Cast Shadows: Behind and Before

Cast Shadows: Behind and Before

When you are drawing shadows, there are a couple of rules which need to be remembered in order to create a natural looking illusion of light. Fortunately, Andrew Loomis helps us negotiate these points in his book Successful Drawing.

The first rule he indicates is an observation regarding the two location choices of light source when representing cast shadows; that is, a behind light source or a before light source. Behind and before are designations of where the light source is in relation to the viewer of the picture, not the subject.  Examine these samples I’ve drawn for you below.

In the picture of the Ogre below, the primary cast shadow on the ground plane shows us that the light source is behind you– the viewer of this picture.  The ogre’s actual body is interrupting the direction the light is falling, and hence, it casts a shadow behind.  Notice that cast shadows which are even somewhat to the side of the subject are still considered the result of a behind light source.

If the light source is behind, the shadow will fall behind.

(NB. In this drawing there happens to be two light sources, as you can see in the secondary small cast shadow under the ogre’s chin, and likewise below his hands.  For this matter, we are regarding only the large cast shadow on the ground.)

Screen Shot 2019-02-06 at 3.24.47 PM



This drawing is considered to be a light source which is before the viewer.  One can tell on account of the fact that the shadow is falling between where we the viewers are, and the subject matter of the lady, as she sits on the plane.  One can imagine the sun above her, in the sky, before where you are standing, looking at this lady.  The sun before you, therefore constitutes a before light source.

If the light source is before, the shadow will fall between.Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 6.45.42 AM


Now that the terms before and behind have been established, there are several rules about casting shadows from before and behind light.  Here are  Loomis’ rules about drawing cast shadows.

  1. If the light source is behind the viewer, the angle of the light comes from below the horizon.
  2. If the light source is before the viewer, the angle of light comes from above the horizon.
  3. If the light source is before the viewer, put the shadow VP on the horizon nearby, below the light source.
  4. When the light source is before the viewer, the angle of light is the nearest of the 3 cast shadow considerations;
    • position of light source
    • angle of light
    • VP of shadow on the horizon
  5. All shadows radiate from a point on the ground directly below the light source.  This point is the shadow vanishing point (SVP)
  6. All shadows within a drawing recede to the same SVP.
  7. The length of shadow on the ground plane is determined by the angle of light.


That is a lot to digest, so at this point, it may be of use to my readers to think on these concepts for a while, before diving into how one actually draws before and behind light source shadows.  Next week, I will demonstrate that process, as well as how to cast shadows of organic shapes, like those in my samples above.

Thank you very much for your continued interest.

Bye for now.


Bootcamp Comic

Hello to my readers

The Understanding Loomis blog is going to pause for the next 30 days.  Fortunately, regular blog entries are not going to be pausing though.

Today, I am embarking on a slightly different project which I will post about here, in order to keep track of the progress, and record the event.

I am taking on a project inspired by a series of Youtube videos produced by a man named David V. Stewart, and his colleague Matthew J. Wellman.


These men are authors of science fiction and fantasy, as well as deep fonts of knowledge and information regarding the aforementioned genres generally.  I have read one short selection from both authors, and the writing in both of their works is both engaging and well done. Their internet media content ranges from musings on Hollywood movies,  to technical considerations for writing novels, through political and philosophical commentaries, and even into music theory and practical instruction lessons.  They produce very intelligent Youtube videos as well as a podcast called “Writers of the Dawn”.

Their author sites on Amazon are here:

In one of their presentations, they introduced a concept they called the “bootcamp” philosophy for writing a novel.  The idea is that given a constrained time frame, a person could be remarkably productive and achieve a single very large, set goal -despite the strain of working long hours.  The key of course being that the person acts rationally, and makes for themselves a schedule in which the goal is broken into manageable steps, constrained by time, and is something achievable relative to their abilities.

In this format, David V. Stewart was able to write a full novel, from conception to publishing in 30 days, which he did for National Write a Novel Month.

I became inspired greatly by these two authors, and have decided to complete a similar feat -to conceive of, script, pencil and ink a full comic in 30 days.  My wife suggested to not to try to do the lettering and colouring in that time frame, which after considering the rule of having the task be “achievable relative to one’s abilities”, I decided she was right.  I will colourize and letter it though, after the thirty days, then publish the comic.

In this blog, I will post the daily work I have done.  The script is original, and is called Strange Tales: The Trial of Ingretta.  It is going to be a pulp-style comic, set in 1928, with proto-nazi women warriors, ancient cities, prehistoric beasts and a giant ape who wears a crown of gold…  Here is page one!  Pencilled and inked by myself in one day.

This is Ingretta, and she and I are going to have a tough 30 days ahead.  Get to know her!!

Ingretta1 screenshot