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Let there be light – painting stop-motion animations by Dariustwin

Fiat Lux by DARIUSTWIN
(Image credit: DARIUSTWIN)

Darren Pearson, aka Dariustwin, is a multi-talented photographer, light painter and animator based in the US. He creates spectacular stop-animations using a Night-Writer – a self-designed, purpose-made tool for creating colorful, drawings using light. These intricate short films are incredibly labor-intensive, often taking months or years to create, but Darren has created a style I’ve never seen before in photography. 

Based in Southern California, Darren shoots most of his projects within a three-hour drive from his house using a variety of different landscapes including forests, cities, the desert, abandoned buildings and the coast. Both light-painting and stop-motion animation take a lot of time and effort so putting the two together is by no means an easy feat that required a lot of planning and patience. 

• Read more: Best cameras for stop-motion animation

Each video Darren creates tells a story that is carefully planned out using storyboards in the pre-production stages, which enables him to know exactly what scenes he needs to shoot and how they’re going to link to each other. Now nearing almost a decade of creating light-painting stop animations, Darren has clearly honed his craft and the outcome are these mind-blowing short films.

After discovering Darren’s YouTube channel, I wanted to chat with him and find out a little bit more about his background in photography, how long these animations take from start to finish and what tools he uses to create such intricate drawings in the air.

How long have you been interested in photography?
I've been interested in photography since 2007 – my interest began after seeing a photograph taken in 1949 by Gjon Mili of Picasso Drawing a Centaur with light. This image got me thinking, 'Why wasn't long exposure photography used for illustration more often'? To me, this was a novel cross-section of technology and art!

When did you first start creating your light painting animations?
I first began animating my light paintings in 2013. I had created flipbooks in the past and wanted to apply that same technique to my light paintings. My experiments worked and the results were so interesting that I created a short film called 'Light Goes On' out of my results over the course of a year. 

How long does an animation take from start to finish?
These animated shorts are marathons of the creative process. They typically start with an idea or 'proof of concept' animation – one scene that inspires a whole story to go along with it. With my latest film, 'Fiat Lux', I made a storyboard (below) to make sure all the scenes worked on their own, but also tied together in a larger plotline. Capturing one of these films takes about a season to create with all the planning around the different moon phases, weather patterns, scouting locations, travel etc. 

(Image credit: DARISTWIN)

What inspired you to create them – they're different from anything else I've ever seen!
With all the films I've made, I think the underlying inspiration comes from wanting to show a clear result for my time and energy that I could look back on and be proud of. Not just a time and a place captured, but also my spiritual imprint on the environment. That imprint is made up of all the things I love most in life – film, art, music, history, philosophy – humanities.

Have you got a favorite animation you've created?
I'm not sure I have a favorite animation, but I think it's the same reason I couldn't get a tattoo, I just can't decide on one! It might be one I haven't created yet. There are things I find special about some of the animations – there was an eclipse that happened during capturing one of the scenes in 'Fiat Lux' and there's the rain scene in an animation I created in 2018 with my wife called 'She Lights the Night' that come to mind.

Do you think a talent for drawing using pen and paper is necessary for creating the drawings you create with light?
I think drawing with paper and pencil is a good first step to drawing with light, however, graffiti or painting a large mural is a better transition due to the size of the creations. It's good to have an idea first and that can come from sketching, but the muscle memory required to draw life-sized is an important facet to the creative process for light painting.

Skeleton key individual frames (Image credit: DARIUSTWIN)

How much time did it take to develop the Night-Writer tool you use for your animations?
My light drawing tool 'Night-Writer' has been in a constant state of change since I first released it in 2015, this is the 13th version! You gotta evolve with technology, so every year there's a better switch, or a more powerful and rechargeable new battery, a smoother form factor, or a brighter LED to consider. At the time I released this tool in 2015 there wasn't any LED light designed for drawing with, so I had to create one, and it's gotten better and better over the years. There is no other tool quite like it, before creating Night-Writer I would get hand cramps and different muscle issues from drawing for hours at night, but this tool is a good ergonomic solution to those problems.

Before you pursued light painting animations, what areas of photography were you interested in?
Before pursuing light painting animations, I had studied filmmaking, so I was more of a moving pictures sort of guy. I also worked as a professional graphic artist doing tee shirt graphics for clothing brands during the years before getting into photography.

Where would you like to see your work being used?
In the past, my work has been used in ad campaigns. I think advertising is one of the best applications for light painting animation as it is quick, fun, bright and to the point. 

What has been your biggest achievement or proudest moment to date?
One of my proudest achievements was working with Apple for its 2016 iPhone / Apple watch campaign. Another proud moment was meeting up with Tony Hawk and creating some light painting art with him on his brand new half pipe. I'm just very happy to do what I love for a living, I pour my soul into it.

If this has inspired you to give light painting a go, you can purchase a Night-Writer directly from Darren's website as well as prints of stills from his animations. Alternatively, you can subscribe to Darren's YouTube or follow him on Instagram.

Read more:

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Best camera for stop motion animation

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specialises in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylised product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.