I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Back to Black!

Nothing to do with music of the sadly departed singer Amy Winehouse.

I am reading Betty Edward's book Colour:  A Course in Mastering the Art of Colors.   This is an excellent book, an introduction to working in colour for new painters and a good  refresher for those with experience. Lots of good exercises for the new painter. Very well thought out.

But what struck me is her support for the use of black. Probably the colour that illicits the strongest opinions on it use. I would guess that half of my instructors included it on their palettes and the other half were evangelically against using it. She presents good reasoned arguments on its use to dull colours, to create very useful greens and browns. You can't get darker than black so it is great for those dark accent areas particularly  -  but you need to  spice the black up by adding mixtures such as magentas,  blues, greens etc to move it from the flat back to  create more interesting darks.  

The argument I have heard against it is that you simply don't need it - you can mix great darks - ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, dark reds and dark greens etc. That's true. But that is still no reason not to include it - THERE ARE NO RULES. I particularly like its convenience in plein air work when I am under time pressure - I can more often get to the grayed colour  of a particular value going through the black route. I NEVER use black unmodified - its just too flat. 

For me, I stick with ivory black - it is transparent and less " potent" that the opaque backs. In addition to its use in mixing  I often include it in acrylics glazes - thinned greatly with medium and water and often modifying it with a touch of colour ( thalo blue green as an example). Used with caution it is great for dropping the overall value and saturation of some areas of a painting or the entire painting. Need to follow up the down glazing by making some of the areas pop with more colour and value variation by using a variety of opaques.  

Just for fun, if you suffer from black phobia, try adding a small bit of ivory black to some of your reds and oranges to move them to browns. Try mixing greens with a variety of different yellows. Try dropping the value and saturation of colours by adding just a touch of black. Not too scary !

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