Perfecting a craft that you can’t physically see in the daylight takes many long hours, or in prolific lightpainter Darren Pearson’s case, many, many long nights. Apple gave us a glimpse into the process behind Pearson’s LED illustrations during a live in-store presentation, showing us how to use our smartphones to create our own illuminated renderings. As part of an ongoing series of live workshops and lectures at Apple stores, Pearson’s event allowed curious minds a glimpse into his process, and hopefully encourage their own future creations.
Since 2007, Pearson has been travelling to locations near and far, setting up tripods and cameras, dancing through the motions to create his intricate light paintings. Using a small LED pen-light of his own fabrication, Pearson uses a Night-Writer with interchangeable colored tips to draw through the night sky. For the past nine years he has been illustrating his signature skeletons, dinosaurs, and animals under his sometimes better known online persona, Darius Twin. While the tools he uses are fairly simple, the process and lengths Pearson goes through to create his final stills and animations are time consuming examples of his craft that he has nearly perfected through repetition.
This method of drawing with light was first presented to Pearson via the classic image of Pablo Picasso from 1949, in which the artist is depicted in his studio with a long exposure of a light rendered in the foreground. This was Pearson’s initial glimpse into the world of light painting and he was immediately drawn to the notion. He began to experiment with the methods on his own, and now nearly a decade later, his extensive portfolio of paintings prove there is more to the night air than simply darkness.
Apart from his still frame images, Pearson also creates time consuming stop-motion animations, built up one frame at a time, over the course of months, or even years. His illustrated light trails become impressive short videos of his life-sized sculptures, skateboarding, running and jumping through dark landscapes.
During his in-store presentation at Apple in Santa Monica, Pearson encouraged light painting enthusiasts to "Think Vitruvian" during their light painting adventures, referring to the classic Leonardo da Vinci drawing The Vitruvian Man. This classic image depicts a man with his arms and legs stretched into a full circle, inside a square. In creating his paintings, Pearson often uses the proportions of his own body to predict scale of his final renderings.
So, when is the best time to go out and create an illuminated drawing on your own? Pearson recommends setting up long exposures during the blue hour, which is right after sunset, during a full moon, or a new moon when the sky is the darkest. He admits that it often takes many tries for him to get the illustration just how he envisioned it, but the practice and repetition are what makes the final image perfect. Comparing his process to the words of Ansel Adams, he reminds us, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”.
See more of Darren Pearson's work on his website.