contrast. This is called chiaroscuro.
  • Self-Portrait with Felt Hat, 1886-1887




You have one minute to take a dramatic photo with chiaroscuro.


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1:00

Slide 16 - Tekstslide

Give the class one minute to take photos with a chiaroscuro effect. For example, they could take selfies. Click on the stopwatch to start the countdown. Then discuss the results.

SHADOW
Shadow is formed when the light from a light source is partly or completely blocked by an object. It takes light and an object to make a shadow.

Slide 17 - Tekstslide

Explain the term shadow, or click on the hotspot for an explanation.

You could ask the class what you call the type of shadow Vincent uses in this painting. (Answer: cast shadow.)



Core shadow: the shadow of an object on the object itself. In other words, the dark side of the object. In this case, we can see core shadows on the beer mugs. In this same painting, we can also see cast shadows.
Cast shadow: the shadow cast by an object onto a different object or surface. In this case, we see Vincent's shadow on the ground.

Slide 18 - Tekstslide

If necessary, explain the terms cast shadow and core shadow. Ask in which painting Vincent used each kind of shadow.
  • Beer Tankards, 1885
  • The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, 1888. In the Second World War, it was destroyed in an bombing raid.


Silhouet
This painting, Landscape at Twilight, is described in a letter from Vincent to his brother Theo: 'two completely dark pear trees against yellowing sky with wheatfields' (letter 891, 24 June 1890).

Slide 19 - Tekstslide

Click on the icon for a quote from Vincent about this painting.

Landscape at Twilight, 1889.
What do you call the effect described by Vincent?
Silhouet
A silhouette. We saw another silhouette earlier, in The Sower.

Slide 20 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Now back to your sketches. Add:

         





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3:00
- a weak contrast between light   and dark
- a cast shadow

Slide 21 - Tekstslide

Geef de leerlingen 3 minuten om aan hun schets verder te werken.
Bespreek vervolgens de resultaten.
SUMMARY




Slide 22 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Light source:


Light direction:

Light-dark contrast:


Shadow:

  • natural, artificial


  • backlight, frontal light, side light, raking light, indirect/diffuse light


  • weak contrast, strong contrast/chiaroscuro


  • core shadow, cast shadow, silhouette

Slide 23 - Tekstslide

If you wish, you can go through the summary of the terms discussed.
EXERCISES

Slide 24 - Tekstslide

The next few slides are exercises on using these terms in practice.

- What is the light direction?
- What type of shadow do you see here?

Shadow: cast shadow
Shadow: core shadow
Light direction: backlight

Slide 25 - Tekstslide

Café Table with Absinthe, 1887.
- What is the light source?
- What kind of light-dark contrast does Vincent use?
Light source: natural light. Vincent painted the moon and many stars.
Light-dark contrast: In The Starry Night, you can see a strong contrast between light and dark. The light and dark sections (like the bright stars and dark sky) are right next to each other.

Slide 26 - Tekstslide

The Starry Night 1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
- What is the light source?
- What type of shadow do you see here?
Light source: natural light. The sun is shining on this landscape.
Shadow: You can hardly find any shadows here. There are some small patches of cast shadow under the trees. Vincent sometimes left out the shadows, inspired by Japanese prints.

Slide 27 - Tekstslide

Field with Irises near Arles, 1888.
- What kind of light-dark contrast did Vincent use?
- Why do you think he made that choice?
   First, read the quote under the envelope icon.
Vincent used chiaroscuro here. That makes the scene a little more dramatic than a weak light-dark contrast.
'You see, I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labour and — that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours — civilized people. So I certainly don’t want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why.' Vincent wrote this in a letter to his brother Theo on 30 April 1885 (letter 497).

Slide 28 - Tekstslide

The Potato Eaters, 1885.
Sketch 2: A portrait

       


timer
5:00

You have five minutes to make a portrait with:
- natural light
- and a silhouette.

Slide 29 - Tekstslide

Give the students five minutes for the assignment. Click on the stopwatch to start the countdown.
After five minutes, you can discuss the sketches with the class and finish the lesson.