A Limited Color Palette Part 2 – No Black.

Very dark colors make up the shadows in this piece called "Colour My World" but there is no black paint in the piece whatsoever.
Very dark colors make up the shadows in this piece called “Colour My World” but there is no black paint in the piece whatsoever.

No Black?  No.  Black is the absence of color.  And we live in a world filled with color and light.  What we consider black is really very very dark color that appear to our eyes as black – dark green, dark purple, dark bluish-brownish-purple, etc.  Painters will argue about this, but in a limited color palette, which has the capability to mix every color under the sun, there is no need for black.  Shadows are not grayed versions of their local color.  Even in dark shadows there is color.  We have to “forget what we think we see and really observe” when it comes to color.  Learning to paint very dark colors instead of black trains our eyes to what is truly in nature.  Look.  Look again.  Black can be too easily used and it is not the true color of what is seen – unless there is utter darkness.  The absence of light means the absence of color.  Vibrancy in painting is accomplished in concentrating on the colors we observe and even pushing the intensity to paint what we intellectually know is there, even if our eyes do not see the color.  For example, how many times have you taken a picture of a sunset, and when it was printed you were disappointed because the picture didn’t do the scene you saw with your eyes justice.  Bingo.  To replicate the true impression of what you witnessed you would have to “up” the color some – adding what you know you saw, but the photograph did not record.  There is a lot of visual action, even in things we initially think are very dark. 

As a Christian painter I notice analogies to faith at every turn.  I would be remiss not to mention that just as there is a lot of action in nature even when we think an area is just plain dark, God is working in our lives, even when we cannot visibly see any action going on in the moment.  In fact in those moments God is especially working. “We walk by faith and not by sight”…even when it seems black.

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