The use of black


(Caravaggio, “St. Matthew and the Angel,” 1602)

I decided to keep working some more on the collaboration drawing. I started a part-time job this week and never made it to the art supply store to get some more paper to start a new drawing. And all I could think about was finishing the black section across the bottom. So I did.

I do not usually have such a dark section in my paintings, but I am glad I am starting to bring more blacks in to my images. They went through a very light, ethereal phase. It is good to give my work a bit of the “monstrous.” Not that black is always associated with sinister. Caravaggio used black to show seriousness, weight, importance, sacredness, drama. In the painting up top, the black is infinite and timeless. Serious black.


(Francis Bacon, “Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (From Muybridge),” 1961)

Francis Bacon used black more on the surface. I say “surface” because you do not get the sense that it goes back forever into infinity. It is colorful and textured, and it is suffocating, entrapping, streaky, scary, monstrous (all on purpose, i.e. I approve). Sinister black.


This is a painting from my graduate school thesis. I am not comparing myself to these great painters, but instead using their work to help evaluate my own (just to be clear). This painting is called “Genesis.” This black is not sinister nor serious. Instead it is sort of dancing. Happy black? I wouldn’t go that far, but maybe primal black, formative black, expectant black.


And now here is the work-in-progress black. This black is not infinite, but it is serious. It is on the surface and colorful, but not sinister. It is not deep, but it is weighty.

It transitions from red at the top down to blue at the bottom. That shift in color was very fun to do. 


This black is going to be like the bass section of a choir, supporting and anchoring the highs and mids as they belt it out.

Serious, monstrous, and supportive, all at the same time. At least that’s the idea. Up next: working out those highs and mids.


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