Values in Backlight

bgracebacklit copy11″x14″ Oil on Canvas



I’ve often found myself frustrated while trying to realize form within a backlit subject.  The bright back round light tends to flatten the planes of a figure or face, making it difficult to read the values necessary to create the form of the features.  In a situation like this, the values are darker and often not as varied as one might hope. I painted this portrait with the intention of improving my skills in working with backlight.

As you can see, I started with a recycled canvas (covering an unsuccessful  painting), and a charcoal drawing.  The painting is essentially alla prima (if we can excuse the start in charcoal).

Comments on: "Values in Backlight" (87)

  1. beautiful: decades in the present; decades in presence

  2. I can feel the softness in her cheeks. She really comes alive.

  3. Interesting, the photo and the process…

  4. Great expression and painting! Nice to see part of the process too!

  5. settleandchase said:

    Oh and it’s so worth the again, beautiful..I suppose it’s a little like a photograph with backlight, much less detail but a wonderful softness and bright moments..its amazing though how you actually find them in a brush and

  6. Wonderful art! She looks tired and strong.I think nobody should annoy her,the eyes are so challenging! 🙂

  7. This is so full of life Elena! Excellent!

  8. Beautiful! The light is amazing.

  9. She’s so pretty, Elena! I love the brightest lights in her hair! 🙂

  10. Wow! This is stunning Elena!

  11. Stunning portrait! Love the eyes and how she it staring right at you. There’s also a little hint of a smile. Lovely work!

  12. mothcaterpillar said:

    When I read the title I thought you meant the values of life… and the painting reflects exactly that (for me): a person herself is the greatest value! Beautiful! 🙂

  13. Oh, it works beautifully! What a treasure of a painting, wonderful.

  14. This is fabulous. I love the light and how you captured it….she is stunning.

  15. I can’t see any sign of frustration in this painting, Elena, and to me it looks perfectly natural.

  16. claudialasetzki said:

    Absolutely wonderful!!! 👍

  17. she is so lovely…. you are so far beyond my level, Elena, i can only stare and smile at the beauty you create upon your canvases. xx

  18. While the backlit subject is a challenge, you always overcome them, Elena. Great work and explanation of your progress!

  19. Clueless about form…but love her hair in the light and her expression. Beautiful!

  20. What you did gives a sense of mystery! Very beautiful!

  21. You worked it beautifully Elena, her form is coming forward is a wonderful balanced approach. Love see your work and hearing how you’ve progressed to achieve the final piece.

  22. I love the expression conveyed on the young ladies face

  23. Elena do you shoot the reference pictures yourself and do you print them out for painting ? I copy it from a tablet or laptop screen when doing small studies but this is a nightmare.

  24. Your world seems to be populated by beautiful young ladies or, at least, your portraits make it seem so! I understand the difficulties created by back lighting but in this portrait I think you have solved the problem very effectively. The reflected front lighting gently assists the sculpting of the features and the back lighting on the stray hairs on the left frames the head nicely.

    • Yes! I’m quite fortunate. I pester those around me to stay still for a moment to capture their likenesses:) My camera is never far from my fingertips;) Thanks very much, Louis!

  25. deutschtrailers said:

    Beautiful Picture, thank you very much and happy weekend Elena Caravela…💗💗💗

  26. I’d never have guessed you had a problem with it. This is electric!

  27. Looks okay to me, but only you know what effort went into it. One of the marks of a good artist in any medium, in any art form, in any style – even an abstract one – is that she makes it look easy.

  28. orijinalchris said:

    I agree with Patti Kuche. As an untrained artist, I don’t see the technical problems, only the result… the result, for me, is gorgeous, and, somehow, heroic. My most favourite type of female portrait, a beautiful warrior. Your work exhausts my superlatives (:

    • First, surprised to learn that you are untrained-could have fooled me. Yes, I can tell by your work that a “beautiful warrior” would appeal. I like that strength to come through as well:) Thanks so very much, Chris.

  29. I wonder if this same strong backlighting effects photography as well. It would seem to wash out everything, but I am an amateur. I am practicing practicing practicing.

  30. If it was in a photography, this face having too much reflected light,
    hence it was flat.
    We photographer would put a black board one-side of the camera
    to make one-side darker hence more contrast = and give a depth.
    Try this on your original photo.

  31. I would never have guessed there was a problem, beautiful work Elena!

  32. Backlight fills me with dread, Elena, so I know where you’re coming from (glad I’m not the only one)… but this is wonderful! I think you’ve definitely nailed the form. The strands of hair and the light on them, too… exquisite!

  33. Many thanks for sharing your experience and process.

  34. Excellent portrait Elena! Backlight is tricky for photographers, I never thought about the same for painters. This is gorgeous, doesn’t look like any improvement is necessary to me! 🙂

  35. That is a beautiful portrait. Beauty in a very soft tone… I love it.

  36. voicewilderness1 said:

    The rim lights on the loose strands of hair are very lovely. Your use of color in the skin tones and elsewhere is very rich and colorful.

  37. A beautiful progress! Very well done, Elena!

  38. Lovely…now that my sister has started painting and sketching slowly and steadily…I can see the literally the hard work behind all the strokes 🙂

  39. You certainly achieved strong form here!

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