Small Light



Psalms 18:28-31
28    For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
29    For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
30    As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
31    For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?

It has been said that even the smallest light can penetrate the darkest part of the universe and be perceived.  A small light can indeed appear bright when it stands in contrast to darkness.  The aim of all art should be to display of the contrast of the light and the dark just as God designed it as the artist of the universe.  The nature of light as God created it is what we should attempt to imitate.

Regardless of the medium, we artists use contrast to display the form as a demonstration of the difference between light and darkness.  We can use paint, stone, fabric, and pixels to display light and darkness to full effect.  Pixels are are great way to display light because our palette of light is limited only by the medium and the computer screen is a light source so we have the viewer look into it just as they may look into a candle.

One of the reasons why classical artists worked in so many different mediums without difficultly is that they understood that their studies were all aimed at studying light and darkness not the specific mediums of painting or sculpture or architecture or metal-work.  That, among other things, allowed them to easily move from one discipline to another.

While doing a classical study we do not use the light to reveal the form.   The chosen model is unimportant to the study.  Instead we use the form to reveal the light and darkness for it’s own sake.  The effect is what many artists now call “chiaroscuro” but I think the old masters would have just called it “correct.”

Genesis 1:1-19
1    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2    And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3    And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4    And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5    And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6    And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7    And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8    And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9    And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10    And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11    And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12    And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13    And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14    And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15    And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16    And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17    And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18    And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19    And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

In this quick digital painting that took about 10 minutes we see that a relatively dull light, a candle light, appears quite bright.  This is due to the contrast of the darkness surrounding it.  (I also capitalized on the proper use of transitional color in the more transparent portions of the black and some light transmission through the transparent wax, but those are different subjects).

On a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 being pure white and 100 being pure dark (a standard measurement I use for digital art) the candle’s flame is at 16.  That means our candle isn’t super bright (a zero would be a light at it’s brightest white so we’re a good distance from that considering we are looking directly into a light source), but it’s singular light can be seen as clearly as one man’s eye looks into another’s for the surrounding darkness draws the eye into the center of the flame.

Matthew 6:22-23
22    The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23    But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

I hope this little study gives you some ideas of how to use light and darkness in your art.

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