The Dark August 19, 2022 04:52

Home of the Water Witch Oil Painting by Harold Roth

Since June I've been creating Tonalist landscapes, learning what is possible and interesting for me--how it can fit into my vision. The word "vision" in this use sounds pretentious, but it actually fits. All of the paintings on this page I have painted since mid-June, and it's now mid-August, so you can see I've been pre-occupied with the dark lately. ("Home of the Water Witch")

I've found that Tonalism fits with my vision very well. Through learning that style, I've come to allow myself to enjoy landscape painting even though it is much easier for me than Flemish technique still lifes or even Surrealist watercolors. And the feeling I get from creating these windows onto worlds is very good. I feel like I am part of creating a world for myself and my vision takes another step into the material world, but also that I am creating a world that is very necessary in our dark times. 

The Root Cutter's Cottage Oil Painting by Harold Roth

These paintings represent a different kind of darkness--one that is not just soothing but enriching, that reminds us of the positive aspects of the dark. Darkness is a place where we can perhaps more easily connect to the spiritual world but also to nature itself, of which we are a part. To look upon a dark landscape is one way we can come to accept and love that dark part of ourselves, of our own spirits, and our place in the natural and spiritual world. Dark landscapes are the other half of daytime landscapes. If I can draw a parallel with Russian literature, which I studied for many years, daytime landscapes are the Pushkin-Tolstoy line and dark landscapes are the Gogol-Dostoevsky line, and I've always preferred the latter. ("The Root Cutter's Cottage")

The Grover Oil Painting by Harold Roth

One thing I like about dark landscapes is that they don't permit us to be so certain about anything. In this way, they by their own nature undercut monologue and authoritarianism. I think often Pagans have more of a sense of this than other folks do. They've had the experience of embracing an ideology that is not mass propagated and that does not especially serve capitalism. The importance of the Moon in Paganism and witchcraft also speaks to the embrace of the alternative to the insistence of daytime's relentless claims of authenticity or even truth. Such "daytime" ideology gets tedious. ("The Grove")

Moon Watcher

I know I'll be painting more dark landscapes and will probably go beyond Tonalism to do nightscapes for a while. I've got images banging around in my head that are very dark in terms of light, but they are not about skulls or zombies. Not that I have anything against them. They are just not my art. My art is about capturing those moments of peaceful stillness and more, connection with the world and its beauty, than they are about anything scary. ("The Moon Watcher")

Riverside Oil Painting by Harold Roth

Many people are scared of the dark, and we mostly have some good reasons to be. It's harder to be aware of physical danger in the dark. Even on a low and almost slapstick level, we can trip over or walk into things. But it's also, on a deeper level, about seeing as a way of controlling, or giving us a mistaken sense of controlling our environment. If we see, we feel we can define. The dark takes away the certainty of definition as the images of objects disintegrate, their edges eaten away and turned into dust, their shapes modified, muffled, hidden. The dark reminds us that the daylight world is only half of it. There are many more mysteries of our world, and in that way the dark empowers us.