I've read a lot about whether to use black in painting or not, and I must confess to a degree of confusion over this. Black muddies the colours, right? And muddying is not good, is it? It's better to tone down your colour with its complementary, isn't it? Or is it? Because I really like muddy colours...
I thought the best way to explore this properly was to see what really happened to my colours when black (and white, to create tints) was added. And so I did an experiment. I painted little squares of all my paints straight out of the tube (bottom left). Then I added white to each one to make a tint (top left). Next, I started with tube colours again and added a very little black to each one (bottom right). Finally, I tinted these muted colours (top right). And this was the result:
Looking at these, I experienced a strong attraction to many of the colours, as well as quite a dislike of others. I thought it would be interesting to see which 'palette' held the colours I liked the best, if any.
So, I tore up lots of little bits of white paper, and I covered over all the colours I didn't much like. This was the result:
Several of the pure tints went straight away, as did many of the original pigments. Then I decided to get more ruthless and leave only colours I actively liked:
Not many left! And most of the brights gone. All the pure tints obscured except the muddy earth colours. But I still felt I hadn't been quite honest. Did I really like that bright red, and that ultramarine tint? No. So I did a final cull, leaving only colours I liked a lot and felt I might want to use:
Half the colours gone now. But what did remain was of interest: eleven 'pure' colours to seventeen 'blackened'... nine tinted colours to eighteen untinted. An extraordinarily clear preference for the blackened but untinted palette.
So, what to make of this information? The blackened, muddied colours that I feel like I 'shouldn't' be using turn out to be my favourites... Now, because I am someone who likes playing by the rules, this worries me. I'm also wondering how to use this information... should I stick to this palette to achieve work I like, or should I see it as a challenge to introduce colours I don't initally warm to, in order to broaden and open out my palette?
I would really welcome comments from anybody with experience of these questions and of painting. What are your feelings about using black as a mixing colour?
Out of interest, the colours, in a clockwise circle from bottom left to bottom right were:
Azo Yellow Medium
Napthol Red Light (Cadmium Red would be better)
Phthalo Blue (red shade)
Phthalo Blue (green shade)
It's such a beautiful colour and just right for autumn. The stitch is very simple and if anybody is interested, the details are below.
Five balls of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in shade 025 using a 5mm hook using treble stitch which is double in US crochet lingo (I think).
One shell = 2 tr, 1 ch, 2 tr.
Chain any multiple of 5 stitches, plus 4 extra (I did 44).
Row 1: 1 tr, 1 ch, 2 tr into 4th ch from hook, sk 4 ch, *shell into next ch, sk 4 ch, repeat from * to last ch then 2 tr, 1 ch, 1 tr in last ch, ch 3, turn.
Row 2: 1 tr, 1 ch, 2 tr in first ch space, shell in each ch space to end, 2 tr, 1 ch, 1 tr in last ch space, ch 3, turn.
Repeat row 2 until scarf is desired length.
NB I have edited this to correct the previous instruction which Jacqui kindly pointed out was wrong. I originally wrote 'repeat row 1'. This wouldn't have made sense anyway, so hopefully nobody's scarf has got in a twist. But it's right now (19.11.2012).
This autumn is an interesting time for me and I am noting changes in my approach to things, especially creative things. I have always loved this time of year – well actually if you have been reading this blog for any length of time you will know that I love almost any time of year – but autumn has an exciting whiff of change and new beginnings to it that I always enjoy.
Over the past eight months or so, I’ve made discoveries about my creative self that have felt like giant leaps... it has been a marvellous liberation to close the door on textiles and fling wide the door to painting and fine art. I’ve learnt so much, and am quivering like an excited jelly at the thought of how much more and more and more there is to discover. Before, there was doubt and confusion and this so often led to stagnation or more often a sort of frightened petrification. Now, I feel so certain that painting and drawing are what I want to do that I am finding a determination and belief that works almost like an energy force to push me along.
Today I experienced and noticed this energy in a new way as I made a terrible hash of trying to paint this little still-life scene. The paint wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do, I couldn’t mix the right colours, I had so many questions, I felt such a newbie. But instead of the usual sulky, whiney voice that usually pipes up at times like these, I felt a new – and surprising – calmness and determination to find out why it wasn’t working, and to seek out the information I need.
And so I tried again, and this little painting is the result. I don’t show it because I’m especially pleased with it – although it is a lot better than the one I'm not showing! – but I am pleased with what I learned in order to make it, and with my new sense of ‘can’ rather than ‘can’t’.
But I'm glad I did put my wellies on and go outside, and as I worked I realised these things about gardening:
It is good to be immersed in the smells of earth, of the scents of foliage as you cut back and brush past, the aroma of compost, and of growing things.
Quite a lot is possible in two hours: more than you expect.
You somehow become alert to another rhythm, a different perspective.
You are exposed to the unexpected.
On a bad day, it can be enough to make you want to carry on.
You become aware that everything in the garden will continue without your intervention, which is somehow soothing.
By some unknown means, it gets your thoughts moving, your anxieties settle, there is a peacefulness.
The fear that nothing will ever be completed seems to become oddly disarmed as you work, despite the fact that every job you begin seems to reveal another.
It is the perfect excuse for a cup of tea and a toasted teacake.
This week I've been doing some more painting, none of which would pass an O-level I'm afraid, but you have to start somewhere. I've been learning how the paint behaves and which brushes to use, and for the first time in my life I'm starting to understand the importance of pigments and colour mixing and all the things that you just aren't taught on a Textiles degree. It's frustrating because my mind is seeing big things that my hands can't yet produce, but I'm really enjoying it, and am starting to have a little more confidence in the medium.
I've also been doing a lot of thinking about the expectations we place on ourselves and asking myself some searching questions:
What if I didn't feel like I have to leave something of value in this life? What if everything was wiped at the end of each day?
What if nothing was attributed to individual effort anyway and we were all part of a whole, and it was a collaborative production?
What if I didn't feel I had to do 'something useful'? Who is determining what is useful anyway?
What if there's no pressure of time? What if it doesn't matter that I'm getting older because each day stands alone as a single entity, and this one is as precious, valuable and full of potential as one I lived through thirty years ago?
Scary? Wacky? Obvious? Liberating?