BENDING THE RULES
If you've been painting for a while you would have heard about some of the age-old 'rules' that regularly do the rounds, and it seems for every rule there is always an artist ready to enforce it.
As time goes by we realise that there is no law enforcement when it comes to art. We can rest assured that the police won't be at the door if we bend or even fragrantly break some of the rules of painting. A self-proclaimed sleuth may reprimand us from time to time, but they can't harm us, fine us, or send us to jail.
When we see a painting we love, we don't give it the third degree. We tend to love art for what it is and thank goodness, because art would have died out long ago if its success depended on whether the artists followed all the rules in making it.
To be fair, a lot of rules are tried and true procedures and ways of doing things that have proved their worth over time. However, rules regarding composition, tone and colour are all there to be broken if we dare.
Black paint was virtually banned by the impressionists, preferring to get their darks from mixtures rather than use black in any way. John Singer Sargent certainly used black, as did Turner (who is widely regarded as the father of impressionism), and Renoir is quoted as saying “I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colours is black”.
Even today, many artists will not consider using black paint, and it has become one of the 'rules'. The comment is often quoted - 'black is a dead colour". I don't know who first used the phrase but it is so well-worn it has become gospel.
Black is still in the palette of many portrait artists, and interestingly the Swedish artist Anders Zorn famously often only used a palette of just black, white, vermillion and yellow ochre. His paintings are anything but dead! Look at this link - a self portrait of Zorn painting, and notice the colours on his palette! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders_Zorn#/media/File:Sj%C3%A4lvportr%C3%A4tt_av_Anders_Zorn_1896.jpg
I tend to use black in my rainy cityscapes, but nearly always in conjunction with other colours. My favourite colours to use with black and white are yellow ochre, ultramarine, alizarin and veridian - some amazing greys are possible without too much complication. The rain tends to rob any scene of colour and more so into the distance. The brightest colours are those that are illuminated like traffic lights, car lights and neon signs. The technique of blueing off distant objects does not work the same in rainy-day works.
The rebellion has already begun, and black paint is being squeezed out of tubes all over the world.
Are you coming over to the dark side!
Caption: Casablabla - is one of my favourite little paintings and all done using very few colours including black.