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Re: color theory and black


From: LarrySeiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Nov 22 2004 - 11:46:48 PST

No, it is an honest question. I am happy to answer. Black is a "dead" color
unless you add some blue or purple to it. In fact, I do not allow black with
pastels to shade forms. I dole it out only as needed. Black makes things
it is a non-color. It can be used to tint colors.Even a midnight sky is not
black...add some blue to it and see the difference.This is just a personal
Marsha in Orlando.

Good for you Marsha!!!!

I painted with black on my palette instudio for near 20 years...because I
combined my outdoor experiences recreationally with photos I had taken.
Camera's favor light, and thru the lens metering will push the light to draw
more of it into the lens. That favoring causes darks and shadows to become
darker where color is imperceptible.

My start in painting in the 70's was in copying Frans Hals and Rembrandt
pieces, as I liked the stage like Baroque drama lighting...and in time that
transferred to my wildlife art works.

When black is used with understanding and intention, it makes the work more
rightly called tonal. There are good artists known as "tonalists"....but
often more contemporary realists that are tonal are tonalists by default.
Default of having come to depend on the camera.

However...after 20 years painting instudio a near decade ago, I took my
painting outdoors. I own two portables now of my own..a Guerrilla box and
an El Greco Mahogany halfbox French easel. Wow...what a difference seeing
actual light painting on location made. Atmospheric light bouncing into
shadows to create various cools and so forth. In fact, painting outdoors
you will discover that if the atmospheric light is cool, the shadows will be
warm, and if the light is warm, the shadows will be cool.

Working from a dependency upon photographs many painters and young artists
will never come to face the notion that things are actually quite different.

Once you begin painting outdoors, your work takes on a particular
characteristic that has more life, more energy to it. From that point
on...all works painted from photographs without knowledge of what to
interpret and change will appear to your eyes as very stagnant, lifeless.
Black indeed kills color. can make your work sing and pop much more understanding that
elminating black from your palette won't mean you will not have darks for
value contrast. You will mix your darks, but you will learn to use
complements, learn to use warm versus cool colors in your mix so that other
dynamics are going on to create contrast. You have to think a bit
more...initially, but in time the eyes see it.

Those that have painted outdoors for any length of time soon easily develop
the ability to tell work that has been painted from photographs and those
painting outdoors.

Many artists unfortunately assume that great detail is what mimics life or
realism, reality. I was king of that assumption and winning major awards
and money in my genre served to solidify I couldn't have been wrong with
that. Up to 200 to 300 hours per painting!

What I learned painting outdoors is that light and color, with value can
create an emotive sense of being there. Of the real. My paintings now done
in 2-3 hours breath more than my detailed hyper realism works of yesteryear
with 200 hours in them.

These are things I am definitely committed to teaching my students.

At first it is difficult to convince them that painterly works that appear
chaotic up close could possibly feel real. However, when painting outdoors
on location you have a small window of opportunity before the scene totally
changes. You learn that it is not so much what to paint that is important
as it is to know what NOT to paint. An economy of time, an effort of
spontaneous immediacy.

It is difficult to provide that experience for kids...but I am taking kids
out on weekends every so often with portables we bought. AT the same
time...I am being somewhat their eyes for them instudio by telling them how
and why their photos lie.

Another thing I I take photos of all my outdoor painting excusions,
and take the reference image and work it on photoshop to provide them
instudio an enhanced image that is correct. I color correct, change hues
and saturations and such so that the shadows show color, and so that warm
light appears warm. These I print out in 8x10 size. I have them squint
their eyes using the largest brushes possible for most of the
painting...detail calculated just at the last, suggested. We've attained
pretty good results over the years....but, yes definitely I emphasize how
black has ruled many artist's eyes wrongly.

There have been very good artists that have used black, and one of them a
friend and contemporary of the Impressionists...Sargent, but certainly he
was a master and used black masterfully. There are some things better left
for the genuises IMHO...

I do teach units where students do tonal mixes using black...for black has
good use for design and so forth, but where paintings suggest outdoor
natural light, I have to tell 'em the way I live and experience it.

Larry Seiler

My artist website-
Visit my own artist's forum!
Signature member of NAPPAP- "National Academy of Professional Plein Air

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm!"
Winston Churchill