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3 Questions for a Light Painting Master

Darren Pearson turns the night landscape into a canvas for his colorful light-painted photographs and animations
Dariustwin light painting photograph from Fiat Lux animation

Eyes glued to our smartphones, Americans are bombarded with visual imagery all day every day. It’s not often something truly unique stops us in our tracks. Enter the artist Darren Pearson, better known by the pseudonym Dariustwin. He creates art that stands out from the noise—perfect for pausing the endless scroll in an effort to see more.

Pearson is a light painter in the spirit of Pablo Picasso. In his 1949 collaboration with photographer Gjon Mili, Picasso used a pen light to draw in the air during long exposures. Like Picasso, Pearson uses light and time to make images unique to the photographic process, sketching with light on the world around him.

The resulting photographs are graphic and colorful–something we’re not used to seeing after dark. Pearson uses the nighttime landscape as a canvas onto which he paints scenes of dinosaurs walking and skeletons dancing. He uses a special light-painting tool that he invented himself (the Night Writer, available for purchase via his website) and he doesn’t just make still photographs. He sometimes makes dozens of them in a night before stringing them together to make stop-motion style animations. The effect is jaw-dropping, as evidenced by his short film “Fiat Lux,” below.

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Pearson is a multi-hyphenate visual artist; part photographer, part painter, part filmmaker, part inventor. In a world where we have seen it all ten times over, we haven’t seen the likes of Dariustwin very often.

Triceratops light painting by Dariustwin

Q: Some of your photographs—actually, the videos in particular—take many hours to complete. This must be quite a daunting undertaking, especially when you were just getting started. I’m wondering what advice you have for photographers who are kicking around an idea for something they want to try but they’re stuck, perhaps afraid it won’t work, or that it will be too difficult or take too much time. Do you subscribe to the adage “Just Do It!” or is something else a prime motivator?

A: I think the Nike slogan works, but there are a lot of nuances to consider. The devil is in the details, so to speak. My advice—99% of the time—is to do it! But also do your homework. Research as much as you can before you take on a project so you will know exactly what you’re getting into. At the end of the project you’ve either succeeded or failed, but you’ll never know unless you try. Success is not a one and done thing. It takes time, practice and dedication. Big projects get done in baby steps, so take the first step and keep going. Progression starts happening when you get into a solid routine.

Folk Band light painting by Dariustwin

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Q: Color seems to be very important to your work. I think part of the reason it’s so distinctive is because at night we don’t typically see much color with our eyes; rods and cones and all that. I’m wondering what you think about the importance of color in your work, and if there are any special techniques you use to ensure you get the colors right.

A: I used to work as a graphic designer before I got into photography and at one time I worked at a screen-printing shop where I had to take an image and separate all the colors onto different screens for the silk-screening process. This experience guides me with some of my light painting work, namely the color call-outs in my sketches. It’s another way of planning out an image. You have colors that work well together and colors that clash. I’ve found it helpful to practice little sketches on my phone to see what the design might look like on location.

Stairway to the Stars light painting by Dariustwin

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Q: What advice has helped you most in your artistic pursuits? Is there particular wisdom that has been especially helpful in finding direction with your work?

A: I’d have to refer to a coffee mug I have. It has a quote from—supposedly—Thomas Jefferson (but other reports say it could be Ben Franklin). It reads “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.” To me it is a reminder when I lack the motivation: it’s cold, it’s windy, I’m tired, whatever the excuse… The point is, I am able now and I might not get another chance. So put forth the effort even if your brain is dragging your body along for the ride.

To see more of Darren Pearson’s light painting photography, visit dariustwin.com. Prints are available there too, in his print shop.

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