Painting Noir

I love old movies, particularly black-and-white movies, and my paintings show that influence. Classic films like Citizen Kane and offbeat films like The Third Man take a straightforward story and, by emphasizing unusual camera angles and dramatic lighting, create a mood so haunting that the plot becomes secondary. As an artist, I try to do the same thing: take elements that seem fairly ordinary, for example, a room with a chair, and by distorting the angles and exaggerating the lighting, add drama or sometimes even humor.

Rather than rely solely on a paintbrush, paint, and paper, I combine watermedia with elements of collage. Paintings often start as I play around with shapes of paper I’ve cut from magazines. I paste the elements onto illustration board or cardboard I’ve coated with a spray of Archival Mist, and then I paint around and over the collage elements with watercolor, aqueous acrylics or gouache. Just as a director works with actors on a set, I find myself working with elements that recur from one painting to the next: a door, a window, a table, a man and a woman, and a vase. Lately I’ve been making photocopies of the collage elements so I can use them over and over again. In this way, I create the equivalent of characters or props that can re-appear from picture to picture.

Loraine Crouch is assistant editor for The Artist’s Magazine.

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