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Friday, July 22, 2011


Humans are creatures of habit. We get up and do the same things we did yesterday. That’s true for babies, teenagers, old people, and everybody in between. Some of us like to think that we’re different and unique, but our parents thought that too, and so did their parents. Everything and everybody is on a perennial cycle. I’m rather inclined to being philosophical today, but it’s too hot in Ohio for that today. I think I’ll talk about the perennial nature of light instead.

I said I might write something about reflected light when I made my lesson on shadows, but I think I need to talk about the nature of light first. Let’s just consider this a serial proposition. It worked for Charles Dickens, maybe it will work for blogging too?

Rule #1: Light travels in straight lines. We could talk about bending light with gravity or other cool things scientists talk about, but for our purposes, light travels in straight lines.

Rule #2: Light gets interrupted if things get in the way.

Rule #3: Light reflects. Light colors reflect more light than dark things. Yeah, I know, I just said I’m not getting into reflected light yet, but bear with me.

Imagine you’ve got a flashlight. You turn it on, and the light is brightest by the light bulb, and disintegrates the farther away it gets from the bulb. The light spreads out and gets fainter the farther away it gets from you. If you’re standing in dark woods, you may not be able to see what broke that twig in the distance, but maybe you can see the reflection of the gleaming eyes of whatever is lurking out there. (This would be a cool place to insert a ghost story, but I’m just not that good at that kind of thing, so try this out instead.)

Okay, after someone has dealt with the ghost looking for her golden arm or the hungry bear, what happened to the light from the flashlight? Remember rule #2? Light gets interrupted. Even though we don’t think about air getting in the way of things, it’s full of dust, campfire smoke, and bugs. Each dust mote can interrupt some of that light. When enough of that crud has gotten in the way, our light from the flashlight has been so diverted, it runs out of steam – but it might have just enough life left in it to reflect against those shiny eyes hidden in the dark.

These same ideas hold true in daylight. The reason that mountains or trees look bluer and foggier in the distance is because of all the crud in the air between us and them. Things closest to us will have a lot more details than things far away.

You can use these principles to enhance the mood of your art. If there’s a campfire, the smoke will affect the light. In fact, that’s a good reason to have a bonfire tonight. Once the logs have caught, look around. Sing some campfire songs too. If you’ve got someone with a guitar, even better. Who says research needs to be boring?

These are my tv time doodles, scribbled with a ball point pen on bond paper. I suppose it’s completely uncool to mention that I got into a whole side trip thinking about the nature of atoms and light while I was waiting for commercials to end, isn’t it? Ah well, that’s just part of my perennial nature of contemplating stuff that really isn’t going to get me anywhere. I also like drawing flowers. Seems like that would’ve made so much more sense to post for “perennial”, doesn’t it?


  1. I'm right behind you again over at IF. Thanks for the light lesson.

  2. very nice thoughts Linda! and pretty sketches too!!

  3. Thanks! Maybe I'll do more tv doodles and explain why breasts aren't shaped like snow cones too. Not sure how that would go over though :) It's just my opinion that the better we understand these kinds of things, the less time we actually need to spend thinking about them.

  4. Wow, art and physics all in one! I enjoyed the illustrations along the way too :).

  5. Just lit a candle in honor of your teachings, Linda. Thanks. Loved it!

  6. Thanks! I was wondering if I wandered too far off on this one :)

  7. You always managed a marvelous post with great art! It's your signature...:)

  8. Fascinating! I love it when people talk nerdy to me. (And I've spent many a maddening hour trying to wrap my head around the wave/particle duality too.)
    p.s. All those perennial flowers wouldn't get very far without light! ;-)

  9. Thanks Indigene and great point Leah!

  10. I really love that flashlight drawing!!

  11. Hey Linda, Just stopping by your blog for the first time via your comment on Indigene Arts.

    Lovely post!

    I especially like "Light travels in straight lines." Interesting to ponder a bit.

  12. Always a pleasure to stop by your blog, i love your wanderings and some nice sketches too:)

  13. Hi Linda, I'm back and glad I didn't miss your light lesson...cool stuff...and really interesting. Flash lights always take me back to days as a kid when I camped with the Girl Guides and the damned batteries always ran out in the dead of night on the way to the toilet block!! I'm sure I saw some of those gleaming eyes you spoke about..spooky stuff!
    Jane x

  14. Hi Linda, I enjoy your blog very much, your thoughts are always very interesting and inspiring, this is why I award you with the "Sunshine Award 2011" http://tinyurl.com/4yjmuz7 .

    The rules:
    - Thank the person who gave you this award.
    - Write a post about it.
    - Answer to the questions below.
    - Pass it on to 10 bloggers who you think really deserve it and send them a message to let them know.

    The questions:
    01. Your favorite color?
    02. Your favorite animal?
    03. Your favorite number?
    04. Your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
    05. You join facebook or twitter?
    06. What’s your passion?
    07. What´s your favorite: getting or giving presents?
    08. Your favorite pattern?
    09. Your favorite day of the week?
    10. Your favorite flower?

    All best, Susanna

  15. Hurroh! Ahh Linda! (you have to imagine I am saying this with an orientall accent :) I hope that it is not politically incorrect... )

    Well as a student of light I must say that I like your lecture far better than any I received at Uni. I spent a lot of time in dark labs with a slither of light being bounced off a thick piece of glass and asked to draw the diffraction pattern - in the dark - how exciting is that? And I like your 'crud'. That's exactly what it should be called :) In fact I think that I would like to see you do the Linda Hensley Light Workshop Downloadableble E book! (yes doanloadableble has two 'b's.... :)

    For some reason your sketches really get the message across! I must take notes!

    see you and be goode :)

  16. Thanks everybody! Flashlights take me back to Girl Scouts too Jane. Happy times :)

    Thanks so much for the award Susanna! Now how am I supposed to pick just 10 people to share with?! There's so many wonderful people doing so many wonderful things out there.

    Andrew, I've got to agree that bouncing light off glass in the dark doesn't sound that exciting. Bet you learned some interesting things in the process though. Maybe I'll include that in my as yet nonexistant ebook?

  17. Hey Linda, How did you know that I need a light lesson? It’s one thing that I really mess up. Not sure if it’s laziness or just not paying attention... either way, I always have light coming from different angle... maybe if you do a post on bent light or refracted or reflected, I will be able to justify my terrible light use... but for now I suck at it.. There I said it :o) Hey congrats on the award! You really deseve it and thanks for stopping by :o)

  18. Thanks Jack! I often put an arrow on the monitor or on the edge of the paper to remind me where the light is coming from.

  19. Great lesson - and wonderful sketches.
    But your perennial urge to draw flowers is a great take to the topic as well ;)