Many artists and art tutors will tell you that it is a golden rule NOT to use black in drawings and paintings. All darks should be made by colour mixing as it makes for a cleaner result. Black can deaden colour. Ugh! Who’d want that? But as dear old Doris Lusk told us at art school, (New Zealand artist and our drawing tutor in 1978; bless her heart and may she rest in peace), “Art rules are made to break”. Amen to that!
I love blacks and I have a treasure trove of them. In the two drawings above I have slathered on black with great force in some areas. In other areas I have gently hinted with it. Sometimes I use it as an underlay – used very lightly – so that the colour on top will be influenced by it. For example black under a bright purple makes for a grape hue.
What do I use white for? Certainly not for white areas. My whitest whites are nothing more than untouched paper. In the top drawing I wanted the orange/red of the lantern to pop so I began with a gentle coat of Holbein Artists’ Pencil Soft White before I put on any reds. The white undercoat means that the colour placed on top, right from the start, has a different look than if it was being applied straight onto paper. It encourages the colour to glow.
Funny but with pencils, white UNDER a colour will give a different effect to white OVER that same colour. Try it for yourself.
I have recently come across a very strong black; so strong that it can still make its mark over layers of saturated colour. But be warned it is permanent! If you put it in the wrong place, nothing on earth will remove it. It is called Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent: glasochrom 108 20-9. My favourite black is Stabilo Softcolor 1500/750. Next come the Holbein Artists’ Pencil Lamp Black OP 511 and Black OP510. I don’t get much call to use either the Luminance or Polychromos blacks (the former is a little scratchy and the latter I find a bit insipid). My favourite white is Holbein Soft White OP 501.
I love the drama of black – “Awesome Power” as they say on “The Simpsons “(“Mr Sparkle”). If I can’t convince you that black has its place in pencil work, I’ll send you my address and you can post your unwanted black pencils to me.
NB: My computer died recently. When my new one comes I will be able to photograph these two new drawings properly and upload them. Till then I must use my I-phone to take photos which isn’t quite the same.
(ps: I did a lot more work on the bottom drawing after I photographed it for this blog post. The lower right hand blue panels looked dirty so I took as much colour as I could off with a putty rubber and then carefully put ultramarine blue down. Later in the week (hopefully) I will re-photograph and post.)