The Dark Side of Art

“I like the idea of blank spaces and that they get filled. I also like blank spaces that are allowed to be. Some kind of creative tension arises from the nothingness.”

– Sandra Geller

In my figurative work I like to use black empty space as a counterpoint for the human form. Some have remarked that they don’t care for the large negative spaces, but I like the way these figures seem to emerge, chiseled from the dark. If the figure is in repose, as in this case, a feeling of stillness results for me. If the figure is in movement, the contrast of the light and color against the black exaggerates the dynamics of the motion. These are the two extremes my photographic work attempts to convey – stillness or dynamic motion. The in-between is of less interest to me. Black is the perfect partner for each.

How have you used black in your paintings or photography and why?

9 responses to “The Dark Side of Art

  1. Very powerfull composition, precious and rare and subtle color. A delight. No doubt an work of art (no matter if abstract or not abstract or whatever…) something I would love to have on the wall opposite my bed and to wake up to it every morning…

  2. The black is very dramatic playing against the figure. And I love how the figure is halfway submerged into the dark background and made part of it. The black is very much a part of the composition and not “negative space” at all.

    I enjoy using black in my paintings to convey emotion. I constantly fight an old habit of wanting to stay safely in the mid-range of values. But black is like the bass notes that get the heartbeat going.

  3. I love the edginess of this image with so much black. It probably plays best on the internet with light shining through it or under bright lighting. I’ve never used so much black in painting but maybe should give it a try.

  4. I was always told that black is not found in nature, and not to use it in my painting. But of course I prefer not to paint directly from nature so I don’t follow that rule. I always have a tendency to outline and define everything in a black outline. I like to use black ink in my watercolor paintings to do this. Why? I am not sure, I like to have each shape and each form defined and separate from the others. Your piece here is very sensual, I like it, the blackness definitely helps this aspect of it.

  5. I love the metaphor, Martha – the bass notes… How true! When I print for clients, particularly photographers, I try to make sure there are good darks in the image. It always makes it stronger. Black is also something the eye can adjust to to disadvantage. Sometimes you think it’s a nice strong black (or dark) but it isn’t really. On the computer, I can measure how dark something really is and make sure it is as strong as needed.

    Ed, I too typically avoid black in paintings, though also like to use black ink. There is some quality to the ink that seems different than black. With paints, of course, mixing in a bit of color makes the darks more interesting.

    As a former framer, I’m sure you understand the difficulty created by using black – it’s almost impossible to avoid the stray white dust spots getting in there!

  6. This is a beautiful piece.
    The painting on the woman’s shape took me right away to the old icons in my bedroom as a child. The paint had come off here and there, giving a similar look, and the colors were in the same gold brown/reds. Of course I do like the sensual aspect of your piece !

  7. i love your blog. i’m not too artsy and know what i like when i see it and i do like your “figure compositions” (i mean the half-body half a solid color works…see how not artsy i am?).

    the artwork you post is a daily treat to me, something to think about throughout the day. keep them coming!


  8. Don’t take away my whitespace (or, blackspace as the case may be). Many of my favorite works by other artists utilize the negative space as a compositional element – or a vessel to hold in the subject.

    I try to keep this in mind when painting… but then I also have to remember my edges (hard or soft) and masses and value and…

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