ight is very powerful. You can completely transform somebody with light. I can make them look like horrible monsters or I can make them look like gods and goddesses,” says Patrick Rochon. For the last 20 years, the Montreal artist has been using a unique medium to convey the images in his head and heart: painting with light.
If you’ve never heard of light painting before, there’s no need to feel ashamed. Historically, there aren’t too many people who have used light to paint. “People were doing photography and using light painting but there was nobody actually thinking like a light painter,” says Rochon.
Light painting requires several things. First and foremost: a camera capable of long exposures. It’s the ability to keep the shutter open for extended periods of time that allows the light painting to happen. In Rochon’s case, some paintings can be finished in as few as 20 seconds, while others can take up to half an hour to complete. Then you need the lights. “I started with basic lights,” says Rochon. “We call them flashlights but they’re actually hand-held torches. I started with really simple lights and then I added colours to the lights with photographic gels and filters.”
As Rochon evolved as a light painter, though, he realized that he needed something more specialized than a simple torch, so he started making his own tools. In 2011 he built the first Liteblade, which features 3D lighting versus the flat light he uses to point at a subject. “I’ll use it to create light accessories around the model or backgrounds,” Rochon says of his invention. “I’ll create gradients and very nice edges, beautiful effects and trails of light.”
One set of tools Rochon doesn’t use too much of, however, is digital editing software like Photoshop. “I found over time that the more I get into the camera, the better,” he says. “That’s really where the magic happens. Digital is great for touching up, but I try to get the colours right during the shoot. I try to get all the lights in one take.”
Like all artists, Rochon’s art is constantly evolving, and he’s always looking for new challenges. “I’m always questioning everything,” Rochon says. “Technically speaking, do I have the right gear? Is there something I want to do solo or with a team? Do I want to make it into a small, personal thing? Do I want to make it into a bigger thing? Then there’s the second part of the journey, making it real, going into the world and putting all the right pieces into place. Sometimes it takes months.”
From his personal art displayed in galleries to ads for Red Bull and Toyota, Rochon’s work is multifaceted. Does he prefer one over the other? “I don’t see much difference between making personal artwork and doing a big project with a company,“Rochon says. “For me, it has equal value and equal challenges. It’s different, it’s a different process, but it’s as important. I think working with big companies is very interesting because you take them on a journey because they don’t know what they’re getting into and yet you’re the guide who wants to bring it to the good place and into excellence. It has just as much value if not more because right now, with the internet, these things spread and inspire a lot of other people. I think it’s very cool what’s going on right now and I have had that struggle of what’s art, what’s not art and what’s commercial, what’s not commercial, and I realized it’s all the same thing. We’re all making ourselves progress and evolve and explore through all these experiments and all these collaborations. In my eyes, doing a viral campaign with a company has just as much value as being in the gallery.”
Rather than thinking it through too much, Rochon uses his intuition as a guide through the creative process. “I’ll listen to the hints that come to me,” he says. “I’ll listen to what attracts me right now, what am I thinking a lot about right now. Then I’ll see what really tickles the interior, what really excites me and I’ll be like ‘You know what? I really want to do more of that, there’s something about that that’s calling.’”
For Rochon, it’s all about the creative process. “I think the creative journey is really what I’m interested in, and it’s really what’s going on behind every project,” he says. “There’s a small or big journey behind it that gives birth to something original. There are so many different types of shooting, from abstract to portrait, fashion, art, projects with cars. There are all kinds of creations and all that is because of the process behind it, the creative journey behind it that brings me to these results.”