Lighting is one reason not to use Poser for anything other than reference. Most modern artists and teachers do not understand the correct use of light in a painting or drawing.

Here we have the six positions of lighting in tradional art. Lighting from the bottom of the page changes mood, often introducting an evil context or a theatrical effect. The mistake of most modern artists is in being influenced by bad camera work where the subject is lit from the front, creating a "flash" effect.

Also note that the darkest shadow is next to the highlight, then the reflected light, then the cast shadow. The patter is 3-1-2-1. Lighting the subject from the front makes it so the artist cannot rely upon the reflected light without introducing a plastic look to the work.

Comparison To show you the difference between traditional tecnique and modern, here are two paintings of fantasy women for the book market. The one on the left is by Boris Vallejo and on the right by Frank Frazetta. I tried to choose women in a similar position.

Aside from the feature differences, the main difference is in the treatment of the paint. Vallejo works in "hard" paint with high light. You can see how soft Frazetta's paint is; you can see the canvas under it, the paint is so thin. Frazetta uses the traditional "dark" background to set off the figure. Vallejo has tried to get a realistic background, but has to line his figure or lose it. Vallejo works from models and photographs. You can see the "flash" on the front of this model. Frazetta has worked from his imagination, but the light is high and overhead, NOT on the front of the model.

By doing his lighting this way, Frazetta can rely upon reflected light without losing his shadows, something Vallejo tries to do a little bit on the waist of his model. He loses the 3-1-2-1 shadow that is also traditional. Traditional painting is like ballet--there is mastery and not much left to the whim. Even an accomplished and popular artist like Vallejo ends up looking studied next to Frazetta. Note how the skin of his model gets the plastic look that Frazetta avoids.


One of my favorite artists is N.C. Wyeth whose Robin Hood picture is on the right. When I was little, I received a Tolkien calendar with paintings by the Brothers Hildebrandt. This painting on the left is their work for Shannara. Amazingly similar works. BUT, once again, I had a hard time figuring out what was wrong with the Hildebrandt pictures until I learned something about traditional illustration and painting. The Hildebrant's drawings are amazing, but the paintings all have this plastic look to the skin. Why?

Both of these paintings Look like they are lit from the front. But the Wyeth painting is not lit from the front, but from overhead again. There is no "flash in the face" look to Robin and his men. Lighting is everything. Note again that Wyeth's dark background focuses attention on the people. In the Hildebrandts' painting, the dark cloaked figure is darker than the background and the trees are too well lit, making the focus jump around.