Shadows – they follow you wherever you go. They reflect your size and shape, but they aren’t you. The sun and the ebbing twilight distort your shadow as the hours tick by. Indoors, shadows cast by a lamp or an overhead light are blurred by distance and movement.
In a painting, cast shadows are critical. They help define light source, the time of day, and the illusion of reality. In varying shades of gray, shadows enhance the colors they absorb and help to tell a story. The shapes and forms they create add interest and viability.
Without shadows in a painting there would be no folds in clothing, draperies, or hillsides. Faces would be flat and uninteresting. There would be no smile lines, form or depth; no indicators of age or character.
In life, we fear the unknown shadows and flee from the dark ones within that remind us of our failed humanity. Capture these craters of the soul and you have a novel or an artistic masterpiece. Shadows, after all, give us character and add the twists and turns of body and soul that bring out the best in us as we touch the hem of Heaven, or the worst in us as we sink into the depths of Hell.
An overweight relative lost a sizable amount of weight. When I saw her, I said: “You look like a shadow of your former self,” thinking I was paying her a compliment. But the next time I saw her, she had gained all her weight back.
Apparently, my comment had brought out her feelings of insecurity, and she reverted back to her “former self.” Her weight defined the person she thought she was; the person she knew and felt comfortable with so she fled back into the shadows of her former weight where she felt safe and secure.
For better or for worse, shadows reveal the truth in all of us and in art.