Tel: 905–690–4709 dk@tfwm.com - Darryl Kirkland, Publisher

Painting Your Worship Service With Light

A visual artist creates an image using many different colors. While looking upon that image, you may get the feeling of a bright cheery day or a moonlit night. If the painting is of a breathtaking autumn day you can almost feel the frost while you’re gazing at the colorfully brushed piece of canvas.

Some may merely see individual globs of color lying on a palette, yet the artist sees them mixed together. The colors from that palette, which lie separately, combine to create a stunning visual for an unsuspecting viewer.

A lighting designer is no different – except for the tools with which they paint.

Remember, there are many different types of artistic paintings. Some are subtle and subdued while others can be abstract or bright with vivid colors to behold.

Music plays an important part in worship services. Allowing your artist, or should we say your lighting designer, loose to create a “painting” to match the music can greatly enhance the whole experience.

Let’s break it down like this. The worship service is the canvas, the lighting fixtures are the colors on the palette, and the lighting console contains all the brushes you will need.

The neat part about “painting” with light is, the scene being painted on the canvas can be constantly changing without the canvas ever needing to be changed. For example, your worship service may consist of a praise band and choir located on a stage. They have chosen to perform Amazing Grace. Your lighting designer may see a sunrise as the song begins. By the middle verses the sun has fully risen, and by the end of the last chorus the sun has set once again.

Another feature of painting with lights is that it allows your painting to become viewable in 3D, without the glasses. By extending the “canvas” out from the stage to include the congregational area (pews, walls, banners, etc.) the scene becomes 3D.

Looking for more “oohs and ahhs”?

We once performed a pre-recorded praise and worship service. We started the session by dimming all of the lights, making the sanctuary virtually pitch dark. The CD rolled, starting with the sound of a babbling brook and birds chirping softly. We had placed several ground lights aiming straight up the walls throughout the sanctuary. We used silk plants to cover the light fixtures, giving the room a warm cozy feeling. As the brook began to babble and the birds to chirp, a slow fade of selected ground lights dawning a deep teal color gel, began to illuminate the entire sanctuary. The audio mix we had recorded then went into a medley of four praise songs.

The lighting canvas was the entire sanctuary, with those of us singing to the tracks on the stage in dim light. The goal was to engulf the entire congregation in an illumination of colors that changed with the moods of the songs. The ending came and the audio track faded back to the babbling brook and birds chirping. The lights cross-faded one last time to the beginning colors, then dimmed to a black out. The house lights came up slowly on the remote and the canvas was clean again, ready for the next scene to be painted.

Now that would be a serene artist’s rendition. What happens when it’s time to pick up the tempo? Here’s where moving lights can prove to be an asset.

Moving lights offer your most versatile palette to date. However, with multiple colors, gobos for texture, and other features like frosts and prisms, your canvas can become an unwanted distraction if you’re not careful. But when used effectively, these little self-standing palettes can paint a canvas with your wildest imagination.

Moving lights don’t always have to be operated from the ceiling. Placing them on the ground to shine on backdrops, up walls, and under the seating can prove to be fun involvement for your congregation. Including the congregation using a sweep or strobe effect at a rockin’ worship service allows them to feel a part. Youth especially love to be in the lights as well as watch them.

Someday we hope to produce a large worship service in which the viewing audience doesn’t always just watch the singers. And just for kicks, not all of the singers would be on the stage. Perhaps we would place them over or behind the congregation. At times, you wouldn’t even see them, you would just hear the music and be engulfed in the lights. The lighting designer would be encouraged to go wild and use their God given talent to praise Him.

Using lights to paint a worship service can create a live music video for the congregation to enjoy. The praise band or choir and the lighting director should get together and discuss the upcoming music. You will be amazed at the exciting results that can come from a little communication and rehearsal.

All this talk about the stage and sanctuary being a canvas could lead you to believe that’s all that’s available. Don’t be too quick to stop there. Musical instruments make great canvases for lighting designers. Bright yellows, hot pinks, royal blues, and purples will make them “come to life”. A few small ground lights shining up onto a drum kit allows for a dazzling view.

Performers can also become the canvas. If the worship team is wearing white robes, then the sky’s the limit. Those white robes can be changed to any color you wish.

Producing a soft texture on the singers using leaf gobos and a nice moonlight blue color like an L117 will give the audience the feeling that the choir is in a forest or garden type setting.

If silhouette is your style, then a solemn solo can be painted using only back lighting. A beautiful transition can be made in a song from using backlights while gradually adding in some front lighting. If the song begins slowly and quietly then crescendos to a magnitude of volume, you may want to start with a dark color like royal blue, red or magenta shining directly on the back of the performer. This presents them to your viewers as a silhouette. By gradually adding in front lighting to reveal the singer at the peak of the crescendo, you are sure to set the mood and tone of the song.

Backlighting a choir will cast them into silhouette, while shining a spotlight on a stationary soloist. Shining a dark blue light on the backs of a choir that is standing in front of a black backdrop will create an endless sky look while the spotlighted soloist seems to be suspended in time. Looking for more “oohs and ahhs”? Try using a black fiber optic backdrop for a great twinkling star effect.

Painting with a followspot is getting easier these days as they come with features such as digital color changes, gobos, strobe effect, and fading all at the touch of a button.

Always remember to consult before you buy when it comes to your lighting system. There are so many different type fixtures and features available, you will want to make sure you are getting what best suits your needs.

Lighting can be a tremendous asset to your technical systems. Painting a worship service is only one of them. Drama sketches, theatrical productions, concerts, and illustrated sermons all benefit when lighting is added to the mix.

The lighting canvas is unlimited and its paintings are ever changing. All you need is a grand imagination (oh yeah, and of course some lights) and even your wildest worship “paintings” can come to life.

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