The Professor of Shadowology

vincent bal 2It began with a spontaneous teacup doodle, and has steadily grown into printed postcards, calendars, two excellent books (Shadowology and Shadow World), and a dedicated Instagram following! Today, we’re delighted to chat with Belgian artist Vincent Bal, who has an extraordinarily playful and unique eye for life, light, objects, and shadows.

When did your relationship with shadows first begin?

It started by accident in the spring of 2016. I was working at my desk and noticed how the shadow of a teacup looked quite like an elephant. So, I completed the image by drawing some legs and ayes and took a picture. When I shared it on social media, people reacted very enthusiastic.I thought it was funny too, so I decided to try and make 100 of these ‘shadow doodles’, I have not stopped since.

How have your interactions with light, shadow and objects changed over the past five years?

In the beginning I was happy with every image I could extract from the shadows. I was constantly looking through the drawers in the house to find new objects to work with. At this point I think I have exhausted the supplies in my own house. I must have tried everything. Also, I set the bar higher. I don’t want to repeat myself, so sometimes it takes me longer to come up with something new.

Also, I have developed little videos a bit more. It can be satisfying to see the image created before your eyes and it is fun to add an extra layer with sound effects and music.

Is there an unusual story or connection behind one particular drawing?

They are all special to me. But I remember the first time I discovered I could use the shadow as a setting for a scene. So not really use the outer shape of the shadow, but rather the nuances in the grey inside. I was sitting on a terrace of a house we rented in Italy. Every morning around seven the sun would shine on that specific place and give beautiful long shadows.

So I went there and starting experimenting with some of the glasses from the cupboard of the rental house. And suddenly I saw a beach. I just added two small silhouettes and some seagulls, and it came to life. The image was called ‘Love On Shadow Beach’. That was a wonderful discovery, and I have made a few beach scenes since then.

Many of your illustrations use natural light. But others appear to use artificial light as well. Do you also have a set of particular lamps and lights you use…similar to a painter using different types of brushes?

The Sun is definitely the best light source, she gives wonderfully crisp shadows. So in the first months I always drew with sunlight. But that has a few disadvantages as well. The sun moves, and so you must draw quick, because the shadows really change in the course of one minute. That way I could never do drawings that were a bit more elaborate.
And I live in Belgium, we don’t have a lot of sunshine here. I should have invented some way to draw with rain!

So I started working with lights, and it was quite a search to come up with the perfect light source. It had to be a very small source, so the shadows are sharp. The bigger the light source, the less focused the shadows are.

In the beginning I used a clear light bulb, but they get very hot, and I once almost burnt some cushions that way. Now I have a little LED light standing on a flexible arm and that works well. But whenever the sun shines into my office, I feel the urge to see what I can do with that light.

Is there one object you have that you can’t quite capture the shadow/concept of yet?

Maybe in the future I would like to make something bigger, but the logistics scare me a little.There is practically no planning in my work now. I discover and create at the same time, and with bigger objects and shadows that might be more difficult, but who knows?


Images courtesy of Vincent Bal

A Proper Toast

Meet a toast with a LOT of personality! Today’s blog post is a story time, simple project, and quick snack, all rolled into one!

We recommend Toasty by Sarah Hwang (Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House Books, 2021, read here by the Loveland Public Library). Toasty is a slice of bread, but he really wants to be a dog. Even though he knows there are differences and major challenges, the intrepid Toasty heads to the park to meet some pups. Unfortunately, all does not go as planned. But when a girl appears at the moment Toasty needs her the most, a beautiful friendship begins.

You’ll need:

  • A piece of toast
  • A toaster or oven

Why I didn’t figure out this toast drawing thing when my kids were smaller?!? It’s adorable. First, use you fingers to firmly press a design (or a letter or word) into an uncooked slice of bread. Pop the slice in the toaster, and done!

Of course, me being who I am, I did wonder if the cooking time/temperature impacted how the design appeared on the toast…

toast test 3The answer is basically no. Above you can see 3 slices of toast cooked on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd settings on my toaster. The design appears about the same. Or…maybe I did the experiment so I would have an excuse to eat three yummy slices of toast that morning? Hmmmmm. Totally not telling.

Ransom is as Ransom Does

Quick! You have 90 seconds to describe the inside of Chuck E. Cheese, using only 75 random letters. OK, how about asking your neighbor to borrow something from their kitchen? Summarize the Star Wars movies? Explain to a grocery store worker why you have a monkey with you?

Welcome to Ransom Notes (by Charty Party), an awesome word magnet game that challenges up to six players to create the best description they can…using very few words…and zero grammar!

ransom notes box 4Retailing for around $40, the game includes 840 word magnets, 6 metal player submission cards, and 255 prompt cards.

I will tell you that the game does not come out of the box ready-to-play…you have to individually separate multiple sheets of magnets. But after that, you’re ready to go!

Each player gets a metal submission card, and grabs 3 pinches of the letter tiles (about 75 tiles total). Then each player organizes their letters facing up. This process takes a WHILE. But I will say that the 2 players I played with had a good chuckle over their words, and were spontaneously stringing together funny sentences while also getting organized for game play.

The round begins when a prompt card is flipped. Players then have 60-90 seconds to come up with a response using their magnet tiles (note: I played this game with my 13 and 10 year-old, and we extended that period to 2-3 minutes). When the time’s up, everyone shares their ransom note! The results prompted much laughter. Here’s one of our rounds:

With the results revealed, a Judge is selected (and there’s a new judge every round). You can decide who judges the round, or – and I really like this – you can spin the bottom of the game box on the table. One side has “you’re the judge” printed on it, and whoever it lands facing is the Judge!

you're the judge 5 The Judge picks the winner of the round, and the winner is awarded the prompt card. The next round begins, and the game ends when one person has won five prompt cards total. The Judge can pick themselves to win a round, but the rest of the players must unanimously agree.

In summary, Ransom Note is really funny and we enjoyed it!  It’s simple to play, and there is a whole lot of creative writing happening. The prompt cards are hilarious and unusual. The game box states Ransom Note is intended for ages 17+ but that mostly refers to some of the more adult prompt cards. Those can easily be removed from the deck if you’re playing with younger kiddos. My only quibble is that the magnet words don’t always adhere to to metal game cards very well. But you only have to use them for a short amount of time, so eh…it’s fine.

Highly recommended!