Tag Archives: shadows

Using Black Paint

I mentioned in my last post that I frequently like using black paint in my work. When I do use black, I don’t always use it to gray down a color, but sometimes I like the effect when I do. Some painting teachers will tell students to never use black because it is too intense.

Ann Hart Marquis-Temperamental-using black paint

Tempermental, acrylic and ink on canvas, 14 x 14 x 14 x 1.5 inches, 2015.

Some think that black pigment kills the color and should never ever be used for darkening colors or in shadows. In addition, it is said that the artist should mix their own black paint, and colors should be darkened with their complementaries.

The idea actually goes back to the Impressionists and the statements that Monet made about the use of pure black. He maintained that pure black is ” death of shadows” and that it dulls colors. It was believed that he abandoned the use of pure black completely although now through the use of modern science we find out that it’s not true. Monet obviously did not study the works of Manet, Matisse or Goya whose use of black is dramatic and compelling.

La danse-Matisse

La danse-Matisse

There is definitely some black pigment in Monet paintings. The stigma that attached itself to the pure black paint survived, however, and unfortunately it is still present till this day.

There is no absolute rule in painting for when premixed black is used versus a hand-mixed black. It depends on the artist’s preference and the intended visual effect. For instance, if I want a certain warm/dark brown black, then I would mix until I arrived at that shade. If, however I wanted a full/rich black, then I would select a premixed tube.

Any thoughts on the color black or painting with it?