The Value of Contrast- In Life and in Art

Today’s blog is quite personal.  In case you’d like to skip all the personal stuff, I include the link to a new painting video near  the end of this blog. But, since I’m in a reflective mood, much of what I share today will be on the subject of contrast…what struggle has to offer us as people and as artists. Life has brought me new understanding of what darkness can bring to light.

This is my contrast lesson of late: In life and in art, dark passages are necessary to  better appreciate the light.

If you’re of a “certain age”, then you’re probably nodding your head about this statement.  When I was younger, I knew that life had it’s ups and downs, but I didn’t really KNOW it.  I try to focus on the good in life, and as most people tend to do, I generally share the good stuff with the world.  Maybe all you know about me is what I share publicly. Even if you think you know me, don’t be fooled into thinking that my path is charmed and without its very large challenges.  I’m no different from you.

Everyone struggles…and if you are lucky enough to grow older, then you simply will have more opportunities to face those struggles. Growing older is not for sissies.

I’m not a pessimist, but I do believe that life IS hard, but it’s also wonderful.  The two go hand in hand. It’s that contrast that forms the composition of our lives.  We thrive on the good stuff…the light and the colorful passages of life. But the dark passages also comprise a real and foundational part of our stories.  They are part of the overall picture. Those contrasts are part of growing, and no growth equals no life. Facing our challenges beats the alternative, right?   Life is full of contrasts…progress and backsliding, learning and failure, praise and rejection, hope and disappointment.

Growth involves struggle.

All those contrasts I mentioned…progress and backsliding, learning and failure, praise and rejection, hope and disappointment.  They all apply to our life as artists as well. To become better and grow, whether in life or in art, is often difficult. It’s Life. It’s Art. It’s hard.

If this is your experience you’re not alone.  I’m right there with ya!

I’m beginning to understand in a whole new way that the dark side of life/art is necessary.  If you’re like me,  you learn more and grow more from the disappointments than from the triumphs. The struggles are real, but they can become turning points if we let them teach us rather than crush us. Once adversity is overcome, it’s then that you really begin to appreciate what you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come.  As long as you allow it, those extreme contrasts between dark and light can help you appreciate the light all the more. ?✨

In contrast, struggle can make you bitter or it can make you better

Original watercolor- “Twilight Time” by Rebecca Z Artist

You may or may not know about our family’s difficulties.  Many of you have offered your support and friendship during these occasionally dark days. That support has meant more than you know. ? Others haven’t been aware of our situation or not known what to say.  It’s understandable.  We didn’t talk about it much,  hoping that remaining positive would help to pave a path toward recovery for all of us.

There’s no guidebook for our particular journey.  We found a way to live with our situation and created a new normal, trying to look for the positives in every day.  In that way, we made the best of things, all the while knowing someday it could get worse before it got better.  None of it was anything we could control.

That someday finally arrived, and though we knew it was possible, nothing really prepares you to face your nightmares. Wading through the dark parts of life is never easy. My first inclination is to fold in on myself and keep the pain concealed.  That’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while. I’ve been grieving.  Even though grief is an everyday part of our new reality, I don’t want sadness to be what defines me or us as a family.  I still believe in the possibility of redemption and have hope for the future. In the meantime, I want to focus on the positives and let our current situation be the “dark contrast” that makes the sources of light in my life sparkle even brighter.✨✨✨

✨✨There’s always something to be grateful for…some days you just have to look a little harder to find it. ✨✨

Without teaching as my daily focus, painting has been my everyday therapy…especially when things get quiet.  It’s then that my mind tends to spin.  When I paint, I am truly in the moment and I can’t think about anything else.  About now, that’s a welcome place to go in my head. Can you relate?

I recommend a painting session if you’re going through a rough time. Create a contrast.

Looking for a blissful mental departure?  Paint something that makes you happy!

It’s a good starting point.  I’m currently painting some places that are associated with happy times in Italy.  They fill me with anticipation for my upcoming trip to Tuscany and the Cinque Terre.  It’s easier to feel better when I remember this beautiful place and look forward to going back.

Guess what’s happening as I paint during this time?  Lots of high contrast is slipping its way into my paintings.

Dark as a contrast to color and light….Sounds familiar!  In art as in life, right?

“Manarola Memories: Cinque Terre, Italy” Original watercolor sketch- 9×12 preparatory sketch for the painting below. This painting would not appear as vibrant without the large contrast in value between the light and the darks.  The almost black indigo and the white of the paper create a real appreciation of the color and light in this painting.


New YouTube Demonstration Video

I did a short video while painting the piece above. It’s the preparatory sketch for the larger painting (below).  If you’d like to watch the video, you can do so by clicking on this link:  Click Here to Watch Rebecca’s Video Sketch of Cinque Terre- YouTube

While you’re there, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. ❤️  I’m planning on making more videos in order to get better at filming and editing (there’s so much to learn!).  Thanks to some constructive criticism on a previous video, I added more commentary to this video and slowed it down a bit.  If you prefer your videos without commentary or if you have other helpful feedback for me, feel free to email me.  I always love to hear from you!

A love note:

In yoga the other day I heard it said, “Your vibe is your tribe”.  In that way, I am truly blessed to have a loving and creative band of loyal and supportive people in my tribe with whom I can honestly share the ups and downs of life and art. What a gift! ?  I will say that since I’m not currently teaching, I’m missing my regular students in a very special way at the moment…you bring a dose of sunshine into my life. These flowers are for you! ??????Stay tuned for some summer class offerings…I don’t think I can go all summer without seeing all of you!

Thanks for reading, but most of all, thank you for being in this together with me and our family.  Your friendship and support is the Light that illuminates so much of my life.
❤️ Love,


Manarola Memories- Hill town series.- Original Watercolor (Sold) 22×30  Prints available

Don’t miss the video link for how I painted the preparatory sketch: Rebecca’s Video Sketch of Cinque Terre- YouTube

I hope you enjoy it and give it a try yourself!

PS- My Trip to Tuscany/Cinque Terre has only a couple more openings.  I’d love to have you come with us, but if this year doesn’t work for you…there’s always next year, with Tuscany/Venice (Sept 2018)  and Ireland South (May 2018) on the schedule. ❤️

Rebecca Z- Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is a professional artist and instructor living in Myrtle Beach, SC.  After coming to art “later in life”, she has come to believe that a creative spark resides in every person.  With a little attention, she believes anyone is capable of making art and will gain something from the experience. She offers private classes in her studio, for art groups, and leads art travel adventures with her annual Eat Paint Cook Travel trips to Italy and soon to Ireland in 2018. Look for brochures and details on her website under “classes and travel” or follow this link:

Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at

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