Edward Hopper once said, “There is a sort of elation about sunlight on the upper portion of a house”. I would add – particularly a white house. Because there is nothing white about white.
White takes on the color of everything around it, the blues and purples of the sky, the gold of late-day sunlight, the putty-colored roof below an eve, a grey pavement, the vibrant green of the trees and grass surrounding it. It takes time to notice this. As painters, that’s our job, to spend time and to notice.
Reflected light is a secret marvel, when you begin to see it. A front porch is the ideal spot to watch light bounce around. So are overhangs, fences, and interior ceilings.
As the genji knife huckster says, “But, wait, there’s more!” One of my early painting teachers had us cut out construction paper shapes and assemble them to represent our faces in a mirror. His goal was to have us notice big blocks of color and start thinking that way as painters. What I noticed was the color under my chin, an orange gold, reflecting the wood floor. I spent weeks afterwards furtively looking under people’s chins and analyzing the color variations. I wanted to know how the colors of their faces and the surfaces or clothing under their chins mixed to create those unique hues.
Next time you walk down the street, notice how the light bounces between the planes of buildings and their surroundings. Get out your paints and start mixing. And, as Hopper also said, “Appreciate the beauty of a simple white wall”. Or, the front-porch-like overhang of a chin passing by.