Light & Dark Atmospheres – Joy’s Art Project

This week Joy Jindu shows us her recently completed art exam piece and describes the research she undertook for the project.

For my art exam project, after much indecisiveness and much consideration I chose to explore the way in which the contrast between light and dark can create atmosphere.

The second definition of atmosphere according The Oxford Dictionary is:

“the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or creative work.”

The first being,

“The envelope of gases surrounding the earth or another planet”

The Starry Night by van Gogh

The Starry Night by van Gogh

I could have done a project on space and gases but the photography aspect may have been tricky however…I had a look at a number painters for inspiration, the ones that most influenced my final piece were Van Gogh, Turner and Afremov. Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night was the first that came to my mind when I decided on the topic “Atmosphere”. Interestingly enough in Physics whilst learning about space and stars other mind-boggling things of the Universe I came across the extraordinary “Star-trails” of photographer Lincoln Harrison; these incredible photographs are the result of 15 hour-long exposures. The end photos somewhat resemble the slightly obscure spiralling patterns in the night sky of Van Gogh’s painting.

Whilst researching the art form of Chiaroscuro (the use of strong contrast between light and dark in art) I looked at the work of Caravaggio whose work often explored and exploited the dichotomy of ‘highlights & shadows and how they complement each other. Whilst looking at the use of light in art it only seemed right to look at Turner, “The Painter of Light” himself.

The Final Piece

The picture that I chose to paint during the 10 hours I had for my exam was of a photograph that I had taken of a street light outside of Liberty London. The idea of having a street light was inspired by number of paintings by Leonid Afremov that include streetlights projecting light onto their surroundings. The canvas that I painted this on was A1 (so about 80x60cm). It was slightly ambitious to set out fill such a large canvas in only 10. Admittedly after the second day getting the all the bricks and window frames in line with the correct perspective, without them converging got slight tedious; Instead of painting all the lines in, I made the oil paint very turpsy and instead dripped the paint down when gave quite a nice effect where the paint appears to have eroded but left enough to show where the bricks and window panes are.


Painting a childhood home – Vineyard Farmhouse artwork

Vineyard Farmhouse, watercolour painting

Vineyard Farmhouse

This is a painting of a house. Yup, call me Einstein for pointing that out. But there’s a bit more to it than that. This was the house that I first lived in, and holds many memories that I’ll never forget (all being well).

The original photo – where I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible when photographing it

A few months ago I was chatting to my Dad about living there, and he spoke about when he had M.E. so severe it left him bed-ridden for many years. This normally would have been problematic for me as a young child growing up, but as we lived in Christian community there were people around who helped out. One of these was a chap called Mike, and as my Dad continued his story it became clear that Mike helped out a lot in those difficult years, despite him being busy with work and church commitments. I can remember times of playing football with him (he was rubbish), and once broke his thumb with a thunderbolt from 30 yards (or more likely a 3 yard miss-hit).

So to say thank you for putting up with the little brat that was me, and to acknowledge he has had a big part to play in my life I decided to paint for him the house where we lived, Vineyard Farmhouse.


Starting the painting, and getting stuck on shadows

The location of Vineyard meant that the sun would never shine where I wanted it to, resulting in a flat looking picture as shadows convey depth. So I used a bit of artistic license and changed where the sun was shining. This was fine till I started painting telegraph poles and simply couldn’t work out how the shadows would run on the roofs of houses, or how the porch shadow would fall on the stone.
Helpfully I live in a Christian community house with some very talented people, and one of these was a 3D modelling guru called Aidan. I asked him if he could re-create the photo in a 3D environment so we could play around with the sun position to see what looked best.
3D model from photo angle
An hour later using a combination of the original photo, Google maps, Streetview, and Sketchup, he had created a model where I could test a few sun angles and choose which one looked best.

The 3D model in Sketchup with detail from Google Maps, Streetview and the original photo.

The 3D model in Sketchup with detail from Google Maps, Streetview and the original photo.

The chosen sun angle with shadow from the porch, window bays, and the left side of the building in shade.

The chosen sun angle with shadow from the telegraph poles, porch, window bays, and the left side of the building in shade.

Once the shadows were worked out I cracked on with it. There was a few things I learnt – painting grass is a mission, and I still hate windows (no offence to Bill Gates). The whole thing was done in about 6 weeks, which is fairly rapid by my usual standards.

On location and nearing completion

The artists den (all my stuff dumped on a dining table)

Around this time my Dad was getting married so for a gift I scanned the final painting in, had it edited to look like a railway carriage print (something he’s obsessed about), and then framed it as they were many years ago.

The carriage print version of Vineyard that I gave to my Dad

The carriage print version of Vineyard Farmhouse

The actual painting was then superbly framed (thanks to Joz at Good Timber) and mounted (thanks to the Framing Centre) and given to Mike.

God does it better!

I love painting the sky; I’m not an amazing artist but no one can really capture what it looks like. Even though the heavens are a set bit of creation (Genesis 1:1); they get repainted every day with crazy colours and dramatic clouds. It reminds me that God never stops working, the most beautiful thing about creation is that it never stops being created. Everyday things change & grow.

Liverpool skyline

God of this city.

This picture (above) I painted for my house when a group of us moved to live in Liverpool. To remind us that God will move in this city.


Big picture! Probably to scale of the real thing! (don’t know how to make it smaller!?)

I painted this one for my friend Katherine’s birthday. She is amazing, the picture is okay, God did it better the first time round though. It’s based on the view of the sunsets I can see from my bedroom at the top of the house.