There Is More Than One Way to Make Black

Recently I was talking with a young artist about his work. He's not a visual artist, but the conversation reminded me of my first painting class, a night class at a local art college.This young actor thinks there is only one way to get the effect he wants. I was saying there IS more than one way, but it might take more thought and work. I likened it to squeezing black paint out of a tube. Which brings me to my art class story.

I had done a lot of drawing prior to taking the painting classs, but hadn't had a lot of success working with color.  Part of that was because like a lot of beginning artists, I relied too much on the use of black and white paint straight out of the tube to create lights and darks. I didn't yet know that there is a way to create a very dark dark that will read like black but doesn't involve using actual black. The teacher at the time pointed out that using white to lighten colors and black as a dark creates a kind of pastel grayed out painting.  Boring. There are lots of ways to create "space" in a painting. One way is using dark and light. Another way is to make sharper lines in the foreground with less sharp lines in the background. Varying intensity of color and using contrast also creates space.

You CAN use black paint straight out of a tube.  It is the darkest dark, but not the richest dark.  When we look around in the world and squint, the darkest darks are a color.  They're not black. Try this:  mix equal parts of alizarin crimson with a very dark green.  Mix burnt umber with a dark blue. You will get dark colors for your paintings that have a sense of life.

So. Squeezing black paint straight from a tube is one way to make the darkest dark. It's quick and easy. But the use of a small amount of black in a painting will make all the other darks sing.

1 comment:

Jan Conwell said...

I love this. And will try it...with dolls? With the painted furniture too.

"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden