new painting: night driving

I finished night driving in the first few days of December. The literal physical makings for this painting came from gifts and social connections. While I was making it, more community connections came to mind. So when it was done, I wanted its “first introduction to the world” to be with a few friends, in person, with cake.

night driving, 2021, oil + acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 4″

The canvas:
For those who don’t know Canada’s remote North, shipping costs from anywhere to Dawson City are ridiculous. Secondly, we don’t have courier service except in a roundabout, never-overnight way to our one post office. A doctor friend texted that she was coming to Dawson to work as a locum for a few weeks. “Do you want me to bring you any paint supplies?” she asked. Yes! I grabbed the opportunity to order some things from an art store in her city. Thanks to covid, travelling of any kind feels exotic, so I almost envied her mobility, though not the potential exposure. More to the point, it felt swanky to have someone schlep out-of-territory items specifically for me, right to my door.

The paint:
My beau is an avid reader who loves to find curiosity stories online. Ages ago, he read out loud some intriguing details about the invention of Black 2.0, an extremely matte paint that absorbs 95% of light.* The week before my birthday, he stopped me at the door as I was heading down to my studio. “You should take this now,” he said, handing me a gift bag with a slender, bubble-wrapped item in it. I opened it up: Black 2.0!

The process:
I played around with the Black 2.0 on some test canvas scraps and then started this composition as a way to place its light-sucking characteristics near regular acrylic black. Photos don’t capture the difference well but the 2.0 looks velvety from a distance, and the “normal” acrylic looks shiny. Naturally, I wanted a glossy area for even more contrast. Adding areas with linseed-heavy oil paint (the dark green) satisfied that part of the plan.

People I wasn’t expecting to think about:
Dawson City is a small town (around 2000) that is particularly full of capable, strong-hearted, community-building women. And people like that of all genders, yes! But in the weeks I created night driving, two amazing women separately announced on social media their plans to leave Dawson for new awesome jobs and adventures.

I don’t know them well, but admire them: they both laugh a lot, and they’ve each given years of hard work to make our town better (one in social work, on in HR). Winter daylight hours are short up here; the ovals in the painting suddenly seemed like headlights. Driving away, confident, through the Klondike darkness.

The painting:
To finish night driving I overlaid the sides with Black 2.0. The canvas looks like it’s hovering on the wall, and I love it. It’s rare to feel such satisfaction after making a work that’s a mere 12″ x 4″. This one uses more colour blocks than my usual style, so maybe that’s why.

Superflat black on the painting body and the edge means you can’t see the distinction in some spots

The cake:
Cake with charcoal or squid ink could have been an option for a black cake, I suppose, but since I’m also in ongoing conversations with yellow — a colour I find hard to paint with — I introduced night driving to the world with lemon cake and wine as side flavours.

We’re in a deep freeze week with temps between -38 and -43C, so it was particularly delicious to have a few friends show up, including one of the Dawson-abandoning, I mean, Dawson-leaving, friends. (The other had left town before I finished the painting, but she’ll see this post.) We talked about colours, driving, life plans, and bits and pieces of nothing. Friendship makes winter livable.

Not pictured: chocolate whipped cream to heap on top as desired

*Note: If you haven’t read about the hilarious-yet-serious years-long battle between Stuart Semple (creator of Black 2.0 and now 3.0) and Anish Kapoor (who bought exclusive rights to the even blacker Vantablack in 2014) – here’s a good summary. It’s also a tale of money being taken down by social/collaborative power, which rocks.

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