Help me paint dramatic lighting and shadows
Fia Håkansson, Sweden
Answer Jia-Ying replies
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.