From Mundane to Brilliant: The Effects of Light

What does “light” mean to you? Prior to speaking with artist Alain Picard, I had a somewhat shallow sense of the important role that it plays in painting. Almost every evening, I wait for the golden hour to transform the world into a glowing masterpiece, and when dew shimmers on blades of grass I can’t help but stop what I’m doing and just look, amazed by what many others might take for granted. I had an understanding of light, but it wasn’t complete. After interviewing Picard during his stay in Cincinnati while he was filming three new DVDs on how to paint light, I’ve been, well, enlightened. Here’s a little glimpse at what he had to say about how light inspires him. 

Pastel painting by Alain Picard artist

After Sargent (pastel, 7×19) by Alain Picard. “Pin” this to your art board on Pinterest.

CH: When it comes to painting light, do you have a specific muse or inspiration? 
AP: My wife has been my muse as a figure model; she is just a wonderful subject. But I will say this: the muse is light and capturing the light is forever a fascinating process. You can actually illuminate any subject–whether it’s a landscape, a still life, a figure–something that’s mundane can become brilliant and incredible with a little illumination. So for me, and I really mean it, the muse is light. 

CH: In your video “The Dramatic Still Life,” you take great care to arrange three apples. What’s the most important part of a still life set-up, and what are some ways to play with the lighting?
AP:For me the most important part is setting yourself up for success so that you design something and then light it in such a way that you can create a wonderful, dramatic still life. I love when there are dramatic light and shadow patterns. You can pick up on some of the interesting, abstract patterns that are taking place, created by the light and shadow. 
     Painting the light is such a joy when you illuminate it with a really nice, strong, single light source. In the studio, I use a spotlight with little barn doors that control where the light goes on the subject so that you can create some very dramatic lighting effects. In many respects, light can become the subject. You can illuminate and compose just about anything in a beautiful way. 

Picard’s newest DVDs (get the collection here) are now available at North Light Shop. Scroll down to watch our interview. In it, Picard gives advice on trying out new mediums, taking on commissioned pieces, and more. 

Seeking the light,

Cherie Haas, online editor**Subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and ideas, and score a free download on Pastel Painting: 4 Articles on Pastel Basics for Artists.



Part One of our interview:

Part Two of our interview:

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