1/31/03 - This past week I've done two paintings that I hope will demonstrate the pros and cons of the color white.

To the right are two paintings I did when I was taking a bath and looking at the shampoo bottles on the window sill. In the above painting I deliberately didn't use white because schools and teachers generally frown upon the use of white and black in works involving color. Artist don't like general rules though. I know, for sure, black is a necessity for me and I use it to pop other colors off of it (Howard Hodgkin is the master of using black to intensify color) This problem was magnified with the impressionists who were the first to use a white ground (gesso) instead of the darker grounds of the older masters. The impressionists wanted the white of their ground to reflect through their paints to create as well as capture light. The pansy Renoir went to the extreme and didn't use black at all and it wasn't until the end of his life that he realized that black was the "queen of all colors." Today teachers yell at students because neophytes have the tendency to use black and white disproportionately. Students tend to use black and white as a crutch and never really look at the infinite color that surround us equally. Shadows are not black. Anywho, white has a tendency to wash out color along with the beauty we associate with it. I feel these paintings demonstrate this well. The painting above is more beautiful in color and has more of an atmosphere. However, the white (actually a lot of the white in this painting is a silver paint I found) in the painting below creates a stonger contrast- another important element I feel is essential to my work. By the way, both of these paintings are at the same time of day around noon on an overcast day. Not sure which one is better. What do you think?

"Bath Sill 1" 1/03 (Acrylic on masonite 2' x 2')

"Bath Sill 2" 1/03 (Acrylic on masonite 2' x 2')

Tell me what you think about these paintings in regards to this discussion either in person or write me at:


Thomas Cummins art philosophy