Friday, July 2, 2010

Black and White Painting in Color

Today's painting, a horse head, was referenced from a black and white photo. But I can't paint in just black and white, I need color. Starting with a red ground ( artspeak for background ) on my canvas, I laid in the basic dark dark shapes. A few of the not so dark darks and then I jumped to the lights. Not straight white, a bit of orange and ochre to warm it up.

When painting in public, you get to talk to fellow artists of varying skill levels. I talk to quite a few who work in pencil or charcoal but are reluctant to paint or who have tried painting and were unhappy with the results. Let me use this painting to illustrate a couple of helpful ideas.

First, if you draw exclusively in black and white, be it pencil or charcoal or whatever. Make it easy for yourself and try working with only black and white paint. You already know how to discern tthe values ( darks and lights ) and to see the shapes, so just work with learning how the paint works. How it feels going on the canvas. How to thin. How it covers and how it blends. Play with that.

A second step is to work on a colored ground. You can use charcoal and white chalk or pastel on a blue or tan paper. Here is where it gets interesting. The white black and the ground color can be used to create cool and warm colors. Using a warm colored, say a tan paper or background you can use the black and white chalks with the tan showing through to create a range of warm tones. Now if you take your black and white and mix a range of grays without allowing the background color to show, they will have a cool, bluish cast compared to the color of your background.

Try creating two value scales (a row of ten squares going from black to white) side by side, one with the black and white mixed opaquely, the other with the colored ground showing through (work from your ground color adding white as you get lighter and using the ground color and black to create your darks. Do not mix black and white together in this scale)

In the painting below, white mixed with orange, ochre and red are used in the lights. The darks range from a deep mixture of blue and brown, to greenish midtones to bluish halftones and both warm and cool reflected light. A lot of fun, playing with a black and white image. If you find this interesting, I will be teaching a workshop in August. See below for more..

8 x 8 Oil on Canvas
$240. Shipping included

The workshop will be in Raleigh NC at Jerrys Artarama on August 14, from 10 - 4.
For more go to Jerrys Raleigh store.

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