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Back in Black (and White)

I am a color nerd. I am fascinated with color relationships and how they interact with one another. I am a huge advocate using a limited color palette (if you’ve been in any of my classes you’ve heard me emphatically preach this concept). I can spend hours painting swatches, color studies, deciphering pigments on the back of paint tubes – oh, I’m a hoot to be around! “Color Nerd” is a term I learned from one of my teachers, Laura Moriarty, and it just stuck. That being said…

Over the past few months I have been drawn to explore perhaps the most basic color palette of them all: Black & White. There’s something to be said about the false simplicity of white and black and everything in between. I began to truly appreciate the nuances of the mega-monochrome after studying the work of my colleagues, Wendy Aikin and Lisa Kairos, both amazing encaustic artists. The Grey is a wonderland. A continuum to see how far one can push and pull the extremes of light and dark. Grey does not just become the backdrop to a painting – the subject must interact with it, Grey becomes the atmosphere.

When starting my encaustic “Black & White” series I prepared multiple birch panels. I limited myself to R&F encaustic colors: Ivory Black, Titanium White and Neutral White (pardon me as I wipe the drool from my mouth). My only bling was Enkaustikos Antique Gold Pearl which I used sparingly for effect (again, relish!). The natural color of the birchwood played an integral part to warming up the grey and drawing it towards brown. The slight yellow cast of the beeswax also brought the Grey towards the light so to speak. Grey is easily influenced and therefore the array of neutral tones is staggering.

The major inspiration behind this color palette was my desire to paint my horses.

I wanted to keep the colors extremely simple to showcase the raw power, movement and line of the horse. I wanted the attention to be on the animal. What I wasn’t expecting was a 50 Shades of Grey love affair to develop within these colors. You know you’re in love when your painting is complete and you don’t want to stop. I had to pull myself away from the panel more than once during this series. “Oh maybe I can just…” NO! Put the brush down! This was the case with perhaps my most popular painting of the series, “Seahorse”. The warmth of the birch panel fills in the gaps between brushstrokes and reads as brown. The only colors used in this painting were Ivory Black, Titanium White and Neutral White.

This series has taught me that Grey is subtle. Grey is powerful. Grey is sexy. Let’s see where this relationship goes…

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