Help me paint dra­matic light­ing and shad­ows

Fia Håkans­son, Swe­den

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Be­fore I start the paint­ing, I con­sider the mood and the story that I want to tell. I’ll go through a men­tal list of scenes that will be ap­pro­pri­ate, or sub­jects whose in­ten­tions will be com­ple­mented by hav­ing dra­matic light­ing. In this case, I want to de­pict a darkly clad fig­ure who’s sneak­ing her way through a dingy pas­sage­way, lit only by the light from the set­ting sun stream­ing from the air vents.

An im­por­tant as­pect of light­ing is mood cre­ation: the in­ten­sity of the light source and colour of the light both help set the tone of the scene. Here, I choose to soften the light around the cheek and hair a lit­tle to sug­gest em­pa­thy for the char­ac­ter, while con­trast­ing with the harsh re­flec­tion of the blade in her hand.

Us­ing light and shad­ows, we can high­light the key parts of the com­po­si­tion, and guide the viewer’s fo­cus on to cer­tain ar­eas. For this paint­ing, I choose hard, di­ag­o­nally cast light, to not only em­pha­sise the slant of the weapon, but to cast half the char­ac­ter’s face in shadow, im­ply­ing an el­e­ment of se­crecy. The in­tense light that’s re­flect­ing off the sharp blade fur­ther am­pli­fies its deadly pur­pose.

I make the light ray shine across the char­ac­ter, not quite hit­ting the eyes be­cause I want them hid­den to give a sense of dis­con­nect.

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