We’ve seen that either black can be premade in several different shades, or an artist can create a personal shade of black that’s made up of a combination of colors from the color wheel.
Whether you opt for the ready-made pigment or blend your own, black is an important part of every artist’s palette.
No More Wimpy Paintings
If you’re at a showing of a local artist’s guild, you’ll probably be able to spot the advanced painters from the beginners with just one glance. The first thing you’ll notice is the lack of strong lights and darks in the beginners’ paintings. Whether they are sunlit filled or dark and moody, a beginning art student generally works with a narrow range of lights and darks.
You need the dark tones to play up the light hues. Dark colors don’t necessarily darken the tone of a painting. Think of a bright, sunny day and consider how intense the shadows appear. Shadows will appear far darker on a sunny day than they will on a gray, overcast day.
A still life of eggs on a white tablecloth needs dark shadows to make the subjects pop and appear three-dimensional. A stormy landscape needs intense darks to transform the scene from monochromatic and dreary to drama-filled.
Subdue Your Palette With Black
Even if you’re painting bold, vivid subject matter, not every inch of canvas needs to be pure color. You can certainly add a color’s complement to gray it down, but that can lead to a change in the color temperature or actually change the color you intended to portray. Adding black to your paint will lessen the intensity of the color without changing the local color.
If you need to add subtle nuances to your colors, you may want to mix up some white and black to create a gray with which to alter your color. Now you won’t inadvertently add too much black when you’re just looking to tone the color down a touch.
Add Depth With Black
When you are painting a landscape, mountains and hills become lighter as they recede in the distance. In the same vein, shadows become lighter as they fall away from the object.
When you paint a shadow, it won’t be all the same color or intensity. Local color reflects off the object casting the shadow, so you may want to pick up some of the object’s color to repeat in the shadow. Since the shadow is at its darkest at the point where it meets its maker, your black should be reserved for this area. As the shadow moves away from its beginning, it becomes less distinct. The shadow lightens, and the local color upon which it falls becomes more apparent. In this part of the shadow, you may choose to use some of the subject’s complementary color to add tension as the two colors lie in juxtaposition.
Black And Creating Abstract Art
The tips discussed above are referring to traditional paintings. When you’re planning to do non-representational paintings, the ideas change a bit. You may not have any shadows, or your shadowing may not follow a set light source. Your painting may not use the rules of perspective and is more of a study of the effects of color within a space.
Black and intense darks used in an abstract composition can convey drama, add or decrease tension and act as a counterpoint to colors and whites.
Black – Alone Or In Combination
If you’re using black straight from the tube, don’t be afraid to add a bit of other colors with it. Think of it as you do the other colors on your palette. You generally don’t fling down paints on your canvas directly from the tube. You first mix them with other colors on your palette, so you have a congenial melding of colors that have a connection to one another.
You should do the same with your black paint. If you don’t add a little something from your palette, you wind up with a blotch of black paint that sticks out like a sore thumb. It has no relationship to the other parts of your painting. By adding a little of the colors from your palette, you’re incorporating it with the rest of your palette. Now it won’t appear to be patched on as an afterthought. It has life and vibrancy.
Whether you whip up a batch of black at the beginning of every painting session or dig out the tube of Ivory Black and give it a squeeze, think of black as an equal partner with the other paints in your tabouret. Incorporate it with the other hues on your palette. Respect what it can do for your painting, and in turn, it can instill drama, life and intensity to your work.