Monday, December 15, 2008

Coloring Icicles

It snowed! Around here it only happens a few times a winter, so it's still a big deal. In honor of our snow I figured now is a good time to look at how to color icicles. This is an advanced post because I know most of you will never think of coloring your icicles this detailed.

Two ways of looking at Icicles
I'm splitting icicles into two directions because they're colored a little different depending on where you stand. You could be looking out through them (you're inside a house looking out through them at the light) or looking into them (you're outside and looking at them with the light behind you).

Either way, you don't just see a row of white- you see a distorted reflection of light and color.

Here are my two examples. I drew these with a 0.1 mm Multiliner onto color laser copier paper. I colored the backgrounds first so we can get an idea of what colors the icicles will be reflecting.

For the picture looking at the side of the house, you can see that I showed where the light was coming from by drawing the shadows of the overhang and of the icicles. The computer really made these color jump out- in real life they are much more subtle (I think I like the heavier contrast).

Look at how strange the icicles look when they are left white. They need something. Ditto for the next one.

In this picture I'm showing the icicles from the other angle- as if you are inside the house or behind the icicles looking out at the snowy yard. The scene is much brighter, but the icicles still look strange with no color or contrast to them.

So how do I add light and color to something that is clear and colorless? I asked myself this question, then I went and ran an internet search on icicles. I looked at lots of photos to figure out the shading distinction between the two directions of light. I'm not saying that my directions are perfect, but I have tried to simplify the coloring as much as possible. With practice this will be much easier and look better, but this is my first time really slowing down and looking at how to draw icicles as well.

Understanding Icicles
1.Ice is clear. There may be bubbles in your ice, but these will show up as white, so they're easy to draw.
2. Ice is shiny. This means it reflects back light. Things that are shiny have high-contrast.
3. Ice has mass that light passes through. This means that it changes the color, ever so slightly, of what is around it.
4. Icicles are cylindrical. Any object on the other side will be distorted into long skinny shapes.

Now that we've looked at the nature of Icicles, let's simplify the coloring into diagrams. Here are my two different icicles. I put a sun in the picture so you can get a clear idea of how light passes through the icicle.

First of all, notice that when we are looking into an icicle, or standing outside the house, the color is in the middle of the ice. It is white on the edges, and it has the strongest contrast on the edge where the sun or light source is strongest (where I put "dark"). If you are looking at sky on the other side, then the colored area will be a darker shade of blue. If you are looking at an object, then the colored area will be a muted shade of that object. You'll have the richest color contrast right on that edge where the light and color meet.

Now let's look at the other icicle. Here is where you're inside, or behind the icicle looking out. The colors are reversed. You'll have white in the middle, surrounded by color, though you'll have a white highlight on the side with the sun. Again, look at the strong contrast between the colored area and the sun-side. Again, the colors from your surrounding objects will be squished and muted into the icicle.

So let's apply this to our artwork. Here I've taken my background colors and picked out a couple basic colors- BG93 for trees/house, B32 and BG10 for the sky. I'm going to lightly, carefully color the middle of each icicle on the house and color the edges of each icicle looking away from the house.

Notice on the top example that the icicles on the outside have more blue- you see more sky at the corner of the house. The other icicles show more of the gray blue-green.

On the bottom example you see how I put more blue at the top for the sky, then I used more of the green-gray on the side closest to that tree (it's picking up the color all the way over there).

Then I used my blender on each picture. Ont he top example I was careful to bled from the outside in, on the bottom example I blended from the inside out. See how very different the two icicles look. I'm not worrying as much about keeping the whites whitest, since my final step is yet to come.

Icicles are not completely straight, rather, they are a little lumpy as the water drips down. to heighten this effect, when you are coloring them, color in little uneven strokes. When I used the blender to go back over the icicles I added lumps, or spots where I held the blender pen in one place longer than others. If you look at the final close-up of the large icicles, you'll see where I used the Opaque White and also increased this effect.

Last, to finish up my artwork I need to add contrast back in and make those whites their whitest. Here is where I carefully painted in Opaque white. Notice how I added dots on the side of each icicle? this is to simulate how light catches and reflects back from lumps on the icicle and looks even brighter, or it looks like glistening drops of water. It also helps break up my black lines, since real life doesn't have black lines around it. I also added a few stripes to the window to make it look more shiny. I hope this inspires you to look at icicles in a little different way, have a great day!


Laurel said...

Wow, thanks! You are awesome and so is this blog, I check daily!

Sandy Knecht said...

Wow is right! Thanks for showing us how to color icicles. They are beautiful!

Broni said...

This is amazing, Marianne! I never really thought about the color of icicles and how they reflect so many different ways.

Susan said...

Amazing details! Thank you for showing us how to color realistically. Ice, snow, rocks, water ... these are all so hard to color well.

Mrs. Nancy G said...

Really cool. Have fun with the snow while it lasts!


Sleepy Turtle Beads said...

I've been searching and searching for something to show me how to color ice that's lit from behind, and I couldn't find anything until this! Thank you so much.

Ryn Tanaka said...

I just found you on Pinterest. This is a great tutorial! Thank you for explaining everything in so much detail. I've been studying pictures of icicles and wasn't sure what I was looking at. Now I have some concepts that I can look for :)

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