View Full Version : the color "black"

02-27-2000, 01:11 AM
after a bit of a dialogue with a fellow chatter, i thought it might be wise to bring up a misconception about the color "black". apparently, many of you were taught the idea that you should never use the color black,,,,that you should mix your own. be it indigo+burnt umber, or aliz+umber+purple,,,,or whatever. well,,,,,black cannot be mixed. it is a color unto itself. as is red, blue, and yellow.you can treat black and white as similiar primaries in that neither white nor black can be arrived at from a mixture of colors. what you get when you mix colors like indigo+umber+whatever,,,is a VERY dark color. but it ain't black! just thought i'd let anyone know, who might be unclear on the matter.....milt

02-27-2000, 03:35 AM
hi milt!
hey, you know, i've heard you talk about this black thing before.. i just gotta say a couple things.
i've seen black used and i've seen it misused. i feel that oftentimes the black from the tube will be too flat for what i need, so depending on the media, i use a "black substitute". in watercolor it's sepia, in oils i generally use burnt umber. i don't ever call them blacks because they are not blacks.. they are my 'darks'.
it really depends on the contrasting colors of your piece to whether or not you need blacks. i rarely have pure white, so why would i use pure black?
i may use it to tint, though to date i haven't had to. sometimes certain colors when mixed produce VERY bad colors, so in tha case i can see where having a black on hand would be a good idea (btw, i DO have a lamp black around here SOMEWHERE).
i wasn't taught that black is bad, rather that i should use all my resources prior to inserting black because it is SO dark that often your piece does not need that much of a contrast.
just my op.. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

km (http://www.artistnation.com/members/lofts/kmarion/)

02-27-2000, 04:37 AM
kayemme,,,you've probably read of my use of black as mother color, etc. though there were those who took me too literally and interpreted my use of black to turn form as literally turning a color to black. in the post above, i am clearing any wrong ideas as to whether black can actually be created by mixing colors....milt

02-27-2000, 01:48 PM

Just curious if you would give us some insight to your thoughts on the different Blacks available. Mars Black, Ivory, Paynes Grey. Any other variations.


02-27-2000, 03:31 PM
all i know is what i use. i use ivory and mars black. they're both warm. mars dries very fast. they both do, acually. davies grey is is transparent tinting grey that gets totally lost when you mix it with other colors. i never use it. lamp black is cool in color. paynes is a cool tinting grey, i think. that's all i know......milt

[This message has been edited by bruin70 (edited February 27, 2000).]

03-06-2000, 12:50 AM
I am not sure I agree with you bruin. I would like your opinion of the following theory which I read in a book. The impossibility of mixing black is based on using a physical mix. meaning a mix of primaries. The book said you can mix black when you approach it from the point of mixing brilliance levels. As an example: yellow has a brilliance level of 3, the brightest, red is 6 and blue is 8. Based on the brilliance levels a true black can be mixed by combining a physical mix of 1 part yellow, 2 parts red and 2 2/3 parts blue. Yes there is some variation in all colors. They are warm or cool.You yourself said your blacks are warm or cool therefore they a not pure black. It seems to me you can combine warm and cool yellows and create a neutral yellow that albeit is gray, you have said gray ='s black, warm and cool reds to create a gray neutral red and warm and cool blues to create a gray neutral blue. Then combine these in the above proportions to create a true black because the colors are pure, albeit gray, but remember gray ='s black. By varying the mixture we can throw it to the warm or cool side . also to the color influence as well. as in a red black, purple black and so on.

03-06-2000, 04:33 AM
figgy...i don't do algebra,,,,i paint. i don't have a clue as to what you just said except something about warm + cool of red/blue/yellow = grey of said color,,,??? like alizerin crimson+cad red = greyed red??? uh-uh. you want a greyed red, add grey/black to it to cut the chroma, as that's what "greyed" is. also, mix 1/cad yellow to 2/cadred to 2 2/3 ultramarine blue and see if you get a black like ivory. in fact, since we're talking about neutrals, try this if you have time. pick 3 neutrals,,,say black, raw sienna, and raw umber. and let's stay in the same maker,,,say windsor/newton. now, try to mix those colors with the 3 primaries. i'll even give you white if you need it.the 2 browns should be easy if you can do black. what you'll get, though you think you're close, will be colors that may appear similiar but will NOT have the neutrality of the three originals. they will all be too "colorful". happy mixing...... milt-o

[This message has been edited by bruin70 (edited March 06, 2000).]

03-06-2000, 04:51 AM
btw kayemme. is the lamp the only black you've tried. i hate it. it's too cold....milt

03-06-2000, 04:58 AM
figgy....btw(and don't bother answering this) ...windsor/newton indigo is a blue mixed with carbon black. if black is a color mixable with proportions of the 3 primaries, then why bother using carbon black in the first place?....st.M

03-06-2000, 08:44 AM
Just adding my 2c.
To me black is a local color a proper color, not a tonal color - a color used to darken other colors.

Tonal Color

Actually both black and white have the same effect on a color; only black more so. Both colors push the colors in the direction of grey. (Open your image editor and change the luminance (black/white balance) and you can see this).

For instance red when darkened goes to violet and then blue (fade to black), and when it gets lighter it goes to orange and then yellow (fade to white). This can not be produced by adding black or white.

In practice I see no reason not to use black when mixing a color as long as it produces the color I want! But don't expect black to darken things in a natural way.

Local Color

We are often told that black does not exist in nature. (This is true except for a few things such as soot (lamp black), some minerals and substances having black "pigment") (i.e. the stuff you can make black paint from). There are however many man-made objects that are colored black - as I look around the room I see many such things; electrical cords, my slide projector, straps on my backpack, a diskette, etc.

Difference between theory and practice

One must always remember that the additive theory of light requires perfect "colors". When mimicing this using subtractive synthesis (oil painting; mixing colors that subtract light) we introduce the imperfection of pigments as well as the imperfection in mixing the right quantities. Some "tube colors" are also mixtures of pigments making matters even worse.

To summerize; if it looks good it is good irrespective of how you got there.

I got this tip from kemshmi; it is a site with natural colorwheels; http://www.mauigateway.com/~donjusko/art7.htm

03-06-2000, 01:15 PM
"to black or not to black? that is the question"

03-06-2000, 04:42 PM
ch,,,you mean,,"to B or not to B"?

03-06-2000, 05:56 PM
(Computer nerd version)

03-06-2000, 10:36 PM
Well as you well know those three primaries will not create a black. As to indigo I have never used it nor have i ever seen carbon black as a paint.I am sure the indigo is just a typical manufacturer ploy to sell more paint.I will continue seeking. Thanks for the imput.

03-07-2000, 01:44 AM
so then you're saying that there are particular primaries that you use. so then the theoty mustexplain which. i don't mix black so i don't know your theory. indigo black is in every color chart of paint manufacturers. carbon, i assume, is just another mineral/element/whatever, like ivory black,,,from which to draw a true black.

03-07-2000, 03:27 PM
cindy,,,,you got it kid....i chose the latter

03-08-2000, 12:20 AM
... whether to succomb to a sea of art rules or to take up arms against the art police and create your own rules!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif lol

Cindy Agathocleous

"What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life, but the fountainhead of human experience?" - Rollo May from The Courage to Create

03-19-2000, 09:25 AM
ok,,,,to revive this thing and hopefully let it settle.....figgy,,,,sandi,,,oh, btw, ((((((sandi)))))). the problem has been your MISUSE of the word/term "black". fig, what you are mixing is a "black substitute". and it probably got started by your art teachers and before them as well. it probably went something like this....your art teacher held up a tube of black and said to the class "never use black in your painting". now, the only right thing she said here was to refer to the tube of black as "black". which it was. she probably then went on to say,"from now on, mix your own black". and proceeded to give you the formula. this was a major error on her part. what she should have said was,"from now on, mix this BLACK SUBSTITUTE". she didn't, and forever and ever, you have misused the term "black" for the dark mixed color you've been calling "black". you giving me oleo,,,i want butta!.....milt

03-20-2000, 10:08 AM
I really agree about the use of black..although I find that my tendancy is not to use it much myslf. I think it is difficult to use well. Those very strong notes of dark do add to the decorative composition of a painting and give it life, just as the white accents do.
This is a notation on it from a book on painting by Harold Speed
"...And there is some considerable danger of that nasty fruit salad sort of coloring turning up, as in some of the worst of impressionist pictures. ..black as a pigment has a power of lowering the intensity of a color without much changing its hue, such as no other pigment possesses. These omissions on the palette rob many of the impressionist pictures of much of the dignity associated with really fine coloring..."

03-20-2000, 10:55 PM
to answer your question, i haven't even used the lamp black i own; i just don't use black as a tube color. i recall somewhere a posting from you regarding colorists and tonalists; i think i fall in the colorist arena; i now mix all my own from "primaries" in watercolor. i haven't reached the point in oil where I can do that.
i use new gamboge (yel), antwerp blue & permanent rose to mix all my secondary and teritiary colors; the darkest darks are generally a very dark purple; and have very little water in them to allow opacity. seems to work so far; it gives me more consistency with my color themes because the colors all relate to one another. i don't know if it's something i'll continue to do after i've become proficient with mixing color; but i'll continue using these three until then.
just my response http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

km (http://www.artistnation.com/members/lofts/kmarion/)

03-20-2000, 11:49 PM
yes kay,,,,and it's best to stick with your mix. don't change because of anyone's say so. not only is it pleasing to your eye, but it is the right "temperature " for your color palette....milt

03-24-2000, 02:25 AM
this is all i know about black: ivory black works for me in some things, lamp black works better for others but recently i've discovered how really beautiful peynes grey is. nuf said about black on my end...i actually encounter more difficulties with whites...Cheryl

03-24-2000, 11:56 AM
Sandi, there is already a topic on white called "white or white". It is in "oil painting"

03-24-2000, 05:15 PM
Good Golly, Miss Molly! Where do I begin?

With the exception of Mars black which I believe to be a black oxide of iron, all black pigments are carbon blacks. Lamp black is soot from burned lamp oil (usually linseed), Ivory black is charred ivory or bone, and vine black is basically ground up vine charcoal, all carbon by-products of burning.

If you are a follower of Cennini you will choose your local color as your dark, and mix it with white for lighter values. If you look at late medieval or early (especially Florentine) Italian renaissance paintings you will see that the color can be quite chalky and the forms often appear flat.

If you are a follower of Alberti you will choose your local color as your light, and mix it with black for darker values - perhaps adding white for highlights. After looking at the previous works the later (especially Venetian) renaissance paintings will look much more natural.

Now look at Van Eyck or Van der Weydon. Now the later renaissance paintings don't look right either. I'm still trying to reproduce the early Flemish work, but the basic idea is to manipulate transparent glazes with different pigment loads, i.e. lighter areas contain fewer glazes and less pigment, darker areas contain more glazes with more pigment. Colored underpaintings are frequently used. I'm working on a painting now that contains a green dress which moves very much towards yellow in the highlights. Yellow underpainting, green glazes, very nice. Also very hard to do. I'll let you know if I ever get it right.

Only if you are an Impressionist is black forbidden. I've been flamed plenty in the past for my views on impressionism, so I will not explicitly state them here. I will only say that when I need black I feel free to use it.

Lamp black has its uses, but it should be avoided when painting in oils. Any one of the others is fine - the choice being a matter of personal preference. I do not know about mars or vine black, but be aware that ivory black dries VERY slowly. Many paintings done over black and white underpaintings show serious cracking in the darkest areas. It has been suggested that the ivory black in the underpainting - through not being completely dry - is responsible for this.

That's pretty much everything I know about black. I hope this hasn't been too boring.

03-24-2000, 08:24 PM
sg,,,,bring your thoughts on impressionism. we need some spice. and i'll cover you on all sides....milt

03-26-2000, 05:43 PM
I don't really agree with Bruin about black being a colour in it's own right. The reason being that black in life is the place where there is no light and therefore no colour. Black is not a colour at all, it's the absence of colour. I don't see anything wrong with using it in painting though as we do actually see it when we look at objects in real life. Sometimes though, black tends to really deaden the painting, you need the mixes of other colours to make it stay alive.

03-26-2000, 08:47 PM

the only time black is the absence of all color is in the light spectrum; in pigment, black is the concentration of all color. It actually IS a colour in its own right because of the definition above.

i agree, however that at times, if not used carefully, black can deaden a painting; however, if one understands where black is necessary and doesn't over do it, then it can look wonderful. i rarely use black (in fact, i can say that i've never so far used it, but say rarely because i may, one day, decide to), mainly because i haven't the skill yet to use it correctly. i know i'll over do it (lol).

km (http://www.artistnation.com/members/lofts/kmarion/)

03-27-2000, 09:43 AM
When I said that black is the absence of all colour, I was referring to life, we try to paint life and therefore, in life, black is not a colour. Just my opinion.

03-27-2000, 06:57 PM
amanda,,,,,black is a color like any other color on the art store shelf. and you can't get to it by mixing other colors. you're being philosophical.

Drew Davis
03-27-2000, 09:06 PM
But of course, the tubes on the art store shelf aren't "black", either. As you note, the ones you buy are warm, or cool, a little reddish or bluish, not true neutral and not 0% reflective. And you mix the rest of your color scheme with the tube color anyway, to harmonize, so what you wind up with is even less black than what you start with. You can mix darks that are as close to "true theoretical Platonic philosophical black" as is the stuff in the tube, and you might as well as long as you're going to be mixing it anyway. Unlike white, tube black is a convenience color, but not a necessary one, unless your palette is otherwise fairly limited.

03-28-2000, 05:28 PM
I'm not being any more philosophical than anyone else. They have to make black out of something don't they! Aren't I entitled to my view on the subject?

03-29-2000, 11:03 AM
ooooh, My head is spinning! Cheryl

03-29-2000, 11:29 AM
I have a lovely Danish wood stove, and when I need a deep, rich, staining black, I get inside and scrape the sides. The black soot is intense and doesn't wash off anything easily, but I have found it aesthetically too cool to ignore. I also make my own charcoal drawing sricks in the same stove. I don't care for rules in art, especially when I have worked and studied so hard to be able to ignore them. Black is just not to be ignored or snubbed because of what some unenlightened art teacher told you.

Drew Davis
03-29-2000, 01:55 PM
Why is it that people keep assuming anyone that's not fond of black must be a mindless dupe of some cut-rate teacher? Knee-jerk rebellion against "rules" is just as silly as knee-jerk adherence to them.

03-29-2000, 02:35 PM
Being "not fond" of something and being told you are "not supposed to use it", are two horses of a different color, unless one is dead, and then you don't want to beat it.

03-29-2000, 05:27 PM
Living near a major art college, it appears obvious to me that most artists (students anyway) are dupes of very well paid cut-rate teachers - and I have never considered a dead horse to be well and truly beaten until I've gotten in at least two good hits of my own.

The major questions under consideration would seem to be A.) Is black a color? B.) Should we banish black from our palette, and C.) Does it make any kind of rational sense to try to mix black out of something else?

The answers are (may I have the envelope please): Yes, no, and of course not.

When discussing RADIANT light, black is NOT a color, but in fact the absence of all LIGHT. As color may be defined as an optical property of varying wavelengths of light, the absence of light cannot produce a color.

When discussing REFLECTED light, black IS a color. The black that we are speaking of here is not a TRUE black i.e. it is not the negation of light. Looking at the "black" stapler on my desk, the different surfaces appear to be different shades of black, and in fact, certain edge reflections appear almost white. Obviously, a true black cannot have different "shades," and could never seem to be white. Still, the only name that I have for the local color of the stapler is "black."

Radiant light is all but irrelevant to the painter. We manipulate only reflected light, therefore we are justified in referring to black as a color.

A.) In light (pun intended) of the forgoing arguments, I propose that we agree AS PAINTERS that "black" is the name of a color (hereinafter referred to as black.)

I will resist the temptation to formulate a U.I.T. (Unified Impressionist Theory) and address only the ubiquitous notion that black paint should not be used because there is no true black in nature. I have heard no argument for banning black from painting that does not spring from this pseudoscientific impressionist theory.

It can be said that there are no TRUE black OBJECTS i.e. all-absorbing, non-reflective objects, but the aforementioned stapler does have a color, and we call that color black. It is true that there are no true staplers in nature either, so I will move on, mentioning only that if I wish to paint an unnatural object (stapler) there is no better pigment or combination thereof than the one that caused it to be black in the first place.

It can also truthfully be said that there are no true red or blue objects in nature, as nothing I know of reflects all of and only the red or blue portions of the spectrum. If we must ban black for not existing in nature, are we obligated to remove red and blue - indeed all of the other colors? This is an absurd reasoning, and even Renoir found the impressionist ban on black impossible to justify.

B.)Therefore be it resolved that the blanket ban on black shall be summarily dismissed. But let us not fall into either/or. That which is not forbidden is not mandatory, and that which is not mandatory is not forbidden.

I'm having difficulty forming any sort of lucid argument concerning the last question, as the answer seems so obvious. If you need a dark purple, by all means mix one up. But if you need black, use black. Come on. How hard is this? No one has suggested mixing two or three colors together to get Cadmium Red. What makes black any different?

C.) I submit that it makes no sense whatsoever to mix other colors together to get black, when usable, permanent blacks are readily available.

That horse should be pretty well black and blue by now.

03-29-2000, 07:34 PM
SG, my hat is off to you! You certainly know your black. Thanks for your input.

03-30-2000, 02:43 AM
re: no bkack in Nature..Uh..what about the horses hair and mane??..Uh..some peoples hair..Um..obsidian..ah..my Cat..um..Onyx..or a night sky at newmoon..or??..well black does occur in nature and in most every packaged set of paints..oils or H2o's

I have been liberal with my use of black in my oil paintings..and whatever the arguements from the U.I.T. I am having a great time of it!! (just finished my mermaid and fish oil painting..great leapn' gobs of black you guyZ..will post when dry)


(wow..how did I overlook this great topic before now!!) http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/eek.gif


03-30-2000, 04:28 AM
Well spoken sgtaylor.
Here is a link to more info on light and color... http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/0/0,5716,117710+1,00.html

04-25-2000, 09:45 AM
Milt.... Just got around to reading this whole discussion. You Win (he he) - and I for one will stop teaching my students that they can mix their own blacks. Instead, they can now mix their own black likenesses. Was it me in chat with you (some time ago) - that got this whole thing started? Consider me "enlightened"....... http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif Carol

04-26-2000, 08:05 PM
Not to be a poo poo head....but, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

If someone can select 2-3 of my landscape images in my exhibt at art-agent.com (plug my last name into the artist search engine and hit go), and explain to me where using black would have improved my value range and effects then I will be convinced pure and simple.

Using black works for many...it is unnecessary for me in landscapes. Now...I do use it in my illustrations, or when I want to have a tonalist feeling for whatever reason, or my wildlife images from time to time..but, where natural light exists from the effects of the sun on a scene, where is black? Light hits from above. It reflects off the ground. It bounces off nearby objects. Shadows have degrees of light within them, subtleties of color.

I'm not saying black doesn't work or that art should have more confining boxes. I love Sargent's work, he used black freely. In fact..I'm looking at a poster right now of his lady friend painting by a nearby waterfall.

He used blacks in the shadows of his trees behind the subjects. The greens of the foilage look dead by comparison because no complimentaries are built into the black.

Dead color here works for him...because he causes the eye to be more interested in the subjects by making the background of little interest. IN this case, black works.

I could make the background of little interest using colors to neutralize, don't need black. One uses black. Another doesn't. Each has different effects, and some will appeal to one eye that does not to another.

Now..if there is one comment and question I am asked more than any other, it is the effects I get with color followed by "how do you do that?" Brilliance, intensity, lifelike, singing, breathing..which comes (FOR ME, by using chroma purity juxtaposed (used it again Arlene!) with complimentaries. Black would succeed in maintaining the values I have, but would deaden the effects of color I want. Color that comes as close as possible for me to imitate that which only light produces.

I guess what should be discussed is the emotive thing striven for. Does for example black help Sargent attain the drama he wanted while allowing him to paint quickly, while for another not using black would assure attaining something else?

I think less that it is not which way is right or not right, but what emotional response or achievement is the artist working for..and therefore which technical approach will best help him/her get that?


"Art attacks can skill!"

05-29-2000, 08:31 AM
Good zeal!!!! I use black all the time. However, a very nice substitute is one part Thaylo green ,one part French Ultramarine, and one part of any bloody red you've got. No Cadmiums for this mix.I had a very reputable teacher tell me once never to use indigo or Vandyke brown in my work because these are made with ink dyes and will eat through the canvas eventually. Does anyone know about this?

05-29-2000, 11:22 AM
I once had design students take any mix of colors except black to match a value scale. It can be done, but it generally uses huge quantities of paint. Much easier to go to the store and buy a tube of "black". I like ivory black more than mars, because it is more translucent.

God Blesses!

05-31-2000, 08:35 AM
bottom line,,,,all the colorist who are explaining how they can mix to black, never do and never use any such color in their palette, anyway. so for them it's a pointless exercise in theory and applicability....{M}

07-29-2000, 02:28 AM
Red, yellow, and blue, are primary colors. Black can be useful for darkening other colors if you choose to use it. It is not necessary to use black. White is not a primary, but, it is necessary for me to use it as I can not mix my own white (not yet anyway hahaha) Black is not a primary. It is not necessary for me as I can mix a good ďblackĒ of my own. I do not use secondary colors. I can mix my own! I do not use tube grey, I can mix my own!

I use to use black, and secondary colors as well, but find it more fun, and more interesting not to. I do use some browns, but would like to mix all my own browns as well one day http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif I like the colors I can create without the use of tube black and secondary's. It's more interesting and itís more fun http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif Donít bother telling me I just didnít know how to use black. I will just laugh. I love color and light! I don't want to use black! Black for me is the absence of light. The only time could see it's use, would be for special effects ... Perhaps, in an under painting with white. This achieves a nice effect, and after all effect is what itís all about http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif I have not tried this, nore would I care to, but others have with nice results. It would be usefull for people having trouble with their tonal balance.

Milt, I like your work, you use black nicely, and you know a lot. I respect you enormously. You know that I do. You are a teacher as well as an artist. Let people know that there are other valid schools of thought on color. Donít make them feel like dummies for not using tube black! Milt ... they look up to you. Remember that there is more than one religion. All colors should belong to the artist to use as they so choose. Do not censor.

Use what ever you want to! Use your fingers and toes! Let loose! Create! Painting is an art and each picture is a new adventure, or should be. I like mixing my own colors and I try to use as few as possible cause it is fun. You donít have to!!! No one else has to!!! I am happy. Yes ... with out black! With just my precious primaries *lol*
Go forth bravely, do whatever you like, try something just for the challenge ... but paint, and get all the joy you possibly can from it!

07-29-2000, 09:52 AM
bottom line,,,,all the colorist who are explaining how they can mix to black, never do and never use any such color in their palette, anyway. so for them it's a pointless exercise in theory and applicability....{M}

07-29-2000, 10:05 AM
bottom line,,,,all the colorist who are explaining how they can mix to black, never do and never use any such color in their palette, anyway. so for them it's a pointless exercise in theory and applicability....{M}

I'm not anti black Bruin...I simply don't need it. I'm saying that as a result of deciding not to use black, I've learned more about color. I'm also reporting that a good number of people ask me how I arrive at the brilliance of color that I do in my landscapes...and find I must yield an honest report of why I believe what works for me does.

For nearly 20 years...I painted in my studio and hardly ventured out of doors. My wildlife works were constructed, organized and labored out. In the confines of my studio, I thought of darkest darks as black, or black with color added.

It was not until I chose to begin to paint out of doors that I would put Ivory black on my palette and discover it never to be used. I ceased using it as a result.

Now...since wildlife live out of doors after these observations...I would be inclined in-studio to avoid black as much as possible to simulate natural light, but more than that to make the eye go where I want it to and sense color singing.

I fully recognize other artists use black and use it well. However..I believe my wildlife works though competitively successful, are stagnant when compared to my landscapes. If therefore someone risks asking me what is your secret/method that makes your color so, "alive?" I have no choice but to be forthright and honest. Not using black of course is not by any means the sole reason, but getting as much effect from color out of my darks is one reason why.

I could get the contrast from black in a shadow against say a light yellow-green foilage, and some would stop at that. By leaning to favor Alizarin Crimson or Rose Madder to be sensed in that shadow instead, I not only achieve the contrast of the dark as a value difference, I also achieve the contrast of complimentaries to cause the yellow-green a second "cause" to be noticed.

I am seeking to tweak every ounce of contrast as a vehicle available to me. Simple.

Now...you say colorists never do mix a black on their palette...so, please..please...PULease look at my landscape exhibit and explain my darkest darks, and how black would improve the contrasts. How are those darks getting there if I am not making them?

My Painting Exhibits- http://www.artistnation.com/members/lofts/lseiler/

"Regard mistakes more forgiveable than boredom!"

"Art attacks can skill!"

09-20-2001, 10:51 AM
Originally posted by sgtaylor
C.) I submit that it makes no sense whatsoever to mix other colors together to get black, when usable, permanent blacks are readily available.

Duuuuhhhh Red is a primary and you NEED it to create the illusion of an object that appears to be red. Black is NOT a primary and you DON'T NEED IT to create the illusion of an object that appears to be black.

Painting is all about illusion; itís meant to be magical. Itís all about creating effects, the illusion that something is there when in reality it isnít there at all. Play with your paint people. See what it can do. Use whatever you want to. Have some fun.

09-23-2001, 05:04 PM
I've read most of the posts in here and the whole time I'm thinking, "Well, I use black and quite successfully, and I know how to use it." (Of course I know less today than I will tomorrow.) But then I had to stop and think. I cannot remember the last time I actually used black. Occasionally I do use it, to make darks a little darker, or deepen a shadow, things like that. I just can't remember the last time....hmmm.....

09-23-2001, 09:24 PM
Black...I use black all the time. The color, or anti-color black is in our environment everywhere we look. Though the supposed purists may say that the color black does not exist, I say if it looks black, it is black. No reason to beat around the bush.

Keith Russell
10-04-2001, 10:56 AM

I tell my students (the ones who have been told that black is not a colour, at least) to hop on down to the art supply store, ask for a big tube or bottle of black for free. Since it's not a colour, and they charge for colour, they shouldn't charge for black, right?

(But, they do charge for black, don't they?!)

Black, straight out of the jar or bottle is a bit flat. I always mix some deep (ultramarine or Prussian) blue with the black, to deepen it, or I'll put a transparent wash of blue, red, green, or violet over the dried area of straight black, also to deepen it.

But, my work is hardly about 'reality' 'as it is', and much of my subjects are supposed to look artificial; human-made. Human beings make lots of black stuff (staplers, phones, cars, clothes, tires, shoes) and if you want to paint this stuff to look 'realistic', using black is--IMO--a valid option.


10-15-2001, 02:37 AM
larry,,,,,two things.

first, explain your quote ,,"However..I believe my wildlife works though competitively successful, are stagnant when compared to my landscapes."....i'm a bit mislead here. are you implying you use black in your wildlife scenes and not in your landscapes?

second......how DO you think black is used by,,,,,US?.....{M}

10-15-2001, 10:54 PM
Originally posted by Keith Russell

I tell my students (the ones who have been told that black is not a colour, at least) to hop on down to the art supply store, ask for a big tube or bottle of black for free. Since it's not a colour, and they charge for colour, they shouldn't charge for black, right?

(But, they do charge for black, don't they?!)

I guess I wouldn't think of a retailer charging for something as validation of its use. They charge for a copal substitute that is a cheap imitation and nothing like real copal either. Retailers will always be glad to sell you anything you don't need. Keeps them in business.

On the other hand....I'm personally not saying Black has no validity. I recognize great artists that have used it, such as Rembrandt...Sargent, etc;

I just don't personally need it to make an effective dark. Furthermore, I would submit "some" artists have not thought long and hard about the full potential of color mixing simply because they stopped at the first thing that seemed to work.

For example...yes, art stores sell about 99 colors you can buy. I choose to only use a warm and cool variation of each primary, white, and a Naples Yellow and Veridian. My limiting myself has led to necessarily getting to know the full potential of these colors. I would submit also, that many artists having SO many pigments are often somewhat intuitively impaired as to color relationships.

Use black. I use to. We should all use what we use, and use it well. Its restrictive and debilitating for me to use it, so I don't. I will defend anyone's right <i>to</i> use it.

10-15-2001, 11:21 PM
Originally posted by bruin70
larry,,,,,two things.

first, explain your quote ,,"However..I believe my wildlife works though competitively successful, are stagnant when compared to my landscapes."....i'm a bit mislead here. are you implying you use black in your wildlife scenes and not in your landscapes?

second......how DO you think black is used by,,,,,US?.....{M}

My wildlife works span a period of time of nearly 20 years, but competitively speaking, such works are "past" works. They have a tonalist realism. They work. They impressed many. I'm yet proud of them. However....when I'm outdoors, I don't see living things tonally. I mean....tonalism is a nice aesthetic visual device, sorta like formal or symetrical balance. It works...but, assymetry is more interesting, and so is full use of vibrant color. I'm qualifying that is a personal bias and as subjective to my own interests.

After painting outdoors for the past six years Milt....I have to confess that photographs and other references and resources had me enslaved to them to produce my wildlife images. I say that now, because I'm seeing color that photographs and other resources do not reveal.

Oh sure...I'm an outdoors person and have spent most my life outdoors so should have known better, but it was setting up an easel and painting from life on location out of doors that color and living things spoke to me. Opened <i>my</i> eyes. Also, most my wildlife art peers paint in-studio. Obviously, we don't find wildlife to pose for us outdoors. The studio is a place of work ethic convenience where we can labor long to attain detail that the market demands.

When I was amongst my peers, we all had the same limitation, so it did not appear apparent to any of us that we were shorting ourselves.

Interestingly, more and more wildlife artists are painting outdoors, and doing plein airs on the side. As a result of a recent show I was at...we are in the process of formulating a midwest plein air group of already established professional painters.

Interestingly...nearly all the wildlife artists that have been painting on location over the past few years can cite a renaissance of "seeing" that changed their working habits and their work's appearance. It has resulted in less tonalist type works this past decade being produced by better known reputable wildlife artists.

Our tonalism evidently Milt, was not by aesthetic conscientious intent, but by finding ourselves influenced by the colorless resources we had depended upon. As a result, many used black in the past more than now because thru the lens metering producing photographs so easily translated darks to blacks...however, now more and more wildlife artists are realizing that reflective light gets the eye into more shadows and darks to see more. We painted what we saw. When we relied upon photos...we painted more lifeless darks. We still paint what we see, but now painting outdoors on location we see more than what the photos we depended upon for years showed us.

So....for me to paint black personally, is like going back to my in-studio days and ignore what my eyes have seen since then.

When some artists see a strong velvety black on the feathering of a wood duck drake...they swear they are seeing black, and that's good enough for them. Okay. That's cool. Let them paint black. Now however when I see what appears as the velvety black feathering....I have learned that there are hints of other complementaries within that dark area that are working to bring out the saturation of color in the rest of the head. I have learned that color casts its opposite on neighboring or adjacent areas.

So....what I'm saying is...by mixing my own darks (NOT using black pigment)on the wood duck's head...my use of color <i>appears</i> "blacker" (if-you-will) because of how color works against each other than if I had used the actual pigment black.

Black appears lifeless to me now by comparison of what the darker area <i>could</i> look like, and that is why I said, "stagnant."

Knowing what I know about being actually on location with artist's eyes seeing, I am now challenged when I do wildlife (even in-studio) to ignore the black or tonal effects of photo's to paint what I know instead to be true. I'm gambling that my having painted as much as I have now outside, that my instincts and intuition will serve me to protect me from lifeless tonalism.

Lastly, I'll say this. I thank God, literally....for the wonderful diversity of all the arts and for artists individual artistic vision. I love your work Milt. Absolutely wonderful. It has a decorativeness to me aesthetically that does not mimic actually what the eyes see, yet you project an emotive sensation that speaks life in its own unique way. Real....though not real.

I would not discourage artists from using black. I know some who do so vehemently, but why convince everyone to paint like me? I would succeed only in eliminating my own uniqueness and usefulness. However....if someone asks- why I get what I get out of color what I do?; what is different now from the many years I painted in studio? and based upon their liking my particular style what I would recommend, I would have to suggest abstaining from black. If someone asked me how Bruin gets the effect he does, and they would like to paint like you... I would heartedly encourage them to study your approach (including your use of black) and implement it.


10-16-2001, 01:48 AM
Bravo Larry :clap: Here is a quote from Bruin from another form that I thought might apply here as well. (Please don't be mad at me Bruin :D I'm not trying to start trouble here. It's a very good quote!

Originally posted by bruin70
Ö..color is a personal expression, and if you achieve your goal, then alls wellÖ..

10-16-2001, 02:02 AM
i glad to see that you seem to understand the nature of the use of black. still when you describe the use or non use of black, as most others have done here, it is in regards to its use WHEN PAINTING SOMETHING BLACK. this seems to be the point that all non black users focus on. ......how you go about PAINTING AN OBJECT THAT IS BLACK by not using black. every colorist talks about how they can mix to black/almost black for use when they need it. this misses the whole point.

so let me explain to the others......
the use of black by tonalists is NOT with the sole intent of painting black objects. in fact, IT IS NOT THE INTENT,,,,PERIOD. black, in the tonalist palette, is used as a MOTHER COLOR. it is the binding pigment that creates unity in the tonalist palette. you refered to this, though all to briefly, in your reply. but the bulk of your reply revolves around the appearance/non appearance of black in nature and how you perceive and deal with it in your art. this throws an errant view about black's function in the tonal palette. this is one of the major reasons why black is never taught. no one knows how to use it so no one knows how to teach it. obviously,, painting an entire scene in vivid color, and then painting a black object flat black shows very lttle color consciousness. problem is,,,that's how every immature artist uses black. thus its avoidance.

I MYSELF rarely use flat black. however black is elemental in ALL my color mixes, and is the color that unifies the painting. black, however , is an advanced theory, and should only be taught to the serious student.

a reminder to others,,,,,,black also means grey by the very nature in which it is used.

for reasons i can only speculate about, tonal paintings seem more dynamic. no reason for this, except to say the tonal paintings seem to have more presense. why??? who knows. i have my own reasons, but that's practically an entirely new thread.....{M}

10-16-2001, 02:39 AM
And by what name shall we seek such a thread?


10-16-2001, 08:25 AM
dj,,,,howz about,,,,,,,,"another pointless color thread started by bruin":D,,,,,{M}

10-16-2001, 08:40 AM
hey lar,,,,,btw,,,,,NAPPAP?

National Association of Portrait Painters And,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,PAGANS??? ;)

10-16-2001, 09:37 AM
Originally posted by belladonna
Bravo Larry :clap: Here is a quote from Bruin from another form that I thought might apply here as well. (Please don't be mad at me Bruin :D I'm not trying to start trouble here. It's a very good quote!

i hope im not sounding like i'm forcing everyone to use black. far from it......{M}