How to Manage the Light in Our Artwork

Welcome to another Art Post. My name is Veronica Huacuja. I’m a plastic artist and an online art teacher at an Art Program I've designed. I have some good tips for your painting process. Hope you find them useful.

This is a very true principle. One of the major topics we artists deal with every time we begin a portrait is where should the source(s) of light might be. In other words, where the lights and shadows will take place in our work and the effects on our character (s), atmosphere, palette, etc.

To exemplify this, I add the following work:

Title: Study Head 29

Artist: Veronica Huacuja

Media: Oil, acrylic on paper

Size: 24 x 32 x 0.1 cm

Year: 2018

Collection: Portraits

Previous thoughts. Let’s learn from the great masters how they deal with this topic. One of these painters is Rembrandt (1606-1669, Dutch Republic). He used a standard lighting technique for some of his portrait’s studios.

Getting to know... That Rembrandt’s lighting is “(…) characterized by an illuminated triangle (also called Rembrandt patch) under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face. We achieve this by "using one light and a reflector, or two lights. (This way to solve the illumination is) popular because (it can produce images) which appear both natural and interesting with a minimum of equipment." (1) Study the cited elements of this technique in Image 5 of 5.

Material I used to make up the wok. 

  • A physical model (a relative, neighbour, etc.)
  • One or two sources of light
  • A reflector (A mid-size white cardboard will make the job just fine.)
  • Oil paints
  • Gesso
  • Medium format white paper: 37.4 W by 26.7 H by 0.1 in. I use and recommend the Italian Fabriano paper, which is very thick (300 g /m2) and has a wonderful performance for oils and acrylics.

My experience while making up this artwork. Some things that we have to decide in our work regarding the light(s) are: its color (white, yellow or other), number of lights (1 or 2), intensity, closeness to the model(s), etc.

In "Study Head 29
", I used Rembrandt lightning technique, which illuminates one of the model’s cheeks immersed in shadows as we can appreciate in Image 2 of 5 and Image 4 of 5. This technique also projects a subtle light to the face contour (the one in the shadows) and helps differentiate its outline from the background color (Image 2 of 5).

Let's reflect on the above. Taking the time to consider the various lighting options to illuminate our subject while planning a portrait can yield significant results in the end.

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Clay Sculpting Our Painting Models

Welcome to another Art Post. My name is Veronica Huacuja. I’m a plastic artist and an online art teacher. I have some good tips for your painting process. Hope you find them helpful.

PREVIOUS COMMENTS. Have you ever had the experience of not having access to a physical model to practice your drawing skills with? Well, this is an easy need to be solved. I do the latter by sculpting clay models, pose them and draw them on paper. But to do so, I need at least two photos of a character to work with: a frontal and profile view. I usually find these two photos in official mug shots where law enforcement photographs the offenders. A good thing is that these images are in the public domain. This is one of these cases.

MY INITIAL SOURCES. Having the latter in mind, I searched on the Internet, and I found the two mug shots I required, and a very interesting story: the true chronicle of Bob Addison (1913-unknown, U.S.), inmate No. 35074, from the Virginia Penitentiary archives. So, I made up the clay bust and sketched the following artwork:

I find astonishing making portraits of unknown people, and discovering their bio.

Title: Inmate #35074

Artist: Veronica Huacuja

Medium: Ink on paper

Size: 10.1 x 20.3 x 0.1 cm

Year: 2022

Collection: The Relentless

BOB ADDISON’S TURBULENT STORY. This man began his criminal career at a very young age: 19 years old. In 1932, he “was convicted in Tazewell County of assault with a knife and sentenced to four years in the Virginia Penitentiary. He served 2 1/2 years and was released.” (1)

After, he got into trouble again. This time in Russell County, where he, too, badly cut a man with a knife, and prior to his trial, he escaped, never to be found until thirty years after. In between, he used another identity, Elbert Roy Clark, got married, and had six children.

This time, when caught–now being an elderly man–, he did not serve his time because “after an outpouring of letters recommending clemency, including one from the Governor of West Virginia, Virginia Governor, Mills E. Godwin, Jr. pardoned Addison on 27 January 1967.” (1)

MAKING THE ARTWORK. There are several advantages by making up our models with clay:

- We exert our artistic skills by perceiving and representing the volume of the figure (wide, tall, and depth). This doesn’t happen when we practice with a 2D model, such as using a photograph or a screen shot from a video. Our brain, sight and hands work altogether when we use a real-life model.

- We can pose the model in different positions: foreshortening, profile, frontal view, bird's-eye view, low angle view, etc., and add diverse sources of light to it. Doing the latter we can practice the chiaroscuro, high contrast, among other light treatments.

- We can make up a silicone mold out of the plasticine bust and begin our sculptor's trade!

TECHNICAL PROCEDURES. I used the frontal view and a profile image to make up the plasticine cast. It’d have been great if I could have found both sides of the character’s head (left and right). (2) This is because our facial features aren’t symmetrical, as we may know. Anyway, I managed to make up the clay model avoiding symmetries. Then, I developed several sketches in ink. In this article, I included the one that I think reflects the once fierce personality of Bob Addison.

LET’S MAKE A MEANINGFUL REFLECTION FROM THE ABOVE. As artists, we can use of our creativity to solve whatever needs we might have to accomplish our work.

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2 Alfonse Bertillon (1853-1914, France) was a police officer and biometrics researcher who created and applied an anthropological technique to law enforcement. He invented an ID system based on physical measurements and the use of mug shots to classify the offenders. Some of these mug shots had 3 views: frontal, and both sides of the head.

Can Art and True Crime Blend Together?

Welcome to another Art Post. My name is Veronica Huacuja. I’m a plastic artist and an online art teacher. I have some good tips for your painting process. Hope you find them helpful.

PREVIOUS COMMENT. Let's talk about the initial resources we use or we can use to make up a painting. I believe, as artists or art practitioners, we must use all the resources we have at our disposal. 

BUT BEFORE, LET'S IDENTIFY OUR ART INTERESTS... AND THE LOYALTY WE OWE TO THEM. As artists, we must know the topics that interest us. That is to have them clear. One good question we can do to ourselves to know them is: "What I'm looking for through my artwork?". And I add something very important after identifying our interests: let’s keep loyal to them, no matter what.

SHARING MY EXPERIENCE. My art interests are diverse, such as sickness, pathological behaviour, forensics, among others. Because of the different subjects I'm interested in, I've classified my work into collections. This helps me understand it in a better way. It also helps the re-creator to understand it, to invite or produce in him a state of mind that assists him in penetrating the work's creation circle. 

So, attending to pathological behaviour, this time I based this artwork on mug shots from a true crime public documentary, which is the frontal and profile view of an anonymous offender.

SOME THOUGHTS AND THE ART PROCESS. What provoked in me to make up this work was the forceful presence of the character, his strange demeanor, deformity, and details of his scabrous life. So, I created his bust–made of clay, cement and plaster–posed it, and sketched it in a physical environment. Last, in a physical environment, I finished the work. To see some photos of this procedure, head over to

OTHER INITIAL SOURCES OF THE WORK. In our art process, sometimes reality overlaps, just like in dreams. I read “Whoever Fights Monsters” from Robert K.  Ressler (1937-2012, U.S.), an ex Special FBI agent and author, where he describes the mighty personalities of some of the violent offenders that he interviewed during his long term-service. He coined, among with others, the term “serial killer”, as we may know.

I add one more thing: my work isn’t an apology for crime, it’s my interpretation of a social phenomenon.

I based this artwork on a screenshot from a true crime documentary. This with deep respect for the implicated persons in the case. What provoked me to make up this work was the forceful presence of the character, his demeanor and strange, sordid deformity. I add one more thing, my work isn’t an apology for crime, it’s just my interpretation of a phenomenon.

This is the data sheet of the work I'm presenting: 

Title: Study of an Unknown Inmate 8

Artist: Veronica Huacuja 

Medium: Oil, crayon on paper

Size: 48.3 x 61 x 0.1 cm

Year: 2021

Collection: The Relentless 

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I offer an ONLINE PAINTING PROGRAM in traditional or digital techniques.

Thank you for visiting.