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Black & White Cardinal

Black & White Cardinal. Oil on canvas. 2013. 36x18

What I find really interesting about this painting is the perception people have of it. I painted it without any thought of emotion. I was just experimenting in black and white. I was focused almost exclusively on the colors. I didn't see any emotion in the painting at all. So I was really surprised when others did. The bird looks angry, they said; he looks like he's carrying the weight of the world. There's a sadness to it, they said. I was astonished. I looked and looked, but I saw nothing of the sort. Even now, I can't see what they're talking about. I think that's amazing! People, reading weird things into paintings that I'd never suspect. Another surprise to me was how many people liked it. It got many wonderful compliments. Considering it was an experiment, and I didn't feel like I worked very hard on it, I was astonished once again.

Why a black and white painting? My classmates were doing gorgeous black and white paintings, and my teacher insisted that I see a black and white exhibit of Picasso. I went to see it, and saw that black and white really was beautiful. Rich, gorgeous, thick black. A thousand subtle grays, warm and cold, harsh and soft. It was a world of beautiful color. I found myself particularly drawn to the blackest blacks and the dark, warm grays, so those are the colors I wanted to paint. I wanted to paint a cardinal, so very known for its blindingly brilliant red, in the thickest and darkest black I could come up with. You see cardinals so much, you really have to change them up for them to be interesting to me. A black cardinal was something I hadn't seen before. I found it was something that I wanted to see. And so I painted it. Simple as that.

Black and white was both more difficult and more fun than I had imagined it to be. Black and white seemed simple - I was looking at all those black and white paintings, and I thought I understood how one would paint that way, but when I actually started to paint I found that it was not so simple. Working in shades of gray takes getting used to. I found that it just feels different, somehow, and brings about a different mindset. I'm not quite sure how to describe it. And of course I had to pay very close attention to things like value and contrast. It was fun, it was difficult, it was new, and it was a learning experience - a very important one for me.

I truly did enjoy the colors. I loved that black. I loved those grays. I couldn't get enough of them. It was like I was trying to soak that black into my soul, it was so beautiful to me. I'd never had a chance to appreciate black so much, to really understand how gorgeous and wonderful a truly bold dark is. Bold color. That's what I love. Is there a color more bold and more beautiful than solid black? I'm not sure there is.

One my favorites comments I got on this painting was that it was colorful, even though it was black and white. That's exactly how I painted it. It's a celebration of those colors.
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