Film Noir Project


For this project, we created a film noir scene. We needed to create a sense of mystery while also focusing on our usage of light to create that mystery. For my piece, I wanted something that felt vintage. When looking around my room for subject matter, I found my wax warmer which is styled to look like an antique lantern. After some trial and error, I finally took a photo that I was happy with.


What I loved about the photo was the intricate details of the lantern along with the mystery provided by the light and the shadows. The mystery that the lantern provided inspired me to create a film noir narrative, complete with an evidence bag.


The evidence bag contained three pieces of evidence. A photo of the lantern, and a note and key that were found underneath the lantern. I believe that the mystery of the note pulled the piece together. I didn’t write too much, because I wanted to spark imagination, so I feel that this mystery is really open to many possibilities and that’s what I love about it.

Before this project, I didn’t know much about film noir. However, through this project I learned much about how to create a film noir scene. When creating a successful film noir scene, you need to think about lighting as well as subject matter. You need dark darks and bright whites in each frame when creating a film noir mystery.

My main focus of this project was to study value and effectively display a full spectrum of blacks, whites, and grays within the piece. When I photographed my piece, I made sure to arrange the light so as to create a chiaroscuro. I did this by adjusting my camera settings, taking the photo with surrounding darkness and the lantern turned on. After a few takes with getting the settings adjusted on my camera, I had no problem achieving my intended effect. I think that my lighting is rooted in the classes film noir style because I have very light areas, very dark areas, and interesting shadows. The lighting creates a mysterious mood within my composition, but if I were to alter the lighting I could change the mood. For instance, if the entire rom had been lit then the shadows would not have been as pronounced and there would have been much more mid tones within the piece. The image would have been more flat, showing off the antique but not necessarily creating a mystery.


The transition from photo to painting was a long process. To achieve what I did, I first printed out the photo and drew a grid on top of it. I then figured out how much I wanted to scaled up the size of the piece (1.5 times) and cut out a board to the exact measurements that I needed. Once i had the board, I lightly drew out another grid, so that when I transferred the piece I would have the right measurements. From there, I sketched out the composition onto the piece. This took at least six hours to do (I lost count) because the drawing was so detailed and I wanted to get it right — I didn’t try to change or deviate from the original photograph. I thought that painting it would be easier, but it wasn’t. The process was very long and I had to be very precise. This part took me at least twelve hours. After that, I created the matte board border and was finished.

I believe that the benefit of presenting my piece as a painting, instead of a photograph, was that I was so much more proud of the finished product. Taking a photograph is pretty easy for me, but painting this took so long and I really feel that the piece benefited from my attention to detail. If I were to do this project again, I would try using colored pencils so that I could be even more precise with my details. The use of the paint provided a certain gloss and texture that was beautiful, but if I did it again I’d like to try to be even more precise and detailed.


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