Discovering Black

25 Aug

Black has always been one of my favorite colors -or absence of color, whatever that means, I never took a class on color theory. But I had never thought about using black as a background on which to start a painting or mixed media piece. So this happened as a sort of accident, a happy one, of course.

I had painted a portrait of a woman dressed in a soft shade of pink, with a cat on her lap and a huge black mane. But for some reason I never quite liked it, either the cat’s face did not fulfill my expectations, or the face was too long…I don’t know. The thing is that I had kept it waiting for something else to do with it till I just grew tired of looking at it and feeling it was still unfinished. It’s like my paintings have a shelf-life. If I’m not happy with it after the first month or so I just recycle the surface, whatever it is I’m using for the piece. So I took one last look at it one night and thought: gesso, or acrylic? It was a fairly large canvas board and her hair was black, so if I used gesso I’d have to use lots of it and more than one coat. So acrylic it was, black acrylic. I covered the whole canvas in black and it was more than enough with only one coat. Then, what the “f” would I draw -and how- on a black surface. I looked for something white to draw with: my white gel roller was almost empty… white chalk was too wide for what I wanted to do… I was almost at the point of looking for my Pentel “liquid paper”/”whiteout” pen when I found an old white oil pencil. I was finally able to start something new. A portrai, of course, but what would make this one different? I worked carefully on the face and hair, a big fluffy mass of hair, it would be red, really red. When the facial features and hair were done I decided this portrait had to be a departure of sorts from all the others that had come before it. I just started with one little building that looked a bit like the old Spanish structures we have in Old San Juan, in Puerto Rico. A little chapel of sorts. Then came another and another till most of what would have been her cleavage and shoulders was now covered in buildings. Now what… If the “city” is something she’s wearing, or “putting on” herself carrying around and showing off, maybe what she needed was something wilder and more private, more personal, a place where nobody could reach her, an inner world -as opposed to her social or public persona. So I crowned her with a forest, an world where she can go wild and be herself and not have to pretend, a place of trees and foliage and even -yes, why not- a few little birds.

First steps on black for "City Limits"

The discovery of black has been amazing. Now, instead of having to go in with a super fine brush to add darker details, shadows, etc. to make things pop the black is already there to create the effect. It makes the process easier for me and gives more dimension to any color that I put on top of it. I had no idea of any of this. I am a self-taught artist, many things I have found as part of the age-old trial and error process. I can afford to make all the mistakes I have to, I have the excuse of never having had an art teacher or tutor in my life. I sometimes wish I did because sometimes I feel like I could never compete with someone who has studied art formally. I would never stand a chance in an arguement with someone who went to college to study art. I will always be behind when it comes to comparing myself with a formally trained artist. But, really, between you guys and me -now that nobody is listening in on our conversation-  who gives a flying shit! I have had the luxury of learning at my own speed, with no deadlines and only my gut to guide me -no gut jokes here guys, I know I’m overweight.

Giving her neck a "sky".

I admire and respect each and every artist I encounter -formally trained or not- I learn from everyone who is willing to show me a new technique or how they have honed their talents and style. Not every artist is willing to share, and not all who are sharing are doing it for free. I have been really lucky to become an artist at a time when you can turn on a computer and find thousands of instructional videos explaining almost everything. And even better, there are blogs and other places like Ning where I have discovered communities where knowledge is shared among those like me eager to learn something new every day and share what they know. I will always be in debt with Willowing, with Deb Company and my friends at Mixed Media Workshops and to the wild community created by Effy Wild on her Wild Precious Studio, with her “Effisms” and now the weekend “services” at the Church of Art where she livestreams while she arts and chats with us about art and life and everything in between.

Almost done...

There is strength in numbers, and we are lucky to be making art at a time when there are very strong communities out there for the numbers of people like me who have come to art after a long way of doing other stuff and have felt lost.

"City Limits"

We have choices, we don’t need to fear a blank white canvas. We can always start with the black!

Till next time, the fat lady has now sung!

Blessings, Love and Light!



2 Responses to “Discovering Black”

  1. Marianne Mathiasen August 30, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Nice to read how you discovered black you might be interested in reading about black at:


  2. Rosie September 13, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I LOVE this! I really like the way you explain your thoughts and processes too… We all have dark days and memory lapses – I tend to believe that’s more frequent in women to be honest! Anyway, nice to ‘meet’ you via Maisy and WP!! 🙂

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