Using black and white in modern art
These two colours have featured heavily in this style of painting for a hundred years or so. Their ability to translate light and dark is unlike any other colour combination. It’s one reason why I love using them so much. In this painting I have three different types of black along with a beautiful brilliant white and a delicious cream. Add to that some metallic gold and silver and the colour palette is complete. That’s it – just five colours. Simple, stunning and painted with an obsessive attention to detail.
Painting flat on the floor
Every painting I do starts off as a blank canvas laid flat. I have some custom made low-level tables that the canvas sits on so that I have a totally even surface to work on. The canvas is then primed twice and when this is dry it receives a very thin base coat of white. So before any painting begins there are three processes to be carried out. This gives me the best surface on which to paint.
Building up the layers
Creating a piece of black and white modern art is never an easy thing to do as it consists of so many small layers. The inherent problem with white and black is the way they turn into grey very quickly. Being able to separate out these individual tones takes practice. In some parts of course I do want to feature grey. In this case it was always going to be in the centre more than the outsides. I liked the idea of having these two opposing dark shapes at either end and some kind of energy field in the middle.
The larger volumes of black and white have to go on first and these tend to be thinner in their consistency – I can then move them round easier. As the layers get built up so the consistency gets thicker; this allows me to hold their shape easier. The thickest paint layers are usually the finishing touches as this allows me to be very precise on what shapes I need to complete the painting.
How the tiny details were created
As with so many of my modern art paintings I choose to obsess over the tiniest of details. Steampunk features a number of different techniques – drops, splats, throws and pours – I have written more about my drip and pour techniques on another page. The processes and combinations are almost limitless so it’s good to have an idea about what the final look should be before you get going. My favourite tools are syringes and here I’ve mainly used them to apply the white and gold paint with meticulous precision and accuracy.
The biggest win for me is what goes on around the edges of the painting. In homage to the name ‘Steampunk’ my mind imagines smoke and steam and things spitting here and there, so pulling that reference out and putting it into the painting is why the edges are so lively. The lines and spats are my way of conveying that. It gives the painting a tremendous energy and movement.
One of the other interesting features of the paint is the use of matt and semi-sheen in the black. Mixing up the finishes has added another dimension to the way that light reflects off it. Now you can enjoy an ever-changing perspective of light and dark from almost every angle.