Until recently, I had almost never painted with black and rarely with a restricted color range. I was a color junky like many of you, I guess. However, in order to learn more about values (shade and light), I decided to paint, for over a month, with a color palette limited to black, ocher and brown. Along the way, I learned a couple of things that I want to share with you today…
The Other Design Elements
The first thing I’ve noticed by adopting black and those colors I’ve long considered to be dull and drab is that in the absence of vibrant colors, the other design elements stand out much more. I think about the values, the shapes, the lines and the composition. Adopting such a color palette is therefore a great way to practise working with these elements of design. The slightest weakness is quite obvious when the intense colors are absent.
I also noticed how much a work in black, ocher and brown, or even only in black and ocher on a white background has the power to evoke a strong emotional load in me. It was a surprise I did not expect at all. Is it because that reminds me of old photos in sepia or the black and white TV screen of my childhood? Perhaps it is also related to what black symbolizes for me: mourning, religious orders and austerity. I do not know exactly, but I feel the effects.
See Things Differently
Working with black and these few colors also allowed me to look in a different way to winter and the early spring, when the trees do not yet have leaves, the grass is dried out, and the tones of browns are everywhere. Usually I hate this period of the year and long for green leaves and those bright and abundant summer colors. This year, I was surprised to like the subtleties of the browns and the lines of leafless shrubs. Painting has that power: changing the way we look around us.
Emotional and Energetic Impact
I also realized that painting with brown, ocher and black helps keeping me both well rooted on the ground. That is very good for me.
On the other hand, painting with black also influences my mood and my physical energy level. If I’m overexposed, I feel depressed and tired. I know for a long time that colors, whether in my environment or my clothes have an impact on me. For example, I avoid wearing black. I can tolerate black pants or leggings, but only in small doses and I should wear a top with bright or lighter colors, otherwise I quickly feel sad. I feel much more peaceful and balanced dressed in off-white, while orange and ocher energize me and give me confidence, the green regenerates me, and the blue calms me.
You may very well not feel the same with colors. Much depends of your culture, your personal symbolism and your sensitivity. For example, if you associate black color with style and luxury, you might feel great in the presence of black, even in the long run. It’s not the case for me.
Concerning the Artworks
The paintings shown in this blog post are part of the series of artworks created with ink and acrylic or oil and cold wax medium made during this experiment. Visit the image gallery by clicking on this link to see more of them.
Now, with everything I have learned during this experiment of painting for more than a month with black, ocher and brown, I much better seize what is interesting in working with a restricted range of colors and especially with black. I like much more and have a better understanding of the work of artists creating in black and white, and I definitively no longer feel the same way toward these “dull and drab” colors that were almost unknown to me.
I now have to explore how to integrate black in my more colorful artworks…
Thanks for being here with me and see you soon,