Taking the Leap: How the Soul Seeks the Light in ‘The Calling’
Religion can feel like a challenge in an age of secularity. Science, technology, and their cold hard truths seem to leave little space for intangible possibilities that concern the spiritual realm. But many people use these new instruments to enhance — not negate — the inquiries of their religiosity.
Kevin Carden does Photoshop primarily to tell stories. Not just stories, but Christian stories — something that he considers supremely important in his life. Jesus used metaphors and parables to spread his message; Carden uses art, photography, and all other available tools at his disposal.
“I didn’t want to just take pictures of things that didn’t have any lasting value or any impact on its viewers. That’s mainly why I create Christian-themed artwork,” he told us.
But he’s not privy to the roadblocks of using these new tools for his goal. “There’s a challenge on how to use modern language and technology in my artwork. I want the art to impact the culture where it is now, but also not compromise either,” he added.
Aside from the pictures he takes, Carden is also inspired by other religious paintings, especially the ones made by the great masters. For instance, Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ makes a striking appearance in one of Carden’s pieces, ‘The Calling,’ although the first glance may not reveal it so overtly.
In fact, ‘The Creation of Adam’ serves only as a backdrop of something more profound: the forces of light and darkness, and what they mean to a viewer. “I wanted to have two different sides of the image working together, one representing light and one representing darkness. And then I thought about the famous painting of God and Adam’s hands reaching out,” he said. “After a few hours painting around in Photoshop, this is what I came up with.”
Darkness, Light, and Everything in Between
‘The Calling’ is one of the cases where the eureka moment came after the starting point. Carden usually works with ideas first — most of his raw pieces are photographs he took himself — but in the case of this painting, he just tried out things until the vision began to form.
“Most of this image was just opening up a canvas in Photoshop and seeing what would happen. I love to depict the contrast behind light and dark in many of my images, so that was my starting point,” recalled Carden.
Darkness and light are two extremely dramatic visual techniques — and both very thematic ones too. The contrast between these opposing elements has been vigorously explored since the days of Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci, when the chiaroscuro technique had been at its peak.
Its impact, therefore, is not something to be overlooked, and Carden recognizes this. “Darkness and light are always fun themes for me to illustrate. The contrast between the values is very powerful especially in digital art, and it also creates an emotional response,” he explained.
But there’s more to this painting than meets the eye. The concept of ‘light and dark’ doesn’t end in art and aesthetics; there are also certain cultural values assigned to them. (In the East Asian tradition, there’s the philosophical yin and yang symbol — the dualist idea where two contrary forces are inherently interconnected.)
For ‘The Calling’, it’s as straightforward as it gets. Several bokeh lights pop out from the setting’s dimness; a dark figure crosses towards a reflective body of water towards what appears like an enlightened figure.
It’s not like the Chinese philosophy — the representations here are far less convoluted, but just as profound. This element of light easily represents the “good”; the darkness is its counterpart. It doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” though — it just means that it’s at the state where it hasn’t been touched by grace.
“The dark being did not create the bridge, but rather used the bridge that was created for it,” Carden said of his subjects. “I wanted to show that there is a bridge to reach the light, and that the bridge is only there because God put it there.”
But another layer of depth is added here: Carden uses Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ to portray the shift from dark to light. Not only is it recognizable — it’s also a quintessential work of art that reveals something intimate about man’s inclination towards the divine. Carden calls it “a great snapshot of God’s relationship with us.”
“This famous painting shows the essence of Christianity — God reaching out to humanity,” he said. “The Christian God is deeply involved with His creation.”
A Longing for Grace
To be untouched by light is to remain in a state of darkness. If there’s any takeaway from Carden’s painting, it’s that humankind is at its brightest when it is united with some form of divine idea. For Carden, this idea would be his Christian faith.
Like all his other works, ‘The Calling’ is an exploration of his spirituality — one he hopes to share with others. “My goal is to encourage people with my artwork and to get them to think about the Bible, the Gospel, and their relationship with God,” he said.
‘The Calling’ came about as a spur-of-the-moment idea and ended up being a parable of its own. Layer after layer, it reveals the yearning of man to be one with the light. Carden incorporates his unique approach in expressing contrasts, using ‘The Creation of Adam’ as “the bridge” between man and the divine.
The message? It’s simple: God is reaching out — it’s up to you to take the leap.
“Christian art isn’t something that should ever have an expiration date. Our world is kind of crazy right now, and things are changing rapidly. But there will always be a longing in humankind for love, justice, mercy, and redemption,” he said.
Check out our collection of religious and spiritual wall art here.