Seeing: Light & Shadow, by Wendy DeRaud

 Photography courtesy of Shannon Stoia 



“The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.”  C. JoyBell C.

In drawing and painting just about anything, I've learned that my ability to explain light is important to the success of my art work. My subject matter becomes more dramatic and compelling when the lighting is good, when we are given just the touch of light on a subject so as to bring out its true beauty, its mystery, its depth.


Light is a revealer, so when I do a portrait, I want to use light to reflect in such a way that it reveals their inner life expressed in their face.


Moreover, it is essential for a successful portrait to have both light and shadow. One helps the other. Light helps us see, while shadow helps us see more clearly, because the light is in contrast to the shadow and becomes brighter and more distinct. Thus, the contrast helps us distinguish and appreciate the brightness of the light, the darkness of the shadow and the difference between the two.


So it is with our lives. We would have no light if it weren't for the shadows, the pain, suffering and hardship, helping us see the goodness in our lives.




Portrait of Nathan



At times, light reveals the hidden things inside of us that we need to see, know and understand. Light also reveals things we don't want to see, that we'd rather have remain hidden. Because we know this about life, by using shadow and high contrast in our art, we develop the dramatic effect needed to fortify our work with powerful emotion and vitality, so that our hearts can be touched.

We need both darkness and light to make good art. If it is too dark, we'll be guilty of hiding ourselves from our audience. If it's too light, then we're telling too much and not leaving enough subtleties for people to figure out on their own. We need a balance, we need the darkness to help us appreciate the light.

Whether it's candlelight, broad sunlight, or the flickers of light on a mountain stream, light will bring comfort and peace. Light, even in the darkness, dispels fear and brings hope. As artists, our use of light can come as a gift of appreciation of life, creating an atmosphere for beauty to thrive.





Oil Painting by Mark DeRaud