The Paintings of Paul Goodnight

By Bridgit Brown

July 14, 2012

Cousins by the Dozens, Paul Goodnight.

If you have a thing for original art and you live and work in the city of Boston, you’ll really want to add a visit to Color Circle to your list of summer art stops. It’s a fully stocked distributor of museum-quality paintings and prints by the artist Paul Goodnight and his circle of friends.

Goodnight might be there when you stop in to this nifty two-room operation located in the historic Piano Factory. If you get to meet the artist featured in the newly published 100 Boston Painters, you’ll understand why he is being recognized as one of the 100 painters making the city of Boston a major contributor to international art.

The Smithsonian Institution owns a Paul Goodnight painting. Hollywood knows him very well. His works have appeared on The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Arli$$, ER, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, and even Bishop Desmond Tutu have his paintings in their homes.

Getting his work into the living rooms of rich and famous people was not difficult for Goodnight, though he is humble about it. “I just needed to agree to the print release of my paintings. I was a purist at first, and I wasn’t into making prints of my work,” he told me on my visit.

Goodnight didn’t think that people would see his paintings on television either. But a good representative convinced him to allow one of his paintings to appear on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. “After that, the orders started coming in by the gallons,” he explained.

Goodnight’s work spills out of every corner of Color Circle, in bursts of color fine-tuned to the human body and motion. Color Circle is a haven for art lovers seeking African Americana images.

Trained in classical art, Goodnight attributes his distinct style to his use of unusual techniques and tools like volcanic ash, which he learned from an artist in Brazil.

“I’ve also been using a very fine faucet, which is another technique that I picked up from someone. My work is a combination of many styles.”

His urban scenes are highlighted with the golden trim of a tropical sun. His figures dance and shake off the radiance of the spectrum. His people are every shade of brown, some with red and golden tones. “I like the pastels of the Caribbean, and I use those colors in a lot of my work,” Goodnight said.

There is a story behind every painting. Ham and Egg Sandwich, for example, was inspired by a conversation that he had with his mentor, the American artist John Thomas Biggers.

Ham and Egg Sandwich, Paul Goodnight.

“He had asked me if I was committed,” said Paul, standing in front of this dreamy portrait of a woman sitting in a chair with a chicken and an egg at her head and a pig at her feet.

“I couldn’t believe that he was asking me that. I told him that I believed that I was. Then he said to me, ‘the difference between involvement and commitment is like a ham and egg sandwich.’ I pretended to know what he was talking about, even though I had no idea what he was saying. He often spoke in statements like that. But think about a ham and egg sandwich,” Goodnight proposed.

All I could conjure up was an image of a few slices of ham and an egg fried hard in between two slices of wheat bread. Of course, I didn’t tell Goodnight this. “I see,” I said. (In reality, I was lost.)

“The chicken was involved; she laid the egg,” said Goodnight, “but the pig was committed; gave his life.”

Color Circle is owned and operated by Paul, his wife, Bernice Robinson, and their daughter, Aziza Robinson-Goodnight. Located at 791 Tremont Street in, Color Circle is open Monday through Fridays, from 9am to 5pm and by appointment.


About the Author
Bridgit Brown Bridgit Brown
Bridgit Brown is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College ('98). She was a Fulbright Lecturing and Research Scholar in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, and her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bay State Banner, Color Magazine, Black Perspectives Now, Colorlines of Architecture, Exhale Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and Somerville Review.


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