Light is life. Our bodies react to it and, like clockwork, feel a different way depending on the lighting situation: sleepy or awake, and so much more. Light literally guides us. It is the essence of not just our pure existence but also that of flora and fauna on earth.

In art, light and color are important means to influence our mood and energy levels and, with it, our feelings. In addition, light in combination with color can create depth and various dimensions, which, going further, can compose a magical ambiance. Therefore, they are crucial tools in art.

Nature is our role model when it comes to artistic means used naturally.  And these artistic means are perhaps most evident at dusk and dawn, when lighting and colors are the most interesting to observe.  This is especially true when the sun sets and the day comes to a close. You know – that magical atmosphere created when the fireball is about to disappear behind the horizon.

Magical Moments – Impact of Light

It looks as if two worlds are about to collide. It’s the magical moment of the day, one that so naturally draws humankind in: sunset. The differently shaped clouds appear in various shades of blue. Further, the sun is reflected on some of their formations, which creates a powerful color contrast. This allows for a whole different dimension to become visible – another, deeper level. Twilight strikes. Something magical is in the air.

The light is slowly fading. Since our bodies run on light, we ourselves slow down. Imagine the fairy world awakening now. Let your thoughts wander and fly off into the twilight. Think Peter Pan. A different world might await you. Doesn’t lighting in combination with color have such a beautiful influence on us? We start dreaming. Imagining. Wondering. Wandering. Light and color manage to touch a different layer of our souls during that particular time of the day.

Our eyes naturally focus on the spot in a photograph where it finds the highest degree of contrast. That point is created by lighting, its shadows and angles. In the image above, our gaze remains in the middle, where the sun’s rays softly touch a formation of clouds and, due to the lighting angle, let it appear in different shades of yellow, pink, and red.

An increase in light gives an increase in darkness. – Sam Francis

Since this “pop of color” is surrounded by seemingly dark blue and black clouds, it stands out to us. This sharp contrast of colors creates a magical atmosphere and both darker and lighter colors highlight one another. The ocean appears in different nuances of auburn, purple, and pink. Colors that are not normally found in nature – unless the sun is setting. It’s the magical hour when light is forming all kinds of different shades and color combinations that emphasize the beauty of this world – this day – this moment – one last time, before the sun disappears and the sky falls dark. Magic.

Interconnectedness of Lighting and Mood

Sunset Obsession

Sky on fire in southern California, which provides a mystical separation between ocean and skies – Venice Beach, CA, USA

Lighting has a significant influence on our mood – so does color. In combination, they have the power to control our feelings and thinking. The dramatic contrast between black and red underline the two elements: heaven and earth. The warm color emphasizes our alertness – as red does -, yet creates a warm atmosphere that embraces us. We tend to get more emotional, start reflecting, thinking deeply. Darkness or light – which one will prevail? We know the answer – but darkness won’t linger for long. Red is powerful and, hence, before the sun sets, makes a statement that light will be back in only a few hours.

The sky is the source of light in nature and it governs everything. – John Constable

We are facing the seemingly dramatic end of a day that, however, lets us anticipates another dawn soon to come. Color and lighting together create moments that can deeply move us. Therefore, they are such powerful tools in art. Tools that nature itself uses so seamlessly. The fiery sky seems to embrace us with its warmth. We are small, powerless, submissive to nature’s beauty in an oh so beautiful, melancholic way.

The light slowly disappears. Lovers enjoy this moment of the day the most for a particular reason: Color and lighting create a soothing, romantic atmosphere. The spirit of endings and new beginnings are closer than ever as the sharp color contrasts clash.