Several years ago I was asked to paint a portrait of a friend’s two pets. One of them was a black poodle and I struggled both with finding a way to make the eyes appear from the black face and the fact that I had not used black watercolor before. I read about the use of blacks in books and found that much of what was said was to use black in conjunction with another color. That is what I did, here.
Later, I learned about using primary colors to create black. That is what I did to create the above image of a holstein cow. I allowed the three colors to mingle on the paper as well as mixed it in my palette to create the effects above.
Then I read a blog post about an artist who only worked in black and white watercolor. Try as I might, I have not been able to locate that post or artist through googling but he rendered incredible scenes using black and white watercolor. They were mostly night scenes, many of which were of highways and cities. I forgot about this artist until Eva posted a watercolor in black, here. Thank-you, Eva. You sent me on a journey that has been very rewarding and informative for me.
I chose a the above blacks made by Winsor Newton, ivory, lamp, mars and neutral tint to create my black paintings. For white, I chose American Journey titanium white.
The first painting I chose to do was from a photo of clouds that I had taken. I learned that black watercolor worked very well to create a monochromatic painting. I was able to create depth and manipulate the different blacks to achieve just what I had in color, before. It did not look flat if handled like any watercolor. I will say that had I only used ONE of the above blacks, I would not have been able to build up the values as well and this may have appeared much flatter. I also was intrigued with the difference of mood a black watercolor brought across. Very somber.
The next image I chose was a photo taken by Bigsurkate. Thank-you, Kate, for allowing me to work from your photo! I had noticed that when I added the titanium white to the black, I came up with a foggy and opaque gray. I worked the background behind the crow in wet and wet with ivory and mars black (very diluted) and allowed it to dry. I then went back in with the titanium white, wet-in-wet, and created the foggy appearance. I really like the contrast of that opaque white with the rail the bird is perched on as well as the whites I left on him.
For my last study I chose a photo reference that Carol and her husband sent after I inquired about what a big snow looked like in New York City. Kaiya, their dog, was not in the photo. I added that from another photo. Thank-you, Carol and husband, for the references! What prompted my wanting to try this was a little original watercolor card that my sister had sent me a year ago. That artist had painted a snow scene in black of skyscrapers in the background and park bench in foreground. On the park bench was a Christmas gift and it was the only thing in color. I really was impressed with the contrast. Thus, the inclusion of Kaiya, in color, to see if I could achieve the same effect. I used no white in the city scene. The white is the white of the paper.
What this involved study showed me was that we are not limited, at all, by what to use to create. Even though I like the richness of the blacks that other colors make, I also am intrigued with the somber scenes created in black and white.
To all my students out there that I have warned about black and white! Have fun! See what you can do with it!
And Henn! That goes for Paynes gray, TOO!!!!!