Blossom Arc in Outer Dark - Space Like Black Velvet Series 1
watercolour wash and charcoal 150 x 130cm
watercolour wash and charcoal 150 x 130cm
Out walking at dawn amidst an apricot sunrise gloriously graced by this Indian Summer that we are presently enjoying in England, I reflected upon something that has interested me for many a year - what is the difference between a flat black background and a black space?
Black, as with the colour white, can be interpreted as both background and space. I spent many of my early years contemplating this as a pictorial problem, and the answer was eventually very simple.
When the subject suspended in the black is affected tonally by that black, the black is more apparent as space. Thus the subject painted appears to emerge from the dark space that surrounds it. When the subject suspended in the black is not affected tonally by that black, the black appears to be a flat background.
The work on my new website www.coralguestdrawings.com that reflects this idea and has inspired many to send me a complimentary message, is the Blossom Arc in Outer Dark, a large monochrome drawing of white apple blossom in a dark space.
Look around the outer edges of the subject matter, and you will see that the leaves and the farthest petals are themselves touched tonally by the darkness, hence the subject matter appears to emerge from the dark space and consequently it does not simply sit upon a dark background.
This kind of subtlety is very simple and once you see, it becomes obvious. Those of you who will have seen this artwork, on this blog and eventually on the website, will be able to recognise what I am saying.
The technique used in this work is charcoal carbon over watercolour wash, which is also the result of experimentation. As a student, I observed renaissance cartoon drawings and sketches, and discovered this combination works well in creating a great depth of intense dark, bringing the appearance of velvety black space. When opaque white watercolour is added to this, as an aspect of the image, the combination result is dramatic.
So thank you to all the generous messages received about this artwork - from the artists, the collectors, and also to the anonymous kind person who has written to say that a well-known Botanical Artist (their name was not written in the message) has recently made a very similar drawing to this, which they feel is obviously influenced by the Blossom Arc. Travelling away from home, I rarely get the time to look at other artists work, and so I do appreciate the messages that are sent to me.
When children write and send me copies of the artworks that they have drawn and painted, it’s a delight to see them learning by copying my work. As we all know, Redouté taught his pupils by instructing them to copy his own work. It is a very efficient way of learning techniques and developing ideas. So when I see my work copied by developing artists, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I see them learning and growing via this.
Earlier this year, someone placed a copy of an artwork of a purple anemone, from my book, onto her Botanical Art Society’s page. It was uploaded as her own work. When someone told me about this, I was actually quite intrigued, and then I politely wrote and asked for an acknowledgement. When I brought this to the attention of the artist in question she was apologetic and embarrassed. I myself did not mind, I simply would have liked an acknowledgement. I offered her a free tutorial as this was my way of saying its ok as these things are done unconsciously. Because her copy was poorly done I was very willing to help her improve.
So, for those who are in the midst of their studies, copying can be a useful thing. If there is ever a problem in this area, it is when another professionally well-known artist sees an artwork by one of their contemporaries, takes the same or similar idea and the same or similar technique, and does a very similar artwork that is not identical, but oh so very similar.
In art colleges students are advised to develop originality, and if they are influenced by another artist they are encouraged to declare it, because this is the ethical way to proceed. Influence is a very different kettle of fish from stealing ideas. Paying homage by giving acknowledgement is an appropriate modus operandi for an artist.
So there is a code of practice that those who have received an education in fine art naturally carry with them. For me, and other artists like me, who can sometimes spend many years developing an idea and a corresponding technique, it can be a painful experience when another professional has been ‘influenced’ by one's work and does not acknowledged this ‘influence’. It comes across as a predatory act. But as I once said, such things are often done unconsciously.