Monday, 3 November 2014

Black, Revisited

Now then, dear reader, you may remember a good while ago I wrote a post all about black. Well, here's a little reminder, it was called, 'Paint it Black, (or as dark as you dare)' and I was highlighting the mixes and uses for blacks and neutrals in botanical painting.

My early foray into this area started with the good old, 'botanical grey', that relied on ready mixed blacks such as Payne's Grey and Davey's Grey, although I never went as far as to use Lamp Black. And my earlier post included some of my trials of neutrals that added other colours to these pre-mixed greys.

Then, as in the chart below I gained a bit of confidence and started mixing equal quantities of red, blue and yellow together to get black. This was a successful strategy that I picked up from somewhere or other during my heady art student days, and once-remembered, have generally stuck with this recipe.

Moving on from using custom blend greys.
Adding red, yellow and blue together in equal amounts will always give you black.

One of my first botanical subjects using black and grey mixes

    Here to help are some tips from the best:
  • Use a range of cool and warm yellows, blues and reds to mix black.
  • Always work layers and washes from light to dark, the darkest to be worked with a dry brush, 'stippling' technique to avoid lifting previous layers.
  • Combine Complementary Colours, e.g those opposite each other on the colour wheel, Red and Green, Yellow and Violet, Blue and Orange , (those closer to each other can also work well). Remember, the mix here is a Primary and Secondary colour.
  • Avoid using colours with black pigment. e.g Payne's Grey, Indigo, Neutral Tint or Sepia.
These tips were first published in an edition of Artists and Illustrators magazine and can now be viewed, along with loads of other pointers at Artists and Illustrators: Top tips for better botanicals

Here, I can add a really good tip I picked up myself from one of the SBAs artists. Now this is a good one, I promise you. When mixing a black or neutral, especially for shadow tones on a painting, only use the colours you have in your palette to mix them. Do not introduce other reds, blues or yellows at this point, otherwise the colour you get will look false and will not compliment the overall painting. 

This one takes a bit of thinking, but once you get it, there's no going back.

Here's an example. Delia has been painted using Perylene Maroon, Permanent Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, Anthraquinoid Red Indanthrene Blue and Lemon Yellow. Now these are mostly on the cooler colour spectrum, with only Perylene Maroon being a warm red. So, the best black would be mixed using the blue with one of the cooler reds, along with the Lemon Yellow.

The centre of Delia requires a fair amount of darkness
but still retains a lot of colour in that area.

A 'dead black' would be far to dull

the palette mixes shows some of the experimental mixes.

Mixing the neutrals and black tones for the dahlia was quite tricky to get right as there was quite a purply tone to the centre, and I had used a few reds in my original colour palette. Trying out mixes first, I found all my favourite strong purples coming out, so I made a chart to show how just the blue with reds worked out, before adding the yellow to darken it further towards black.

The black for each mix is shown underneath the purple I achieved using just the red and blue

By adding the yellow to the mix of purples, I finally got the rich, but colourful blacks I was after. Noting the depth and richness for each one, I found that Anthraquinoid Red and Indanthrene Blue with Lemon Yellow was really quite delicious, and I can see me using a lot of it. Anthraquinoid Red really is becoming the new darling of the palette just now. Until the next one comes along to usurp the crown.
A brief Post Script... Delia finally finished

Putting those blacks into practice
Bit of an angle on this pic as I was sitting to take the photo


shevaun said...

Brilliant!! I totally get what you're saying about mixing your own blacks and love your colour charts.

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Ah, bless you for that Shevaun. Really getting into these deep and moody colours just now :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful tip and very thought provoking post. Can't wait to have a go as I am always disappointed with the blacks I mix. Thank you!

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Thank you Chris, I really love it when a mix comes out well, especially a tricky one. Hope you have more success with your mixes.