Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Dark Side

Excuse the title of this blog children are Star Wars mad....

Here is a sneak peek of a work in progress, depicting black lace. It is part of a larger painting of about 45x35cm, exploring the textures of black lace. After having painted a few paintings with cream-coloured lace it is a very interesting process to paint black lace. The technique is the same but, as always, values are key. Although I rarely use black paint straight from the tube (I mainly use it for mixing) I have been experimenting with it and found it a tricky paint to use on its own. I have ivory black and recently bought some lamp black which is a slow drying, deep cool black (of course besides ivory and lamp black, there is also mars black which I’ll try and purchase soon). The funny thing with both is that is dries up quite mat, which lightens the value visually. That makes it, for me, a difficult paint to work with as you can only see what you’ve done when it is dry or oiled out/varnished. Of course there are other ways to use black: by mixing. Traditionally artists often use a mix of burnt umber and prussian blue (or something thereabouts), potentially mixed with a cool or warm red. These mixes give a near black that is very useful as its tendency to a warm or cool tone gives a black liveliness. Black from the tube is fairly cool, blue/grey - ish tone, while a black mixed with umber and blue makes a deeper, warmer black.
I’ll continue to play with my blacks for the next few paintings.

Here are some links to interesting web posts on black:
Artists Network: The Color Black by Koo Schadler
Peggi Habets’ posts about black: Lamp Black, Ivory Black, Mars Black, Vine Black
Aaron Westerberg notes on black
(I will update if and when I find more)

pssst....did I tell you to look out for next month’s Artists & Illustrators Magazine? Out 17 July.

Feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. This is a nice series you have going wit the lace.

    Interesting post on black and its use.
    I also rarely use tube black but when I do I use it straight from the tube, different from your use of it.
    Otherwise and most of the time I mix my own black as most artists seem to do.

    I was taught to make it from:
    Ultramarine Blue
    Thalo green
    Alizarin Crimson
    Burnt Sienna

    I'm sure there are many other recipes for black

    Keep painting...

  2. Thank you David. That’s a lot of colours for black! I am hoping to buy some mars black soon and see how that compares. It seems to me, at the moment, that a mixed black is usually a very dark blue or brown etc....and that looks more like deep black than most black from the tube which is basically a low chroma/low value grey/blue. Often we associate black with warmth, depth etc and so a mixed black looks better than a very dark grey. Just my thoughts.
    Thanks for commenting David, - much appreciated.


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