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.
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!