Contrast is a principle of art. It refers to the arrangement of opposite elements (light vs. dark, rough vs. smooth, large vs. small) in a piece to create visual interest, excitement and drama. The colors white and black provide the greatest degree of contrast. When we think of light, we often think of white, and when we think of dark, our mind imagines black.
The Bible is full of examples of both light and darkness, from Genesis through Revelation. In fact, I am overwhelmed trying to choose what to share with you! As artists we can draw from these examples as we create. Most often darkness is used to describe evil or worldly things and light is used to describe God and good things. Paul gives us some details about his conversation with Jesus in Acts 26. Here he is describing to King Agrippa what Jesus told him. That he would rescue Paul and send him out to the people, verse 18, “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” That’s what we need to do. Turn from darkness to light. Jesus is the light we are turning to. He tells us in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Not only do we have the light of life, but we are to share that light with the world. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:14-16. Now I can’t sing a note to save my life, but can’t you just hear the tune of “This Little Light of Mine?” Our art IS light that we can share with others.
When we are creating, if the piece we are working on is about our past, life without our Savior, our sin, or some worldly evils, our palate will be dark. Shadows, night, and dark images are effective tools to use, creating a feeling of being uncomfortable or empty. “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19
Light in our art work gives feelings of hope, joy, God’s presence and the change He makes in us and in our world. The sun, candles, and other light sources are popular symbols of God’s light. Eventually the sun and moon will pass away, and our new world will be bright with only the light of God. “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:5
Often we include both light and dark in our work to make a more powerful image. Contrast, conflict, comparison. The life left behind is dark and the new life in us is bright.
“The Lighthouse” digital art by Greg Moores, is a great example of contrast to convey feeling. The light shines a path in the water for us to follow. More of his amazing work can be seen here:
Think about that contrast in your life. Have you let go of the darkness? Is there anything you need to do to move out of it? Are you living in the light of the Lord? How can you display your answers in your art?