Light is a curious thing, we all think we know what it is and yet it seems to be so elusive? How come we can’t get a grip on it?
Maybe because it changes each time you look at it. Think not, take a look at the same piece of real estate, at the same time every day for a month and find out. You won’t see the same light twice.
We’ve all seen what light does to sunsets, just give it a few clouds and let it sink beyond the horizon and be prepared to be struck blind. The colors and the drama can’t be matched.
As a photographer I deal with light all of the time, it is the single most important thing I need to capture an image. But don’t walk away, light is important to painters too.
Let’s take a look at some basic light and see what it does when we try to use it.
Light coming from below the target of the image, be it photographic or paint makes for dramatic shadows. This can be perfect when the image is something technical or three dimensional, nothing like deep shadows to give substance to something which by its very nature has no substance.
But there’s a danger here, light from below can pick up casts from the background and transfer it to the subject. This is critical for photographers and you’re probably saying “I’m a painter it doesn’t effect me,” but you’d be wrong.
Film makers have known since the 30’s that a slightly greenish cast makes for a very convincing corpse/monster and if it happens to come form below the center line so much the better. Deep shadows and green tint give a very creepy look to any image.
Painters have to be aware of this because nothing ruins a painting faster than having the light come from the wrong place. Put that light in the wrong quadrant and the viewer will spend all of their time trying to figure out where the heck that light came from instead of understanding your composition.
In the thirties and early forties there was a B actor, Rhondo Hatton. His chief claim to fame and the reason why he got so much work was because of his brutish facial structure. This was due to acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland. Of course it gave him a career so I’m thinking he didn’t mind nearly so much as he would have if it had been the heartbreak of psoriasis and no career move in sight, but you’d have to ask Rhondo.
The thing about Rhondo was that he did have exceptionally brutish features, but they were given a helping hand by low green lighting. That made him into a regular creep show all by himself.
Now while this was a wonderful thing for Rhondo, career-wise and all, it would be terrible for a bride or a child and this is where attention to lighting comes into play for both painters and photographers, don’t make your brides into Rhondo Hatton.
In fact have a care that you don’t do this to anyone unless it is Halloween and they want to look creepy. Any person place or thing which has distinct angles to their appearance can be turned into a night crawler by low green lighting.
So what do you do? Remember way back when you were in school, yes, that was before Roosevelt and Daylight Savings Time, you probably had a mention of the color wheel and how to find the complimentary colors.
No, you don’t need a time machine, but a trip down memory lane wouldn’t hurt.
That lesson squandered on you when all you really cared about was what was going to happen to Davey Crockett this week and whether or not you’d get your Sky King Lunch box, could have told you about pink.
No, not the singer although if you like rock and haven’t heard Pink you ought to give a listen, cause the stinkpot can really blow and she has so much personality she’s a hoot to watch and given that her talent is singing and she’s a big-time, wild-assed, rock-star, she has some pretty exceptional talents as an aerialist. But I digress; pink can make a world of difference to your work, photograph or painting.
See pink is a softening agent. You add a touch of pink, in light or paint and you can take years off a face that would have been comfortable when the Pilgrims were just grim and the rock was still a big clod. Add pink to a landscape and you bring spring out in a winder scene, pink to the ocean and those tossed and battered ships will make safe harbor, people, animals and plants and you make them all look a lot younger.
Here’s a thought, if you have a pal who has been in the hands of the Croakers lately, like, I don’t know, me, then try some pink and get those haggard hospital lines out of their tortured faces.
I have a cousin, yes, even I have family, who is old enough to be my Aunt, but because of a recession in the early part of the last century, she was born to parents twelve years older than my own parents making her twelve years older than little ole me, but still the daughter of my Aunt and Uncle and that makes her my cousin and not my Aunt, see?
Anyway, I’ve been promising her a picture so she can see how much weight I’ve lost courtesy of my surgery and it turns out I also owe my sister, yes, I have one of those too, a picture and I want to give them one which will reflect my weight loss without scaring the beejesus out of them which is hard to do considering the subject, but I want to try it anyway, so I’ve been experimenting around and so far my results are not quiet as good as the look ole Rhondo had so I’m still working on it, but now I know what to do.
I’m getting a lot of light from two or more sources with a pink filter or drape and maybe that will keep me form looking like Rhondo Hatton as The Creeper and not scare the living daylights out of my relatives.
So the next time you approach the canvas or peer through the lens, think. Think about the good light and pink and don’t bring back Rhondo Hatton.