Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making Black Horses Look Black

"Madison" - pen & ink, watercolor, and watersoluble crayon 
White and black objects are hard to show in art works. Why? Simply because white is not white and black is not black. White on white paper is a blank field, flat and undifferentiated. It’s literally, nothing,

Black on the other hand is just that, a flat color like India ink. Although this is fine for things like cartoons and shadow shapes, it is not as useful when you are trying to imply a color.

Last week one of the racehorses I worked with was a filly who was, according to Hoyle, was a dark brown roan. I recognized this unusual color because we had a mare of this color when I was growing up. She was a dark bay/brown horse with tiny, white hairs scattered throughout her coat. I had never seen a color like that before her. Unlike other roan mixtures she did not get more gray as she got older. Instead, she remained the same color, a brown with a small dusting of white hairs. Most of the time this horse looked dark enough to be almost black. She wasn’t black though, having a brown muzzle and a yellowish-cast to her coat when bleached out. Clearly a brown-bay.

The filly I worked with last week, was also very dark, nearly black, unless you looked at her very closely. For her sketch, I added a palette of colors including several middle blues, blue-violet, turquoise. and a hint of yellow-ochre. The overall effect “reads’ as black. In fact, there is some actual black in this sketch, as the ink I used for the base was black. But the colors you see are not. If I had used black watercolor exclusively, the piece would have looked very “flat.” Certain combinations of colors can trick the eye into “appearing” black even when they aren’t.

Isn’t that strange and wonderful?

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