Shimmering metallic surfaces always add a wow factor to paintings. Walking through an art museum or gallery, we pay special attention to works depicting a flash of gold, silver or other metals. Careful inspection, however, shows that their reflective gleam results from a simple juxtaposition of colors, shadows and highlights.
Of course, metals have different degrees of shininess, and the duller metallic surfaces must be painted differently from those with a high shine.
Matte or low-luster metallic objects, such as those depicted in The Three Metals (at top), have these characteristics:
- blended shadows and highlights
- a full range of values, determined by the light source
- diffused or obscured reflections
- colors determined by the type of the metal being depicted
A high-shine metallic object, such as the silver cup depicted in the painting above, has these characteristics:
- hard-edged reflective shapes within the shape of the object
- a full range of values, determined by the reflected objects
- reflections tinted by the color of the metal
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