Light painting explodes on a black background and grabs the attention of all who are watching. Colorful paintings appear against a black backdrop similar to how stars appear in a dark sky. Light painting is sometimes as much a combination of graceful movements by the person holding the light source as it is the ability to draw something.
In its purest sense, light painting is the act of moving a light source such as a small flashlight and taking photos with a camera using a long shutter speed. It gets much more complicated with the addition of computer software or when bodies covered in illuminated clothing or accessories step into the picture. Paint that glows when illuminated is another way to create a light painting that is a more traditional interpretation of a painting. There is also a digital version of light paintings that are created by using software programs to project images on a dark surface.
PAINTING WITH LIGHT: AN EVOLVING ART FORM
Light painting photography as the technique it is today began in 1914 when motion study pioneer Frank Gilbreth used small lights and the open shutter of a camera to track the motion of manufacturing and clerical workers. American modernist artist Man Ray, in his 1935 series “Space Writing,” was the first known art photographer to use the technique and other artists began making light paintings as early as 1940.
Far from the old-fashioned paintbrush and canvas, light painting is a modern, fun, and relatively young art form. It depends on technology to bring it to an audience. Light painting might be thought of as a temporary type of art like other performance art, but the power of photography and videography enable light paintings to last forever. Photos or videos can easily make light paintings permanent.
LIGHT PAINTING VIDEOS: A BRIGHT IDEA
Light painting videos can be found on a number of online websites. YouTube has one of the largest collections of videos documenting the medium, so there’s no need to spend a lot of time performing a video search. Seeing how these artistic creations are orchestrated through movement and the beautiful images it creates are just a click away.
One of the more popular artists using this medium is the Licht Faktor Crew from Germany. The crew showcases their work on its LICHTFAKTOR YouTube channel. These professional light painting artists create pictures with software programs, hand-held light sources and cameras to create pictures, and amazing light picture shows. To get an idea of their work, check out the video below that won the German Web Video Award 2012 in the Jury and Audience Price category AAA (Academy Approved Art).
Artist Jason Page states on his YouTube channel profile, “Every light painting is unique and unrepeatable.” In 2012, he auditioned for America’s Got Talent. The light paintings can take hours to prepare, but just minutes to create. Check out his demo video to see his work:
Another artist that paints with light is Jinpei Washiro. He is a Japanese oil painter that uses luminous paint and a small flashlight to create an awe-inspiring light painting in this YouTube video.
LEARN HOW TO PAINT WITH LIGHT
If you don’t know how to create your own light paintings, there are lots of video tutorials that teach the craft available on YouTube. The video below from Awesome Farm Films offers easy to follow tips to create your own light painting — no experience required. Watch the video and start exploring the technique:
See a video that you love or a light painting technique that inspires the artist in you? Save a copy of it and watch it again. Just use RealPlayer to download the video in seconds and watch it as many times as you like. If you don’t already have RealPlayer, click the orange button in the top right corner of this page to download a free version.
What will you paint with lights in the middle of the dark? What favorite videos do you have in the light painting genre? Share your video links and thoughts below on this technique.