October 14, 2013

A New Boxed Paintings: "Black and White"

Black and White, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, box size 3 x 5 1/8 x 7/8 in.

A couple of months ago I had an idea for a new series of works: a box of tiny paintings made on square scraps from my parchment panel-making process. The first box, which you can see here, was brightly colored in red, yellow, and blue, so I thought I'd go more minimal with the next piece, using only black and white; I've continued with simple geometric compositions. Because the parchment is a warm yellowish color, the white stands out on it.

Black and White, top and inside of box

My idea for the inside of the box came first, then I decided on a cover that would work with it. The tiny paintings inside the box are improvisational, but the larger paintings on the cover and inside take a little more forethought; not enough to do sketches beforehand, but enough that I actually use a ruler and pencil to mark off shapes. 

Black and White, paintings side 1; each painting ca. 1 1/4 in. square

Black and White, paintings side 2

Each painting is two sided....

....and I take the translucency of the parchment into account when painting, so each side converses with the other.

Black and White, filled box with red circle

When I had finished the box and was looking at the paintings inside, I felt that something was missing: it needed a touch of red. So I cut a small circle and painted it red on both sides, and now it adds a little surprise, like the baby inside a Mardi Gras King cake.


  1. The box of tiny paintings is thrilling. Once again I'm totally drawn to a container for soul.

  2. The alchemy of art, turning dross into gold. Brava!

  3. A marvel! Interesting how the white diamond on top left has more weight than the black. I like how this feels vital.

    1. I'm so glad you noticed that weight issue, Julie. I'd originally planned to have the white triangle on the top of the box on the right, but it was too heavy so I turned it around. It surprised me.

  4. I love this project Altoon! -- from the attention you gave to the design and construction of the box, to the relative informality of the individual squares, and that terrific red dot inside the box. I always find your inventiveness inspiring!

    1. Thanks very much, Tamar; it's been a lot of fun doing these.