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No, I’m not scared of black!

I don’t always choose what I paint. Sometimes it’s chosen for me.

I suppose I could say no, though. But sometimes it’s fun to try something different, something that pushes the boundaries. Something…..well……S C A R Y!

The thing is, that what is scary for me, is usually what isn’t for other artists. I know that’s perverse, but perhaps my life is upended from normality. I quite often tackle subjects that other artists are scared by. But then, as an artist, I think we have to look at challenging subject matters that we may normally shy away from.

The thing is…. and there always is a “thing” – that the scary subject for me, is, er, I dread to say the word. It’s… er…………………”cute”  LOL

And that was how I found myself at the art workshop at the weekend, drawing a pretty little girl in a pretty pink tee shirt, and pristine white trousers, sitting on a sun lit patio, with dappled summer shadow behind her, playing with some chalks. Now, that’s cute by anybodys standards!!! LOL

The whole group tackled the same subject, as that was the one the tutor had chosen. And although it looked easy and simple, it was actually incredibly difficult to achieve. Firstly there was the drawing, and although she was the only thing in the picture other than the background, she was sitting at an odd angle. She was sitting with her legs loosely crossed, but slightly leaning to one side, but fortunately she had her head down (which always helps as the features are less specific), and there was good shadow. Hands are difficult to draw, as is hair. There was strong sunlight and good shadows, and the dark of the bushes behind her was a great contrast to the sunlight on her hair, and her shoulders in the pale pink tee shirt. And just to add to the fun, there were some interesting shadows and folds in the tee shirt.

After the drawing was complete, the background was put in. It makes sense to get the background in first – because then the colours are right to start with. If you draw the person first then you automatically start to adjust the colours to match the background that’s really just the plain paper, even though that colour will be covered by the time its all finished. Since this painting was in pastel, it was easier to get the colour on thick and fast,  but this background was actually split in two – the blacks of the bushes, next to the pale creams and sage greens of the sunlight patio. BUT, if they are drawn with sharp contrast between them, then it looks false and unnatural. They had to be merged together. In this case, by the deep black of the shadows of the bushes dwindling down into the cracks of the stones of the patio.

The next difficult thing was the dappled shadow behind her, this too had to be dark so that she stood out from it. The shadows under her also had to be dark so that she looked more solid, and again the purples merged into the black so that she looked like she was sitting ON the patio and not levitating above it!

After that, it was time to start the little girl – and first her hair, making sure that it contrasted well with the black of the bushes. Then her face, keeping it soft and yet with features, the light catching the side of her cheek giving it more form. Then her arms and legs since the colours were the same for the summer kissed golden skin of her face. After that, it was her pale tee shirt, and the folds and pleats within it, incorporating various tones from almost white to the deepest of burgandy. And then, the last thing, her white trousers. White is always a difficult colour to depict, as it invariably is the most subtle shades of “almost white” but the shadows of the “white” here were quite deep royal purples, dull golds and turquoises.

And then the decision as to what she was drawing with her chalks – little girls tend to draw houses, people, and in this case, flowers.

Phew, done.

And it’s a lot more difficult than it looks!

Whilst we were drawing our picture over the six hour session, the tutor came around the room with succinct words of advice. She didn’t know any of us so had to adjust her tuition according to how much was needed for each person. She was taken aback by the high standard of artistry amongst us which was good to hear! Even so, I could hear her telling others in the group to darken up their blacks. A lot of artists won’t use black in their pictures as they feel that it deadens the image, and will use a dark blue, or purple, or deep brown instead. When she got to me, at the back of the room, she noticed my blacks weren’t as dark as she wanted them to be, and told me to darken them, and said “You’re obviously not happy using black, are you?” I grinned, and said I wasn’t scared of using black at all, I just hadn’t got them as deep as I wanted them, YET! She walked off, and must have overheard the woman next to me, who knows me and my work VERY well, saying “You’re not afraid of black, are you Jackie, you use it a LOT!”. I agreed with her, grinning. And from then on, when the tutor came around to me, she just nodded and said “Good!” or “That’s coming on nicely”.

At the end of the session, we all had to stand our work up at the far side of the room so that we could all see what the others in the group had done, and compare our work to theirs. The tutor also did a critique and went along the row making sharply critical comments and giving words of advice. My picture happened to be the last she got to, and after being very critical of the other paintings, I was awaiting her verbally ripping it to shreds, as she had the rest of the work. But she jsut said “This one is very softly focused, its ……..lovely” and that was it!!!!! Praise indeed!!!! LOL

2 thoughts on “No, I’m not scared of black!”

  1. It's very lovely Jackie! Glad you stood up to her! Some tutors think they are better than anyone in their field, but as the saying goes…those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

  2. Jackie Adshead

    Vi – Thankyou. Yes they do, but then she didn't know what standard I was at and had to react to what she saw before her at that time, having said that, she was a quick learner and left me alone after that!!! 🙂

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