Monday, September 26, 2016

The Color Black

Woman with a Parasol - Claude Monet
Recently I found myself in conversation with a fellow artist about the color black and the manner that one popular instructor on the workshop circuit uses it. Rarely has there been a color who's use elicits so much debate! Throughout history there have been artists who have used it to beautiful effect.The impressionists on the other hand, tended to shy away from it, viewing it as the opposite of outdoor light which was their primary concern.

Laughing Cavalier - Frans Hals
Velazquez, Rembrandt, Hals, Manet, Degas,Sargent and Zorn all used black. Modern painters who include black on their palette are Jim Wilcox, Sherrie McGraw, Ned Meuller, Mitch Baird, and Kenn Backhaus.  Some of these artists use black with yellow to make greens. Some use it to make grays that they modify colors with. Some use it in place of blue. Artists who don't have black on their palette like Scott Christenson, Jim McVicker, Brian Blood, and Derek Penix, mix their black from the dark colors they use.

Berthe Morisot with a bouquet of violets - Edouard Manet
When I began painting, I had a much more extensive palette than I do now, including several earth colors, a violet, 3 blues, 2 or 3 reds,various greens and 2 yellows. I had black on my palette too for making greens. You wouldn't think I'd need it with all those blues and yellows! Over time my palette became smaller until it contained only 3 colors plus white. I worked for more than 2 years with that palette. A tried and true 3 color palette that contains black is an earth yellow, ivory black and a warm red. Personally I tend to avoid black. The simplicity and harmony of the palette is appealing but black's reputation for cracking is worrisome. I usually paint outdoors and my current palette has 1 or 2 blues, a violet, 2 reds and 2 yellows. Sometimes I'll add another red or substitute one red for another. Occasionally I'll add viridian green and cadmium orange. Sometimes I'll drop one of the yellows. 

 The Misses Vickers by John Singer Sargent
The particular colors you choose to put on your palette are really less important than the relationships between colors that you create in your painting. You'll find that there are also multiple ways that you can arrive at the same color, as the photos below show.

In this photo the inside greens were made with ivory black and either cadmium yellow lemon or cadmium yellow medium. The outside green patches were made with ultramarine blue, permanent red deep and either cadmium yellow lemon or medium. They took about a minute to mix. With a little more care the color match could have been made even more exact. Just for fun I've included another mixture that I'll use in place of tubed yellow ochre and golden ochre.

The mixture on the left is cadmium yellow medium and quinacridone violet. The one on the right is yellow ochre from the tube. You can vary the shade light to dark, yellow to golden depending on how much yellow or violet you use.
So, how about you? Do you have black in your line up of colors?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Building Your House on a Solid Foundation

©Theresa Grillo Laird - Officer's House- Gulf Islands National Seashore - oil on canvas - 24x30- click here to purchase

I met an artist last week, a woman who in her prior life had been a highly successful architect. Working in a traditionally male field, she had reached a level of international success that any man would be proud to list as his life's accomplishment. Entirely self made, she had started from a very humble beginning attending school while waiting tables and supporting her children.

I love success stories so I asked her how she threaded the path to fulfillment and prosperity. She is a gracious woman and immediately said part of it was serendipity. But as I listened it was apparent how much her success was due to intelligent foresight, determination and good decision making about the options in front of her. 
I wondered, considering the many people have these qualities yet haven't ascended the heights of success in their field.I guess she perceived what I was pondering because she suddenly said- You know, if I was to give one piece of advice it would be to have integrity. She said self integrity had been her hallmark from early on and clients recognized the standard she held herself to.

So, what is integrity? Honesty? Doing what you say you will when you say you will? Not cutting corners?
I can see how all these things would apply in business, but in art?? Though highly admirable qualities to have, they don't seem to be what would put you over the top in the very crowded field of artists.Then, bingo! She added, In art that means to be true to your vision no matter what everyone else around you is doing. Hold to the unique gift of perception and creation that you've been given, and work unswerving from within it. She said she had found that maintaining integrity had brought her an ever expanding success in a way that blowing your own horn doesn't.

So folks, words of wisdom from one who's been there. And something to remember the next time you find yourself banging your head against the wall trying to make something happen, or confronting the snake of artistic self doubt slithering across your path.
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