The Art of Painting with Light, Part 1: the Gonzo Sector

The Art of Painting with Light, Part 1: the Gonzo Sector


Light Tartans Fountain Park #4 by Vicki DaSilva      via Whitehot Magazine

I wasn’t long out of high school when I saw a painting of light — just shapes of spectral light.  No apples, vases, dark-eyed faces, but at the same time it wasn’t an abstraction, a slash or film of color.  It was representational, a still life.  Light was a subject you could paint.  That notion struck a tone in me that still vibrates like a tuning fork.  (Inertia follows different rules inside the psyche.)

Nowadays I seek out light as a prized medium.  In the next few posts we’ll look at artists who paint and draw wonderfully with it.

The glorious artwork just above is by Vicki DaSilva, a US artist who began in graffiti and moved on into an artform quite her own.  She paints and sculpts space with pure light.  Look at those lush rolled-out carpets of light above, weaving a tartan the size of a stadium.  The intensity of color, the blue background that pushes the night-dark surrounds far away.

Like most people who use light as a medium, DaSilva incorporates photography into her practice.  She goes for a single time exposure.  For this she uses fluorescent tubes with colored gels.  We can count at least 10 passes that she made, pulling the yellow/orange tube across distances.  And this doesn’t account for the blue.

For the sheets of light in Tartan DaSilva rolls the pole of light along a portable track system.   For her SLALOM #4 below you can watch her in Vicki DaSilva Jedi Life carrying the tall light in and out of the columns.  Depending on the piece, DaSilva may take minutes or hours to get her one exposure.

SLALOM #1 (revolving triptych) by Vicki DaSilva    via Whitehot Magazine

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The next three works are by a German duo called LAPP-PRO.  Their work is complex, brainy and energetic.  Look in the photo just below at the foreground beams approaching the camera.  Beautiful technique.

There’s an artistic movement, LAPP (Light Art Performance Photography) and a website devoted to it, Light Painting Photography.

Light Follows by LAPP-PRO      via theblogismine

LightFighting by LAPP-PRO     via photoble

Light Storming  by LAPP-PRO    via theblogismine


This cheeky and nimble work outlines what I assume is someone else’s painted graffiti.  Mooroolbark Graffiti Light Painting by Shannon’s Rocket Photography (based in Australia)    via Flickr


Another German light-painting group is Lichtfactor.  Fascinating how much light painting is emerging from graffiti artists.  Also how the physical out-there energy spills over into the performance aspect of this work.  Not all light painting is for the camera, some is pure performance, dance, glowing spectacle that plays with the persistence-of-vision effect in your retinas.

Abstract by Lichtfaktor    via Behance

Forest 2 by Lichtfaktor         via Dark Roasted Blend


This delights me immensely.   It’s a picture, a book illustration, it’s as planned-out as DaSilva’s Tartan but a whole different animal.   A category-bender.  This is the only example I’ve found that takes a landscape and makes it pictorial.  The German photographer, philneu on Flickr, doesn’t seem to have taken this idea any further.  Dratso.  It’s potent.

The blue LEDs were already on the wind turbine but philneu put in the flashes and chose the orange time of day.  I love the other-worldly light on the crop rows stretching towards you.

untitled by philneu          via Flickr

I started researching this topic days ago and fell down a rabbit hole into a vast domain.   Other aspects of light painting are coming soon.


look further:

Vicki DaSilva

Light Painting history

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