Rembrandt: portrait of an old man.

Rembrandt: portrait of an old man.

In Western art, chiaroscuro is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition (see right).  It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first painters to master the chiaroscuro technique. Chiaroscuro can be observed in photography and in film. Computer graphics designers have developed shading analogues which are used for special effects in computer games, films and advertising. The champagne bottles (below) are rendered to reflect the light as if on glass…..the red sphere is shaded pixel by pixel.The intention of all theses artists designers and photographers is to produce the illusion of depth or volume on a flat surface but also to enhance the image through the use of strong contrasts…. through the use of chiaroscuro.

Shading software

Shading software: pixel by pixel..

Computer aided design.

Computer aided design.


Durer: Portrait of the Artists Mother 1514

Durer: Portrait of the Artists Mother 1514

Albrecht Durer’s Portrait of his Mother at age 64 (1514) shows the strength of dark and light contrasts in a drawing. The illumination from above places the areas below the chin in deep shadow and emphasises age, structure and volume.

When you are out and about in bright sun or deep shade add “chiaroscuro” to your artistic mindset and learn to see contrasts of light and shade everywhere.

When practicing with ASKetch on your iPad keep chiaroscuro in mind and strengthen your image…especially when drawing a still life group!




Gallery | This entry was posted in ASKETCH, Drawing, Drawing with ASKetch and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to ASKetch and CHIAROSCURO

  1. Pete says:

    Thank you for this concise treatment of “chiaroscuro” — a word with a daunting number of syllables :-) It’s all the more wonderful that you’ve been able to convey in a paragraph or two its technical uses and its role in the history of art, where it defines a recognizable style in painting, even for viewing audiences who haven’t been exposed to the idea … I hope you will be able to do something similar for a basic technique in art, gradation, which is related to chiaroscuro, and is fundamental in bringing out form in painting and drawing, even when it seems to be absent …

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