To highlight a character or set piece on stage, just focus the spotlight. To present two simultaneous events, focus the spotlight on two separate areas. Rembrandt focused attention like this, like a theater director with lighting. He begins by simplifying and exaggerating the drama of light against dark (chiaroscuro) as a printmaker when inking his plates.
Example 1 presents the first state of an etching (Angels Appearing to Shepherds). Here the light is divided between top and bottom along a serpentine curve of darkness. The second state (example 2) gives a softer dissolving set of borders between light and dark. The dissolving edges create a greater sense of volume in space. The spotlight on the angel and on the shepherds give narrative direction. We ignore the dark and look to the information assembled in the light. The sun served as my theater spotlight in my photo in example 3. You can trace Rembrandt’s influence in my photo. Notice the location of the lights, the illuminated tree trunk over the rock. Again Rembrandt selectively composes and spots the light in his painting “John The Baptist Preaching” (example 4). The composition through spotting lights is similar in these first 4 examples. Rembrandt explores the use of light as a featuring function in his ink sketches as well. Notice the shape of the darkness and the shape of the light and, how they unite into a unifying design (example 5). Here the previous composition is reversed with the large upper light area now resting in the upper right.
The light can also be sent winding through the center. Dark will continue to isolate and frame the light. Directing the light requires being familiar with a repertoire of chiaroscuro solutions. The light can spill in circular or triangular or vertical radiations with dark interruptions. Like Rembrandt, I concentrate the light’s originating power from above. I have the light follow a winding serpentine dark form down toward the bottom of the picture plane (example 6, photo ) The viewer’s visual experience may move in a reverse squence; traveling from the nearby lower right area around the dark shapes to the light in back. I begin my painting on brushed gold anodized aluminum (24×24″) using this pattern.
After covering the surface with more dark translucent color I begin to remove the darkness with a squeegee. Like Rembrandt I am searching for the light and, start in the back/top of the image (example 7). Examples 7, 8, 9 and 10 show the progression of steps as I work to concentrate the light (area of maximum attention) and distribute the light (smaller and dimmer areas of surrounding disseminated lights).
The vertical fall of light, interrupted by halated dark shapes can be seen in the photo in example 11. The photo was taken in bright sun with the camera suspended two inches above the low tide surface of a tidal basin. I exaggerated the contrast and color.