Sunday, May 22, 2011


A good artist is a good manipulator.  This is the reason that propaganda, done well, can be so successful. 

One of the things I like to use is "contrast." 

 When one is working visually, contrast is really a technical term.  It has to do with the degree of difference between light and dark in your image.  The ultimate contrast is between white and black.  One is represented by the lack of light, the other by an excess of it.

As artists we use contrast in many ways.  Some use it to create an illusion.  A bright image in the middle of a dark one makes it appear to be coming towards you; while the opposite of a dark image in the middle of a light one makes it feel like it's moving away.

Others use it to draw attention to one part of an image.  In the illustration above you can see how the screaming woman's face is brighter than the rest of the image.  I did that so you could focus on her and on the level of her rage.  It's a very effective tool for drawing attention to what you want the viewer to see.

Of course, there's more to contrast than simple light and dark.  If you look at the illustration above you can see that there's quite a bit of color contrast.  Sarah Palin's image is lighter, the screaming Wisconsin protestor's image is lighter than what surrounds it, but still darker.  So, you have the classic technical aspects of contrast.  However, you also have the emotional aspect, and that's equally important.

As I said, artists are manipulators.  They can draw you in and/or out of an image using the trick of contrast, and they can also affect the way you feel about a subject by the way they use light and dark.

The Sarah Palin image is manipulated to give it a high light, almost ethereal look to it.  It's suffused with light, and if you had no opinion of her as a politician, the image would make you think of her as someone almost angelic.  The screaming protestor is the total opposite.  The screaming in and of itself isn't necessarily a dark thing, (we've all seen teenage girls scream at rock concerts),  but in this case it's nearly primal.  By playing with the image's conrast, and using photo editing tools, you can  take the already disturbing image and make it even more so. 

Political art is always a manipulation of one kind or another.  Even those of us who don't like to think of ourselves that way have to be honest, we create the kind of art that we experience.  To me the look on Sarah's face is angelic, and the look on the protestor's face is evil.  The fact that I played up both aspects shows how we can use art to reach the hearts and minds of others.

This is all the more reason for conservative artists to start working with their iconic figures to create a visual image that expresses the positive life force of these people.  The left for many years has done the opposite.  They've turned conservative figures into caricatures, (and worse), and presented their own heroes in messianic style.  One almost expects posters of Obama to have a halo glow and a sparkling tooth, and very often finds just that.

It's our turn to use these techniques against the de facto "owners"of the popular culture.  People are drawn to attractive, light filled images.  Let's give it to them!


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