In the beginning of making a painting I am not thinking too much about color. I tend to think more in black and white – making decisions based on the lightness or darkness of the shapes (value). In these striped paintings, all the shapes are either very black (the absence of color) or very white (also quite colorless).
Today I started to bring color into them and right away I noticed these little colorful dots I was making looked very rich and vibrant. And then I re-remembered why… Color always looks especially wonderful when it is surrounded by something that is not colorful. In this case, the colorful dots are sitting upon black and white stripes.
The more not colorful my paintings seem to get, the more easily I am able to make a statement about color on them. It is quite surprising. When a small amount of color does appear, it looks so… well, colorful. And because it is such a surprise visitor to the painting and is so different-it becomes especially noticeable.
And in Art, noticeable is a good thing.
This is, of course, obvious, but I am amazed how often I forget this simple idea… The absence of something makes that something more like itself when it finally does appear again. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
I see this all the time in my life – it happened today in fact. For example, when I go without baked goods and instead just keep having kale smoothies for breakfast – when I do fall off the wagon and finally eat a bran muffin it tastes especially fantastic. And I don’t normally like bran muffins that much, but the one I had today was sublime.
For some reason this principle is easy to overlook in art making. The idea of giving up something in order to make a small amount of it seem like a lot is a very powerful and poignant idea.
It touches upon discipline, understatement and restraint. It is what makes good things great. In art for sure, but also life. It is what turns an ordinary bran muffin into the best, by far, part of your day.
How does color show up in your art or life?