Light It Up

You can’t overestimate the importance of lighting in representational art. Its foremost (and most obvious) purpose is illumination: Light enables you to see what you’re trying to paint or draw. But this isn’t where the story ends. Light also performs other essential functions in your artwork, namely setting a mood.

Set up your model with a light shining from the upper right, then try these variations:

  • Soften your subject with a secondary fill light in the lower left.
  • Removed that secondary light, creating stronger contrasts.
  • Move the primary light closer to the figure, leaving most of the face in shadow.

Now, put the primary light below the model’s chin and try these variations:

  • Place a secondary light coming in from the left.
  • Take away the secondary light source. This could create a somewhat sinister appearance.
  • Finally, move the light farther away from the model’s chin, creating a softer, more romantic glow.

“There are so many textures and patterns in nature—in fishes, foliage and rock outcroppings—and I plan to investigate them and then employ them in my compositions in the future,” says David Mueller. The second son of cartoonist Robert G. Mueller, he’s a graduate of The American Academy of Art in Chicago. Among his recently completed works is a portrait of George Voinovich, former governor of Ohio. His Web site is

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