Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Importance of Contrast

Yesterday was a very gray and rainy day. Although I suppose there is some kind of beauty in that type of weather, but it was causing me to feel a bit blue, or bored, and rather disinterested. It was a day without contrast  and I found myself longing for it to be over.

That's kind of what it's like to look at a piece of art that is lacking contrast. We get bored with it quickly and move on, looking for something more interesting. Contrast is essential to good art, be it light & dark, smooth & rough, large & small, or any other variations of the theme. It draws us in, causes us to linger, and helps to define what we are looking at.

Contrast gives definition and depth to various shapes or objects. Contrast in color creates excitement and vibrancy. Contrast in texture helps us relate to what we are looking at and enriches our experience. Well placed contrast creates movement and helps us identify the focal point in an artwork.

So, as you draw, paint, design or create, think about how you are using contrast. Look at your work and ask yourself, "Is there enough depth, have I added highlights in the right places, is there movement and have I used contrast to create interest?" If you have an unsettled feeling when you look at the work there may be something out of balance.

Is there ever too much contrast? It is possible, depending on your subject matter and the emotion you are trying to evoke, that too much or too little contrast can be a problem. Sometimes contrast can be subtle and still be very effective for the particular work you are doing.

For example, yesterday as I was driving north on 89 there were quite a few low hanging clouds, or maybe it was rising mist, circling the mountain tops and clinging to the valleys. They were light in color compared to the dark green mountains, the dark gray sky and the pouring rain. If I had wanted to create a work of art of my experience yesterday I would have focused on the interesting shapes, patterns and texture of the clouds compared to the rest of the day. But it would have been subtle, nothing dramatic, which totally expresses what a gray, rainy day is like.

I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to share your own thoughts on contrast in a comment below.

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