When I was tiny and could barely hold a pencil in my hand, all my drawings were drawn in black-and-white. That meant the whole background of my drawing was white.
As time passed and I matured, colour pencils entered into the picture and slowly white was reduced to just small patches in the whole.
Now I only very seldom use white as a background. At the moment I can only recollect two paintings of the hundreds that I made over the course of the last 40 years that have a white background.
One painting was of a street band. I used a white background to emphasise the isolation in which these musicians lived. The white helped place focus on the musicians’ rootless existence and homelessness. The second painting was made quite recently. It is a large painting of a conch shell, which has a significant religious meaning for Hindus and Tibetans. The conch shell is painted floating in the air. In this case, the white background signifies a feeling of weightlessness.
Though only two of my paintings have a white background, every painting does have some white. It just a tiny hint here and there but it is the hint of life!
The last touch I give to every painting is white. This touch will be visible as a star in the eye of the person in a portrait or it might be added to indicate the moisture that collects just above the lower eyelid. The white may just be included for an extra glow of the cheek and nose. White can be added to indicate the sun’s reflection on flowers or its mirror-like reflection on the surface of water.