Shadow Ladder, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.
This fairly simple painting had an interesting lesson about color in its making. Every painting I do is a balancing act of the color's hue and its intensity; the forms and shadows are always a challenge in getting the values right. In order for the color to read as light on a surface all those variables have to be just right. As I worked, I was happy with the cast shadows and light, then I began to work on the horizontal bar crossing the upper part of the painting.
Shadow Ladder, detail
I first painted the light portion of this bar with the same color running across it....and a strange thing happened: it looked as though the bar was bent back towards the edge of the painting, as though it was a "V" shape and not a horizontal at all. Very odd, and how was I going to fix it? I figured that the only thing to do was make the right side of the bar more intense in color so that it would pop forward, so I glazed some thin layers of yellow over the green. I don't know if the color shift is noticeable in the photo, being fairly subtle, but it was enough to pop that edge forward; I think that it now lies parallel to the picture plane rather than receding, and creates a horizontal rhythm with the bars of shadow.