January 7, 2016

A New Painting: "Black Form"

Black Form, 2015, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 3/4 x 9 in. 

This is a simple frontal painting, with very few elements: red planes, shadowed, and a long black form. The drama is in the shadow and in the black that so strongly contrasts with the bright red. I have a story about painting that red, which clearly illustrates Josef Albers' Interaction of Color. I worked away on the red shapes––the shadow colors were just sketched in––painting them several times trying to get a color that worked. The red continued to look dull, without any light in it. Frustrated, I was about to try yet again when I thought....hmm, I'd better paint the shadow first, before repainting yet again. When I got that shadow done, with its cool darks and some bright reflected light, the reds suddenly popped, got bright, looked like they were lit by sun. Color only exists in relationship, and every once in a while a painting gives you a strong reminder of that fact.

Black Form detail

The only small details in the painting are those on the black form: lines that describe indentations and overlaps, plus a small curve. These small incidents engage the eye and play off against the big simple red shapes.


  1. What absolutely drives my senses wild is the light reflection on the black. This entire piece is a triumph in the understanding of light and shadows on objects but the way the light lays over the black object is breathtaking. It is the moment of discovery when one finds a passage in a Rubens or Titan painting that shows the brilliance of the artist. BRAVO Altoon