It shook me as I walked to work through a post-Impressionistic winter day toward Portland Magazine’s headquarters at 165 State Street. While the late Paul Black hadn’t actually painted our building (see bottom photo), he’d helped me see it.
Memorably, he’s helped all of us see Portland, particularly on days that dissolve in snowflakes and stand time on end. Though we sadly lost him to brain cancer on November 19, Black is just getting started as an influence, his paintings too sweeping to be confined by a frame.
In On The Road, Jack Kerouac writes that raindrops connect us by “chain touch.” Black’s snowflakes share the magic. During an interview, he once told us, “It’s every color,” not just white. “I always put a little yellow ochre to warm things up. When van Gogh went from Holland to Paris and saw the Impressionists painting with pure, uncut colors, he ‘took the tobacco juice out of his paintings.’ I more or less put tobacco juice into my paintings. Adding a little brown into the snow or sky gives it an antique feel, because the paintings are not real.” What’s real is the way Black’s snow makes us feel.
His wife, Irena H. Black, loved Paul’s love for snow. “I think he just knew how to make people feel warm around it. When the first snowfall arrived this season, I could just picture him driving all around, taking photographs,” chasing the snow “so he could paint perfect pictures of it.”
To purchase a Paul Black oil on canvas, visit Fore Street Gallery, which has many of his works on view through January. And don’t forget to visit the Portland Regency Hotel, where a number of his canvases are on stage. It’s incredibly romantic dining there during a snowstorm. Even when the fireplace isn’t flickering, Black masterfully sets the mood. We are all lucky to part of Paul Black’s world.