Friday, June 27

When Black is Not Really Black

Mister Black with Black Buds
20 x 20"
oil on canvas

Been working on this painting awhile. Several things different even tho I used what are beginning to seem like all the regulars, Mister Black, the buds, the blue vase, the round table, the magical violet window.
When I sit really still I can feel what it is I am trying to get at, but when I start writing, it gets farther away. And it never has formed into words yet, so I guess I'll just have to keep trying to paint it. But I almost feel like apologizing for repeating myself. It's not exactly a repeat, it's a revision trying to get closer to what I mean to say. Artists are crazy, you already knew that.

I was thinking of calling this painting Mister Black's Color Lesson. But that would veer from my usual Still Life-type titling. Oh snort! Veer indeed!

Several of the things I did differently:

1. I am using some new 3/4" thick canvases & brushes I ordered from Dick Good place - surprisingly lower prices there on some canvas sizes and Grumbacher water-based oils. I LOVE the new brushes, but they paint very differently than the cheapies I've used for so long. For one thing they paint thinner and I had to fight with them to keep from painting with realistic detail! Weird! I will get a nice pat of creamy paint and whoosh, the brush will smooth it out. Akkkk!

2. I used the same red buds that have been fascinating me since spring broke out, but this time I made them dioxizine purple to French ultramarine blue to phthalo blue. The brushes made them easy to keep tight. Something about tight little knots of color about to burst open like berry pies staining white t-shirts at a summer picnic. Oh I better be careful before I catch a case of the Norman Rockwell's!!!!! No really I am aiming at something else. Really I am. I know it's hard to see, just wait till I get closer. I'm aiming at a kind of happiness, but it's something more like rebellious exuberance. Look at how the branches flippantly wave around. See how they are almost sprawled out in front of your view. Even Mr. B. is carelessly sprawled.

Wiow! Lori, my black cat artist friend asks some great questions. She had me thinking so hard about how I'd answer her question about colors, that I inadvertently demonstrated my point in this painting.

See the tablecloth? To me the color, even tho it is de- intensified, is alive no matter how far away you are and if you look closely you see lots of opposite colors dancing around together. A lot of peeps think that the key to Impressionism is to make a lot of colorful dots, but the exact key is putting two opposite colors next to each other so they jump. The idea that it is not any one color you see in nature at any time. It is lots of colors next to each other that make nature so alive and enjoyable.

I use this idea in my own personal color-mixing theory. I have to say here whether you like Martha Stewart or not, she is a great colorist. She learned from her father in law who taught her never to use black pigment in anything. Maybe to paint a chalkboard. If you buy colors mixed according to her color recipes you will see black is never used. If the color is a grayed out green, there will be some sort of red added to the formula rather than black, to pull it to the opposite side of the color wheel.

Well this is what I will talk about in my color class. The whole thing begins with explaining about the diff between colors of light and colors of pigment but I am getting ahead of myself. For now just remember NEVER USE BLACK PIGMENT! It will kill the life out of any color.

Nature never uses it, except when she turns out the lights, and neither should we! If you get paint mixed at the paint store, check the recipe before you let them mix it, that is if you care about whatever you are painting looking non-dead.

OK I guess that was a little sampling of my first color lesson. Be sure to vote in the poll on the right side of the blog. And remember if you come to my color class you will get my color opinions... "ALL of them... beware!!!! Hahahaha!" she laughed evilly with a dioxizine purple and yellow ochre gleam in her eye....

RUN to Etsy!


  1. I love this one next to Mr Black with Black olives- i like the study of the similar area , different light, different texture and olives vs buds. I am learning by (lazy me) watching you paint the window with different set ups. I don't think its boring or repetitive at all.

  2. Anonymous6/30/2008

    Mr. Black seems awfully busy laying around posing for you. Do you pay him a commission?