When it was time to make a sketch today I was at a loss for what to paint for the prompt of “texture.” Then I remembered what my friends at urban sketchers have taught me and simply looked at what was in front of me. In this case, it was my glass of grapefruit juice, sitting all alone on the kitchen counter, just out of reach so I don’t dip my brush in it. It wasn’t a particularly interesting object, but it’s a sunny day and light was streaming in through the window causing it to cast really fabulous shadows. So I decided I would try to paint the shadows (and the glass of course as that would be a bit weird without it). I’ve always been fascinated by shadows, particularly when they’re emitting from glass. The shapes and textures are never quite what you’d expect to see, proving even the most ordinary of objects still have a few secrets to hide. I often opt for subjects that I’m only dreaming about, like dessert. But I could never let a dessert go uneaten this long, and as it turned out I ended up pouring out the rest of the juice because it had been boiled by the sun. A small price to pay for a fun exercise in direct observation.
When I was a kid, I could be rather talkative in some situations and then, depending on the group, get suddenly very shy. This meant I was often averting my gaze to avoid interaction. Staring at the shadows on the floor, as one might stare at the clouds in the sky, I would look at the shapes they made and try to imagine what they looked like. The mean guy, who was just a punch short of being the official school bully, cast the shadow of a horrible monster, while the nice quiet kid’s shadow looked more like a bunny. I wasn’t so much seeing shapes in the shadows as imagining the real personalities of the people who cast them. Looking back, I’m not sure if it was only a way to avoid them, or simply my way of trying to understand them better. Of course, it was still my imagination forming an idea of what I thought about the person. I wasn’t learning anything new by looking at the floor. Eventually, I gained more confidence and was able to look people in the eye, soon realizing that’s really where all the secrets hide.
But since that time, shadows have always fascinated me. They’re used in scary movies to make people afraid, but I’ve never found them frightening, just intriguing. When I was living alone after college, I would often end up alone at the close of the evening, usually writing something by candlelight. The flickering shadows kept me company and added a little life to what might have otherwise been a rather lonely time. Staring at the sun pouring through a isolated glass today made me a bit reflective as well. I began wondering why my mind always jumps backward to thoughts of when I was young. All of those memories are just shadows of the past now. Then I realized, I’m simply reminding myself of that time when I was never afraid to try new things. It’s not how I look back, it’s how I push myself to move forward. Each day is still a chance to experience and discover something entirely new. Even if it’s just tiny little flecks of light that surprise you, while admiring the texture of shadows.
About the Doodlewash
Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Red Orange, Opera Rose, Phthalocyanine Blue, and Payne’s Grey. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in an A6 Hahnemühle Watercolor Book.
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!