I’ve been looking at the dark side a lot lately. This isn’t about perspective, it’s something I have to go through as part of the process of grief and loss. Although I often find myself trying to ‘bright-side’ everything, the pain and fears for the future have been overwhelming at times. I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, and now that I’m alone that proclivity is even stronger. Like many women my age, I struggle with insomnia a bit, and I find my ideas flow more easily at night. Maybe it’s just that I have had the chance to clear the slate of ‘to-dos’ by this time of day – or maybe the to-do’s wake me up.
At any rate, I’ve been drawn to painting dark scenes lately. I don’t think it is just because of the darkness of the current era of political strife and economic turmoil. I don’t think it is because of the grief I’m currently living through with the loss of my husband. This is a much more long-running attraction.
Here are a few older paintings that focused on a night theme:
“Night Walk” ©Ruth Armitage 2014, Watercolor on paper 30″x22″ $1950
“Fishing in the Dark” ©Ruth Armitage, 26×26″ Watermedia on paper, SOLD
“Summer Night” ©Ruth Armitage 2013 30×38″ $1950
Newer works that focus on night scenes:
The first two are from my show “Tribute” at Waterstone this June. Click here to order the catalog.
“Constellation” Oil & Wax on Panel, 24″x24″ ©Ruth Armitage SOLD
“River of Dreams” Oil & Wax on Panel 24″x24″ $1900 ©Ruth Armitage
My most recent nocturne is called ‘By Moonlight’ and just traveled to Colorado for the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia show.
“By Moonlight” Mixed media on yupo, 20×26″ ©Ruth Armitage 2022
Does Dark Sell?
A recent viewer commented that the darker paintings might be difficult to sell. I am surprised to report that most people I spoke to responded very well to these explorations of the dark side. And really, I can’t concern myself with how the work is received. I just have to create from my heart.
In essence, I see paintings about the night as an important, personal aspect of my work. My darkest paintings seem more intimate to me, more mysterious (in a good way.) I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
Leave me a comment or reply to my email and let me know. Do you see these works as depressingly dark or just quiet and intimate?
I see these paintings as richly expressive and deep. I believe artists “should” paint with authenticity, without regard to commerce—especially when processing acute emotions. I think about you frequently, dear Ruth. Am glad you are carrying on with your art, participating in the events the art community has to offer, and most of all I appreciate that you are being frank about your thoughts and feelings.
Thank you, Sarah!
I bought my first painting you did when I first moved here from Kansas City, MO in 2001, Enchanted Aunties, and it remains a dominant piece in my home. I’ve followed you ever since, and have always been in love with your work. I”ve enjoyed your vitality and openness all this time. When I heard this about your husband dying just now, I truly burst into tears. I know deep loss and grief, and I am so sorry,so sorry. AND I also know your vitality, love of life, which will see you through. The darkside has it’s richness as again witnessed in your paintings. Thank you and my heart goes out to you, If I could paint, I would try to paint that, this feeling reaching out.
Thank you, Michal – I’m glad the paintings resonate with you, and I appreciate your heartfelt sympathy.
Your dark paintings are lush and intriguing and put me into a different universe. I am so glad you are doing these! As usual, I am inspired and influence by your art. Thank you, Ruth, and I love feeling this work is from the heart; it shows that so very much.
Thank you, Collin. I’m lucky my paintings can take me away from this sometimes, too.
I find it admirable that you are still creating Ruth. I’d suggest any emotion other than shutting down is healthy. Let it out lady; in words, paintings, tears, or whatever it takes to just feel.
I love your dark series. I see them as richly deep and beautiful.
Thank you, Sandy!
There are so many conversations to be had in one’s art. Thank you for allowing your grief to enter the conversations.
Thanks, dear friend. Your support means the world.
Ruth, I love the rich darks and find them very expressive and evocative. They are quite beautiful and should express your memories and outlook. I don’t find them the least bit depressing. I am so glad you are finding the energy and desire to paint. I would imagine it could be quite therapeutic to paint them. Thinking of you, Ruth.
Thank you, Jansi!
I have been waiting to see what you would paint in these trying times. Your new work is beautiful, mysterious and ethereal I love them so much. Although they brought tears to my eyes, they also bring wonder. I would love to have one on my wall. I don’t know if you have ever heard Pavane “For a Dead Princess “ but that is the closest I can describe.
Keep painting what you feel.
Thank you, Debra. Your support is so appreciated.
Dear Ruth, these paintings are not depressing, they’re filled with love and emotion. I see so many different images I get lost in them. I’m so sad for you and your family, but proud of you to keep creating and sharing yourself.
Thanks so much, Phyllis.
Dear Ruth—HELL NO!!!”Dark” is just a label. I’ve always been intrigued with your paintings. They make me look, and look again. And isn’t that what an artist hopes? That the viewer will take the time to look long enough to explore the inexplicable thing we call life? The same thing you were doing when you created the work. All my love to you and your family as you experience one day at a time, experience life as it is. Your husband will always be with you.
Thanks, Maitri. Yes that’s what each artist hopes is to create something that makes folks look again – and keep looking, keep feeling. I appreciate your comment.
Thank you for sharing your journey with your work as it has evolved over the years. I identified with the comment from one of the readers about how your paintings make one look, and look, AND look again. So true. The work is exciting in any light. Keep painting and pushing it all through.
No matter what time of day you work, Picasso said it best; ‘”..Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Thanks Robin – yes. Even when I think I don’t have anything to say, the emotion comes through.
I love your “dark side” paintings. These current paintings, though dark from an emotional sense thus using the darker end of the value scale, there is vitality and promise inherent in them. Dark because of loss but infused with love that lights the way. They are beautiful and I hope you’ll keep exploring.
Thanks, Ruthie – You are a great role model.
Dark passages in paintings are wonderful—they provide contrast and even serve as an anchor of sorts for the other elements of the painting. You are masterful at weaving the two together. Your darks are rich–not merely black, but full of other hints of color like deep violet. Maybe that’s a metaphor for life—within the darkness, other glimpses of color can be seen. We have to take it all in–the sorrow with the joy–and somehow keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ve been on my mind lately—thank you for this post.
Thanks, Liz. I like your analogy of color within the darkness.
I read your blog today with sadness again, such a tragedy on what should have been a celebration for your family.
Today is my birthday and in the early morning hours of my 40th birthday 34 years ago, my 18 yr old son died in a car accident along with a friend who was driving. Since then, this day is always full of mixed feelings. I try to stay busy and plan things to do around the date every year and it helps.
I see your dark paintings as a reflection of life, not depressing at all. I find myself looking at them as a meditation. SinceI know your recent circumstances they are even more poignant.
I wish you well.
Janet, I think the loss of a child must be one of the worst things a parent can endure. I’m so sorry it happened to you, and especially on a day that should be something you look forward to. I hope you are able to feel some peace, knowing that you gave your son life. I’m thinking of you.
Our Beloved The Artist Ruth,
As you’ve always taught us…“The Art is Truth”. Your work has always felt like the truth which is often so hard to find these days.. We hold being human with infinite possibilities as we hold the heartbreak with the heart-burst. I cherish the deep browns/violets with the rich oranges of your piece that hangs in our home. Feels like all we have in life is loss and love. We are grateful for how you show us both. Holding you in great tenderness. Thank you for always holding the Truth above all. Blessings Abound, Love, Y
Thank you, Yasodha. I’m grateful to know that you are still enjoying my work – and your support means the world to me. Thank you for enabling me to share my truth. Love, R
Of course, paint what you are feeling! Your art will get you through these dark times. Also your faith will be your comfort in times of death as it provides hope in eternal life given through Christ’s death and resurrection for you. It is the greatest gift God has given you through your baptism. Paint your faith and hope as well.
Actually I love the color black as a background to the other colors (even small bits of color). The contrast is so much greater and meaningful…to me. We have the color black around us at all times—our sin, death. But those with faith have the joy of Christ’s light (color) and forgiveness… to lift us out away from the darkness of this world into His marvelous light—eternal light, heaven!
I have watched you growth in art since 2010. You keep evolving and growing with each passing year. I simply marvel at the depth of expression you now create in your abstracts, and notably in your dark pieces. It is relatable. I can see folks saying, “I see myself in this piece.” Yes, paint from your heart…you have so much to share. I think painting abstract is the most difficult of all..it is bare…it is your “raw you” exposed…it is priceless!
Thank you, Carol.
The paintings from my perspective are not so much dark as deep, evocative, enthralling…but of course the light gets in.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Thank you, Lorraine!
Your art is your truth and is therefore undeniable. Darkness can be a comfort. Imagine being under the covers in a safe space. In a forest with gentle rain. Journeying to the center of the earth. All dark, all intriguing, all beautiful.
Thank you for continuing to share your journey, Ruth, even when it’s difficult. You’ve given me permission to paint what’s in my heart, and it’s the best work I’ve ever done.
So glad to hear your work is satisfying now! I appreciate your words – Darkness can indeed be a comfort.
I love this series. They mysterious and thought provoking. I don’t find any of them depressing or sad. Constellations painting is a happy one for me.
thank you, Kim!