You asked me to expand my thoughts on what I meant by "dark corners". Yes, I did like that element of design--whether by plan or fiat--in your paintings. In truth, this calls back to a very old principle of design too often forgotten on over half the work I see realist artists painting today. I'm not sure if I can speak to it scientifically, but aesthetically, I think something can be learned.
Remember this: Good paintings use good design for the sake of good design, but great paintings capture the viewer's eye through the tools of good design. The difference, I dare say, is everything! It is the chief difference between amateurish work and master work. All great paintings, by and large, have the viewer's eye in mind, and no great artist fails to keep this in mind as his or her chief aim. Technical mastery means little if this one bridge cannot be crossed; color is poorly applied when this is forgotten; rules are adhered to when not only does this chief aim tell us when to bend them, but to realize the rules are made in light of this chief aim!
When something you paint grabs the viewer's eye, pay close attention to that painting, let that painting be your teacher, never cease approaching it as mystics might their crystal ball to seek in it what may be found anew. Thus we can conclude with confidence, Fine Art is not (and never will be) that which happens on the canvas, but that mysterious gravity between the canvas and the viewer's eye. Design, though important, is note enough--it is merely what happens on the canvas by way of pleasing arrangement, the magic happens when you let go of reasons that dictate your design, and permit life to live in the design--for this, there are no rules; from this, the rules are made; by this, your own personal style develops. It is the great conversation of all great artists, they breath into their work, the work begins to live, and breathes back ("inspires") to the artist. You can no more quantify that then you can the mystery of love, as love is not a creation from rules, but a description of an unfathomable mystery unique, surprising, eternal, ever-changing, and that which constantly defies all descriptions to contain it. Poetic as this may be, if you can sense this, then you will have done already what few can do: and your paintings will live long after you. So we do not paint to be in museums, we paint to express the mystery that can explode within our heart--whatever the subject matter--and that is the impact of a great painting. Do this, and museums may well come. And thus, the random passerby looks upon your work and is struck by it. What has struck him is not ever and never will be technical virtuosity, but emotional impact.
To conclude, when you paint, you will notice it is not a rule to place passages of quiet rest for the viewer's eyes, but that such a thing is present in such paintings is a paramount observation. A place where their logic-brain can be set aside and their emotion-brain is activated. Always remember this. Too many forget it.
Once, long ago, I recognized that my paintings lacked that explosive, serene connectivity of which I speak. Knowing no better I assumed that it was due to a lack of technical knowledge. So I attacked that. I needed to improve draughtsmanship, and so I did. Then my lack of color knowledge surely was the reason for my inadequacy, and so I became a master of the science of color. Then materials. Then light. On and on until I gave up in defeat. I thought, perhaps I was not really an artist after all, and I quit. I laid my brushes aside and closed up my studio for several months and thought about pursuing accounting or some line of business. Then one day, I can't explain the pull, I had an incredible urge to paint. It overcame me. I had forgotten what I took great pains to master, and more importantly, had forgotten why it mattered, all I needed to do was paint. Within days I had finished a painting that is, today, considered among my most recognized works. As I thought about this it baffled me. Was the old addage "use it or lose it" (something I believed in) flawed? And why not a mediocre work? That much could be expected and explained--but this!? I knew before I finished it was a special painting. Even now I can wonder at it, but I know it is unexplainable. One observation I can attest to, one that has kept my work in balance, is that it was not at all misguided to learn all of the technical training, in fact learning it cannot be over-estimated if for no other reason but this one:
Learn all you can well, and quickly, so you never waste time wondering if what is missing in a painting is a lack of technical mastery.
And yes, I agree with your comment, "I am not against Modernist art". Neither am I. I am not against modernist art like I am not against a Japanese Pagoda. When in Japan and Indonesia, I admired them greatly. If I was born in such places, they would be part of my fabric, I would understand them wholly, their place in my society and life, and I would not look upon them as unique and strange to my experience. So this is how I have chosen to encounter Modernist art. What I mean is, I respect all people and never begrudge another his work, especially artists, whatever their stripe. But like an American encountering a Pagoda in the Pagoda's natural culture, there is a strangeness to it I am drawn to because of that culture and the Pagoda's place within it socially. For this I can be moved to tears! But there in no way can I connect to a Pagoda built as whimsy in the United States, it might be as nice a structure as the original one, but the cultural symbols are missing, and alas, it is just a building of interesting architecture void of significant meaning to me, of course, but forced meaning upon the culture that does not share the same symbols. Thus, whatever the intent, it devolves into merely a curiosity and seals its own fate. So it is with much of what is called Modern or Contemporary art. Yes, I understand that the movement is often about destroying those symbols in which it is placed, challenging them at the very least, and yet is never quite so daring as to risk sales for revolution. Curiosities they are and curiosities they will remain; it is not the world in which I work. To be fair, I would take one such painting that at least holds my curiosity over one-hundred representational paintings that lack the connection I mentioned above.
You asked my thoughts on Color and how it relates to Mood. Color will achieve emotional quality, but be alert, lack of color can equally do the job. Every artist has an opinion about color and you will develop your own. Reduced to its very basic premise, colors are words, and words are merely letters grouped to signal a part of thought, and this one particle of thought is attached to other particles of thought to create meaning. Read all the books on color you want and study until you know everything about it and still, unless you can see color like words--poetry really--then color will always be elusive. Imagine a Haiku, all the letters of all the words in different shades of gray but the last one, and that one is red. This is, I think, the best that can be shared about the secret of color. It is psychological power, if you will, and as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. So keep this Haiku image in mind and your use of color will always be a responsible and powerful one.
Best to you my friend,