What is contrast in art? Why is it important?

Essay by yankee842 November 2003

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1. The purpose of this paper is to convince you I understand what the meaning of contrast; so I will attempt to explain it. Contrast is the difference between one thing or object to another. The more different or opposite something is in comparison with something else determines the level of contrast. Black ink against a white background is the maximum high contrast being complete opposites. Low contrast is something that is similar but not completely alike such as light gray against white or dark gray against black with pure gray lying in the center of the scale. Contrast can also be in shapes, colors, patterns, or shades. In art contrast brings definition and depth to a piece of art work. Contrast allows something to be defined or hidden of which the artist gets to decide.

2a. We used contrast in every project we did this quarter. In our first project a silhouette drawing, we used multiple mediums including pencil, crayons and oil pastel.

We outlined our hands on the paper having the lines overlap created a contrast in different shapes. We then drew a separate pattern within each hand different from the other hands on the paper and colored them differently creating contrast with both. Since nothing was the same, they all stood out next to each other.

2b. The second project we did was an abstract drawing in pencil and white chalk meaning the picture was monochromatic (meaning one color). A scribble was drawn and we filled it in following set rules. Each time the lines overlapped it created a separate space that we had to color in differently than the one next to it creating contrast in patterns and coloring. Some areas had high contrast where black was next to the white chalk other areas had degrees of contrast since we also shaded. As I said above gray (made when pencil and chalked rubbed together) next to white is lower contrast. Using contrast every area is treated with importance, it makes the paper catch your eye easier than if it were done in low contrast with everything similar helping the overall appearance.

2c. The word animal mirrors I did were also high contrast it was not black and white but it caused it to be high contrast in the process. You could easily differentiate between the two parts of the picture either it was sand blasted (causing a milky white surface) or mirror. No shading could be used so nothing was in between levels. It also contained contrast in patterns, the letters were a pattern, and the parts of the animal not associated with the writing were in contrast with them.