Good graphic imagery, like any good art, tells an entire story. One way to build more effective graphics for worship is to create images that tell a story. Still life pictures, object-based graphics and abstract backgrounds can range from interesting to inspiring, but sometimes the visual Gospel presentation calls for something more: Storytelling images.
Storytelling has always been an essential part of life, both in society and in personal life. Media in any form would barely exist without it. CNN would be a station of white static with stock quotes and weather info running at the bottom of the screen. Oprah’s book club would consist of technical schematics, roadmaps, recipes and phone books. I guess in the fifties, the family could have gathered around the radio to listen to the weather and local high school basketball scores, but that all sounds like a rather bad dream to me.
Stories start to transform us at an early age. I have a friend named Ingrid, whose 5-year-old daughter, Madeline, cannot end her night without being read a story. I remember one night, Madeline insisted that I read her “The Bernstien Bears go on Vacation.” I did my best Mama and Papa bear voices, and although I was impressed with my dazzling special voice effects, she wasn’t. “Read it like Mom and Dad, Jason,” she said. After her vocal critique, I continued to read the story to her, this time in my “normal” voice.
As I got into the story I realized it was getting late. I decided that I’d give her the “cliff notes” version of this short children’s’ book, without telling her. What amazed me was that as I would skip a line or change a word, she knew. She would promptly recite the correct words for me in a tone that made me wonder who was really in control here. At that time she couldn’t read a word, but she knew the story so well, that any change or omission was immediately brought to my attention.
From the time we are children we are immersed in story land. Stories become so real we start to base our playtime, and even our real time on them. The fact that a five year old can remember line for line the words to one short story is amazing to me, but what I find even more amazing is that there is a pile of books in her closet that she knows equally as well. There is a lot to be said for how the images in the book can tell the story for those without the ability to read. The power of storytelling is universal. You can be five, twenty-five or eighty-five and experience the same transformation from a simple story.
Stories are part of the human experience. I’ve seen many times over that a single image can have a similar effect as a short video. In some cases the effect produced by an image can be stronger than a two-hour movie. Stories are a part of each of us, and we can use the screen to share them. They bind us together in ways that we can’t even explain sometimes. And viewing a story-based image created in the right way can change who we are. As Christians, we have the opportunity to (pardon the cliche) tell the greatest story ever told. Creative story-based imagery can make the stories of the Bible come alive and touch us at a heart level. The method we use to tell the Gospel stories can either run off or reach those ranging from children to elderly and all those in between.
So what does this look like? Well, it starts with setting up a scene that in many cases involves a person or people interacting with one another or with some sort of object. The image of the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima speaks volumes about the struggles faced by the soldiers who were fighting hard for their country’s honor. A picture of a butterfly is nice but a child releasing the butterfly communicates so much more. Even the look on the child’s face says something about the struggle of letting his winged friend go. (I created this image out of our worshiping planning at Lumicon Digital Productions. This is our metaphorical representation of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. His words to the disciples in John 20:17, “Don’t hold on to me…”)
Please understand that not all sermons, not all songs, and not all worship experiences call for an image that tells a complete story. This is simply a principle that can expand your creative palette for digital media on the screen.
You too can create imagery that is worth a thousand words. Next time you open your image manipulation program, or you get out that digital camera, remember that you have the opportunity to tell a story with the screen.
Next time we’ll look at another step-by-step graphic tutorial.
Check out http://www.lumicon.org/buildingbettergraphics for previous tutorials.