Adding chiaroscuro 2

Adding chiaroscuro 2

Hugh Ferriss - Temple


I wanted to do another exercise with chiaroscuro and so I designed another building that is inspired by one of the drawings of Hugh Ferriss.


Drawing by Hugh Ferriss

Drawing by Hugh Ferriss


At first I tried to manage the chiaroscuro the same way I did in the previous image: with square holes in a simple plane. This might work when the camera is at eye-level, but it does not look realistic from above because you get square-shaped light beams that are visible as such.

What I did here is a better method. Below you can find a tutorial.


Chiaroscuro temple tutorial


When most painters paint, or illustrators draw, they tend to move towards and away from their canvas or paper all the time. This is because you can more easily see the composition as a whole when it is visually smaller. I also tend to do this, but recently I had an epiphany. :-) What if in Sketchup I just make 3 different scenes with 3 different distances from the subject I am designing? This way you can switch between them constantly and you don’t have to move backwards from your screen all the time! Below you can find an image that shows this process and below that are some details of the final image.


Chiaroscuro Temple - Designing


Chiaroscuro Temple details 1


Chiaroscuro Temple details 2


Chiaroscuro Temple details 3

Hugh Ferriss – Using a backlight

Hugh Ferriss – Using a backlight

Hugh Ferriss Backlight


I have always been a huge fan of the work of Hugh Ferriss (1889-1962). He was originaly an architect, but is best known for the “three dimensional” drawings and sketches he did for other architects. His drawings are not just clean and objective representations of the architectural plans. Instead Hugh Ferriss adds lots of drama to his drawings, mainly by manipulating the lighting in such a way that the buildings look grotesque and almost scary. This evoked such emotions with the public at the time that this style became very popular and he became an artist that was much asked for. Besides his commercial work he also did some superb drawings of imaginary future cities.


drawing by Hugh Ferriss

Drawing by Hugh Ferriss out of his book “The Metropolis of Tomorrow”


One of the techniques Ferriss uses is to place one of the main lights at the base of a building and so leaving the top of the building in the dark. It creates some kind of Dracula feel. You almost have the impression that the building comes alive to live as a sinister creature. In the drawing below Ferriss combined this technique with a strong glow that is coming from behind of the building. This way the contrast behind the dark edges of the building and the background is boosted greatly.


Hugh Ferriss Drawing

Drawing by Hugh Ferris


In an attempt to reverse-engineer the techniques Ferriss uses I drew a building and placed multiple lights a the bottom and one light at the back of the building, all facing upwards. I also created some fog in the background (with Vray Environment Fog) to make the light at the back visible. Below you can see a detail of the picture and a screenshot that shows the positions of the lights.


Hugh Ferriss backlight detail


Hugh Ferriss Backlight lights

Lighting a blubber object

Lighting a blubber object

Blubber experiment


Some more Mudbox work. Below you can see the lighting setup. I found this setup after trying lots of different setups. I think the shadow pass is interesting on itself, so I posted it too.

As for the background: I tried many different backgrounds and I learned that most of the times it is best to follow the visual directions of the central object. In this case the central object is round, so I made the shape of the grid and the dirt in the background also round. I call this the echo-principle. :-) I will do an extensive tutorial on this in the future.


Blubber lighting setep


Blubber shadow pass