Thursday, March 26, 2009

Looking into Shadows and other Image Triggers

Iceberg Outlet
10 x 10.5"
Pastel on Canson Paper

Shadowed Face
14 x 10"
Pastel on Canson Paper

My upcoming show at the Studio Gallery is drawing near, and things are falling into place. My frames and glass are at hand, a catalog of my work is at the printers, and I'm finishing up the last paintings. The catalog will be available for sale on my blog, as well as at the gallery, and I'll post more information about that soon.

I find I keep returning to a few concepts that compel me to paint. One of them is the notion of seeing inside a shadow. When a shadow contains more than one value, it becomes transparent in my mind, not just a flat shape. This aspect, as well as the relationship of shaded colors to the illuminated parts of an image seems to be expressing some deep mystery of perception for me. A shadowed part of an image is a volume where one sees qualities that the illuminated parts of an image don't, or cannot, reveal: the color(s) of the ambient, or fill light, the bounce of local colors onto other surfaces — these qualities made apparent by the protective cloak of the shadow can often be imperceptible in direct illumination, yet they may be operating in those areas as well. Looking into a shadow is like peeking under the hood at the subtle, underlying components contributing to the overall color and illumination of an image. There's much much more that fascinates me on this topic that I've not articulated.

I'm also fascinated by water for a range of reasons, but I'll just mention an elemental one. I remember all the times as a kid, running around on beaches on the California coast, collecting shells and rocks, and putting them in a bucket. They were wet and shiny, and had brilliant hues. The next day, however, when I looked in the bucket, all my 'treasures' were pale and dusted with white. I had to fill the bucket with water to make the rocks look as good as they did at the beach! I no longer take the rocks home, and art supplies have replaced the bucket, but sometimes I still feel as excited and intrigued as I once did on the beach when I find scenes of water and rocks to paint.


Mike Dutton said...

"They were wet and shiny, and had brilliant hues. The next day, however, when I looked in the bucket, all my 'treasures' were pale and dusted with white. I had to fill the bucket with water to make the rocks look as good as they did at the beach!"

I love how you paint water and make rocks wet with a dry medium.

I'm really looking forward to the show and saying hi, Bill. I hope you'll indulge me on the bit of pride I feel for approaching Jennifer about doing the Early Bird Show last year, because it's helped lead to what I think is going to be a fantastic display, where you definitely deserve all the wall space!

Bill Cone said...

Hi Mike, Being in the Early Bird Show was indeed a fortunate event for me. Thanks very much for making that effort. As the gallery is bigger, I don't know if I can fill all those walls. I've been trying some bigger studio pieces, but they're really not that big compared to others work.
I'm excited to see it all together in a meaningful display, as the pieces are stacked in protective covers, or pinned to boards all over my living room, I mean studio, right now.

It will be good to see you at the opening.


craig said...

The lighting on the second one has a great sense of depth. Really feel like I'm looking into the frame.

Benjamin Plouffe said...

That first one is really amazing. Wish i could see an original in person one day.

Anton Batov said...

Beautiful works!

Pam Holnback said...

I just discovered your blog via Jala Pfaff's. Your work is beautiful. Incredible handling of the rocks and water.

Scribbler said...

Christ the work here is absolutely outstanding. Inspirational stuff man!

sponie said...

I love the sense of the light in the High Sierras you acheive in your work. I have a trip planned for August and you have inspired me.

Carol said...

Absolutely fantastic! I'm a year into my journey with pastels and love to paint rocks and water, but nothing I do can compare to these paintings. However, every time I get to see works by someone such as yourself it encourages me to keep at it. Thank you

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your explanations of your work. It not only gives me insight to your work but building blocks in viewing art in terms of light, shadow and composition. Lastly and most important, it gives me confidence in viewing nature with my imagination as though it was conceived in some story.

See you at your opening.


Emily said...

Any chance you could talk about your process a bit? I've always wondered how people use pastels (the only nondigital color medium I've ever really used was oil) and I really admire your work.

Gracia said...

Hello! Although I already knew your work thisis the first time I visit your blog... it's amazing!! your pastel paintings are gorgeous and awesome. the way you get the light is incredible. I just can say congratulations, this is genius artwork :D

TJ said...

Hi, Bill, I received your catalog in the mail this morning. Wow!

I enjoy viewing on your blogspot but the catalog is certainly well done. I feel the crisp mountain air - so enjoying having the images nearby to look at and study.

Best of luck with your show.

Bill Cone said...

TJ, Thanks for the remarks on the catalog. It was a fun way to collect and sum up the work that I can keep with me after the show is over (and hopefully the paintings go to new owners).

Emily- If you read through my posts and comments over the year, there is a lot about my process, though I've never done a specific post about it. You're not the first person to ask. It's very simple, and direct, for the most part. I'm thinking about doing a post that illustrates it more. One problem is my hands are so dirty when I work, I really don't want to pick up the camera to take pictures of what I'm doing!

CK- Thanks for your comments, and I'll see you at the opening.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by and commenting.

Peggy Feltmate said...

I have just discovered your blog and work via the Pastel Journal. Your work is an inspiration. I am fascinated by rock and by shadows. You encourage me that it Can be done! And you do it beautifully. Are you working in soft pastel, or in oil pastel?

Bill Cone said...

Hi Peggy, I use soft pastels, at this point primarily Terry Ludwig, as the rest have diminished by attrition. Terry Ludwig pastels are compatible with Unison, Sennelier, Schmincke, Mt. Vision, and there's at least one more.
They are unfixed, on Canson Paper. And I use the smooth side of the Canson. Not the side that is textured like the bottom of a cornbread pan. They are that different. The main color of paper I use is called Twilight, the second most used color is Tobacco. Sometimes I use a very dark blue paper... I don't remember the name of it. I always work in the shade... it is essential to the correct 'exposure' of the image.
As far as 'what' I'm painting. I'm not painting the object as much as the light hitting that object, or interacting with its surfaces. There's a difference. It is easier to paint something like water, if you just look at the color relationships, or analyze why those colors are in specific regions. Don't think water, think shapes of color in your painting! Of course it helps to know why it is there. That is part of the fun of it, actually.
Shadows are a whole other topic...

Hope this helps.


Anonymous said...


Hey, how are you? It is nice to see that you are still making beautiful art! My daughter is going to SFSU so I visit the city often. I look forward to seeing your next show.

Take care,


Bill Cone said...

Hi Joan, Doing fine. Thanks for the comments. Interesting that your daughter is at SFSU. My daughter, Julia, is in Oregon, though California beckons...
My next show is the Sonoma Plein Air show on May 9th. After that it's the Napa Valley Art Festival on August 15th. The character of these shows is quite different. My current show at the Studio Gallery is 4 years of work in the Sierra, augmented by some studio work. The Sonoma show is work all painted on site, in the span of 5 days in Sonoma County. The Napa show is landscape of studio or plein air pedigree, painted in the last year. Pick your poison!

Good to hear from you.


Hans said...

Amazing colors and great lighting!!!
Very cool blog indeed.


Barbara Benas said...

I just wanted to say that I'm either delusional, or I could smell pastels while I looked at your blog. Is that weird?

Sr do Vale said...

I am very grateful if you could share the link, because I see here a semelhaƧa work of art in good taste.

Marco Bucci said...

Got the book today (fast delivery!) It's exceptional. Among other things, you're the master of reflected light. I'll be bringing this sucker in to work tomorrow to show some of the guys I regularly paint with.

Lamnho G said...

Hi Bill I am one of the student from SJSU. It was great to talk to you at the show and your paintings are beautiful. At the show, you were talking about painting light is different than painting the object with light ( The Sargent Example)
However, in the U.S. animation industry, the animation are more objects orientated (Character animation). Characters or things are lighted because they need to be read. I find this to be a little contradictory to what you said about painting light. Or maybe I am not fully grasp the idea of painting light?


Bill Cone said...

Marco, Thanks for the comment, I'm glad you like the catalog.

Hi Lamno, I was honored that you all drove up from San Jose for the talk. Thanks for coming that far.
To address your question about painting light...not the object, what I mean is that the character of color relationships from an illuminated object are often more beautiful or interesting than the object itself. There could be beautiful light on a garbage can, to pick a silly example. One can choose to paint something because it is beautifully illuminated, not because the object has any significance or special meaning.


Lamnho G said...

Thanks Bill. Looking forward to your next show.


Ian House said...


Unfortunately I missed all the exciting bits of the show up front, but thankfully I still had a chance to wander through your wonderful high ground and breathe it in for myself.

Your work is always inspirational and beautiful. This collection is an emotional tug, a vivid reminder and a timeless chronicle.

Now, I have a window to the Sierras that will be open forever.

Congratulations and thank you.

Carol said...

Your expertise with rocks is truly awe-inspiring. I'm constantly amazed at the realism you bring to your work.