In Black and White

What's Love Got To Do With It

What’s Love Got To Do With It

Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender

 

I love to paint portraits. It is enormously satisfying to see a face form on a blank canvas, and quite often in the past year or two, twice as good to see two faces. Two faces make a painting about relationships, not likeness. Two faces on a canvas have something to say to one another; it’s my job to depict whatever that is—be it fondness, disdain, caring, annoyance, compassion, friendship, passion or something more.

And I love color. The vast majority of my work has always been in color—bright, vivid, in your face color. But I was inspired to try my hand at images in black and white when I saw a painting that my friend, Michael Wolov, had bought on a trip to Cuba a few years ago…a painting of an old, wrinkled Cuban man, smoking a big cigar. Until he told me otherwise, I had always thought that it was a photograph that Michael had taken himself, the details so perfect, so real. I tucked it away in the back of my mind, until I chose to paint a couple kissing and decided to attempt it in black and white.

I always start my paintings with a grisaille, a monochromatic underpainting, in which I draw the image with my brush and block out all the darks and lift the lights that will define the images. Once that dries, the next step would be to apply color, again starting with the darks, but this time, instead of various tones of flesh, my palette was filled with shades of white, gray and black. In each painting, I found that the lack of color freed me to paint shapes and patterns with increased contrast. Without the distraction of color, I think the images become more compelling, more dramatic, if you will, much like a good black and white photograph. 

I give most of my paintings titles, often a hint at what I mean to convey. The titles usually come to me at some point near the end of the process—some are immediately apparent; others call for opinions from family, friends or fellow painters. One of my first painting teachers, Jack Highberger, happened to teach my painting class last week, when I was finishing the first of my black and white couples. He remarked that the man looked very tender toward the woman, moving me to call it “Love Me Tender.” As I turned to my second pair of lovers, I knew immediately that I would call it “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Some titles come easy. 

Of Mysterious Fascinations

Apparently, jellyfish is a misnomer; except for the fact that they live underwater, jellies have no relation to fish at all.  I find them fabulous, strangely beautiful and sensuous. There are so many different species–kaleidoscopically colorful, even bioluminescent and fluorescent, particularly in the deepest and coldest seas.  There are creatures no bigger than my thumbnail and others that grow as large as six feet in diameter with tentacles more than twenty feet long.  What I enjoy most about painting jellies is the challenge of creating transparency and movement on a solid and stationary surface.  And the colors on some of them!

Modern Family

Modern Family

I painted Modern Family a couple of years ago, choosing to group some of my favorite species on one canvas.  As I painted, I started to think of the big guy as the head of the family with the little woman to his right (she’s quite the looker); the twins are on the left with their younger brother, who wants to tag along, and their sister is on the right, swimming off on her own.  Sometimes titles come easy.

Out of Reach

Out of Reach

 

I just finished painting Out of Reach, a portrait of a stinger jellyfish found in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The color of the water is drawn from my memories of the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, a place we visited almost twenty five years ago.  Heaven…