The art of drawing with light can be traced back to prehistoric artists. Cave drawings found in Lascaux, France are an example of how these early artists used light to draw animals and symbols. These artists drew animals on walls of light stone or sandstone in 8,000-year-old Palaeolithic caves, using variations of lighter colors to add depth to their art.
From these earliest drawings, another masterful artist, Michelangelo infused his drawings with light by using an actual handheld lamp to change the appearance of the light surrounding his famous picture, Mona Lisa. His use of drawing with light is seen more prominently in "The Crucifixion of St. Peter" and the Sistine Chapel.
During the Renaissance, artists developed "Chiaroscuro," a technique that uses strong contrasts in tone between light and dark as models for three-dimensional forms for a dramatic effect. These are found in the artwork of Caravaggio, da Vinci, and Rembrandt.
Picasso also recognized the importance of drawing with light. When Picasso met Gjon Milli, a lighting prodigy, and innovator, Picasso was profoundly awed by Milli's use of light drawing so much that Picasso was disposed to project 30 drawings of Greek profiles, bulls, centaurs, and his signature all drawn in the light.
Thus, future artists and photographers may well have learned the importance of drawing with light from these earliest artists.
With the evolution of hi-tech and light emitting devices, today's light painters have access to tools that would likely amaze those early cave artists and Michelangelo.
Light painting is today's most exciting type of art. It can be added to photographs to create fantastic subjects, background scenery and videos that activate motion into several dimensions.
In the dance and music world, for example, light drawings are used to create illusions not possible with static light. This requires skilled lighting artists experienced in lighting design and technique, stage lighting and dimensional motion lighting.
In photography, drawing with light requires special tools. These include:
- A camera with manual controls
- An electroluminescent wire (El wire)
- Flashes and strobes
- A pixel stick
- A digital light wand
- Neutral density filter
- Lightsabers and swords
- Glow Sticks
- A tripod
The art of drawing with light is limited only by an individual's level of creativity. Light in photography plays an important role in the final results. The reason light is so important is that it impacts color brilliance, luminosity, and photographic texture. When light is linked to the art of drawing, the final result can be a masterpiece of color, texture, and luminosity.
Examples of the art of drawing with light often happen accidentally to novice photographers who try to photograph a night sky with a comet soaring overhead. The darkness of the sky makes the comet seem more prominent, but the comet's tail becomes distorted as a trail of light.
Once you have chosen the tools for your light drawing project, the next step is choosing the best subject for your photograph. Beginners might choose to use a familiar subject like a child or adult, add strobe lighting or a digital light wand to give the photo's subject a dimensional appearance. Be sure your camera is positioned properly and its manual controls are accurate for your needs.
Once you have mastered the art of drawing with light with simple subjects, move on to more challenging projects. Choose tools that help you reach your objective of creating a unique light painting like Picasso or Milli might have done.
Sources to choose light drawing subjects
There are many options for sources of ideas for light drawing subjects. When in doubt, consider a course of study to develop light drawing skill sets that teaches the basics of contour, shading, angles, edges, proportion and negative shape and space.
Another source is the highly recognized photographer, Darin Collison, whose skills in drawing with light have attracted a broad range of clients for his unique photographic technique. To view the photographic portfolio of Darin Collison, visit http://darincollisonphotography.com.au/becoming-invisible/ and be inspired by the art of drawing with light.