“Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.” -Rembrandt
Highlighting the beauty in the ordinary. That was Rembrandt’s starting point as an artist known for approaching his work with passion and bringing life to the most ordinary scenes with great detail.
How? Through observation. Rembrandt, a 17th century Dutch painter, studied the world around him, taking the time to see it and soak in the details, then painted what he saw. And I would argue, what he felt. It was real life as he experienced it that Rembrandt put on canvas.
I think as communicators in the church there is an important lesson in this for us: Don’t just tell the facts, tell the story. Rembrandt’s portrait paintings became famous because of their unique consideration of the context surrounding the individual. Context tells a story and Rembrandt understood the power of story in his paintings.
The same is true of Rembrandt’s paintings of biblical scenes. He didn’t produce Sunday School clip art images. Instead, he told the story by taking into account the context of the story and putting it on canvas.
As we strive to communicate the story of our individual churches as well as the gospel story, I think we will discover that the two intersect most powerfully when we go beyond the content and explore the context. Without it we’re eventually left with a great deal of information that has little heart because it isn’t anchored in real life experiences.
Rembrandt used a brush and canvas to tell stories of the magical in the ordinary; stories he discovered in the context. I use words to paint my pictures, but I am still challenged to invest in the context I’m called to. As a communicator my task is to tell the stories I discover there with passion and detail; detail that points to an anything but ordinary God. Because beneath the surface, in the context of life, we discover the miraculous. We discover where my story and your story and our story are written into the Story.
Image: The Three Crosses (1653) by Rembrandt