Thursday, 30 August 2007

White is out

Did you know that the paints that artists use have fashions? Certain colors are "hot" others not. At the moment it seems that white is definitely not fashionable. At a recent portrait
workshop I was advised by the teacher in charge that it was not a good idea to use too much white in a painting as it "muddies" the colors. This particular teacher would not even put the whites in her subject's eyes, using instead a dab of Naples Yellow instead. Another criticism of white is that is makes the colors look too "chalky".
Limited palettes have always been a problem for me. I like to avail myself of the whole spectrum of colors and I am like a bee in a lavender patch when I discover that there is a new color on the market!
My first Art teacher did not allow us to use pure black in our palette either. We had to use a mix of Prussian Blue and Alizarin crimson. When mixed in equal quantities a deep cold black is formed. However there are times when I have used a dab of Lamp Black in my paintings. On these occasions I have heard my teacher's voice in my ear saying, "don't do that" - and I feel a bit guilty but do it anyway!
As a white person in South Africa today, I am certainly not fashionable. Rather like in the 60's and 70's, certain colors of skin were not fashionable in my country.It was certainly not cool to be a black person. Now the boot is firmly on the other foot!
Racism seems to be alive and well and flourishing right now. never before has the color of a person's skin been so topical. As a child I was taught not to see people in terms of their skin color and we regarded everyone as equal beneath the law. However the laws of our country at that time did not support that particular view, and some were regarded as "more equal than others". Now we have things like BEE -Black Economic Empowerment which to me sounds like the reverse of the WEE of the old days . What a world!
That said, in my view, it is unfortunate that colors have "fashions." To me, as an artist, there is place for every color in the spectrum, each equally important, each serving a particular function, whether as a highlight or a contrast color. I think white should be used when painting peoples' eyes - it gives them a light- it makes them look more alive. I think black should be allowed - it gives the shadows warmth and depth. And of course, the mix produced by those two colors - a delicious grey, both cool and warm, to spice up the dark areas and tone down the light. What more could you want. A true rainbow nation of paints to reflect a true rainbow nation of people.

Mika: Grace Kelly

1 comment:

Karen Lynch-Live the Power said...

I think that all of the colors are beautiful and you should decide if you want to use black or white or yellow ochre! (not some teacher)
You are the artist in your life!!

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