Can you ex­plain how to paint strong light sources in a dark en­vi­ron­ment?

ImagineFX - - Your Questions Answered... - Kathyrn Miller, Eng­land

Tony replies

For this il­lus­tra­tion I’ve made the two torches the only light source af­fect­ing the main fig­ure, mostly to avoid any con­fu­sion about what light is com­ing from where. If the scene were in a city at night, for in­stance, then the am­bi­ent light from the build­ings would il­lu­mi­nate the fig­ure more.

When there’s just one light, though, any area on the fig­ure that isn’t close to the flame and un­ob­structed will be so dark it be­comes one with the back­ground. If the edges of un­lit sec­tions were vis­i­ble it wouldn’t make sense; the feel­ing of mys­tery cre­ated by only let­ting the viewer see a few key parts of the scene builds drama.

To fig­ure out where the light would hit, imag­ine lit­tle ar­rows shoot­ing off in per­fectly straight lines in ev­ery di­rec­tion from the flame. Each place the ar­rows touch (near the flame) will be lit up, and ev­ery spot that the ar­rows can’t reach will blend into the back­ground. As for how lit a given ob­ject will be, it’s im­por­tant to know that il­lu­mi­na­tion from fire has a high drop-off rate.

The con­cept of lost edges is use­ful in all kinds of paint­ings, but ab­so­lutely cru­cial in torch-lit scenes.

Any­thing more than a few feet from a torch won’t be very il­lu­mi­nated by it, although you can in­crease the in­ten­sity of the light for dra­matic pur­poses.

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