With weeks of rain behind us and in front of us here in New England,the weather has made me think some dark thoughts. Therefore, I thought it most appropriate to continue our delineation of color by describing the beautiful blacks that Grumbacher offers in its various lines.
If you too are caught in the rain, use this period for some time in the studio to brush up on your painting skills. Check out our new Project Ideas tab located under Resources/Tips on our website. These projects will help develop those painting skills for that masterpiece you want to start this fall.
If you are sitting somewhere in the sun instead, I’m jealous!
Director of Education
Why do we love black paint? Because its velvety reflection off the canvas seems to create intimate mysterious caverns. Because added to our favorite colors it creates dramatic luscious shadows. Because it outlines some of our favorite objects. Black draws the line, without apology. Yet, many famous painters extradited black from their palettes because it was too overpowering while other artists, such as Van Gogh, were fascinated with its capabilities and allure.
Here is a small dissertation to hopefully bring some light to your blacks.
Ivory Black was first described in the 4th century B.C.E. Ivory scraps were crammed into clay pots topped with an iron lid, leaving little air in the pots. The ivory was then exposed to high heat, producing a very intense black. A cheaper method was invented by the Romans by burning ordinary animal bones instead of ivory which became known as Bone Black and soon replaced Ivory Black. Artists began referring to Bone Black as Ivory Black interchangeably. What we commonly know today as Ivory Black is actually Bone Black; however, there are a few distinctions. True Ivory Black has a higher carbon content than Bone Black and is more intense. Consider it the refined sister of Bone Black; much more finely ground, luminescent and velvety in hue.
Ivory Black is an all purpose black that has a weak tinting strength and is slightly warm in color. It is a good choice for mixing grays, tinting and mixing with other colors. In oil, Ivory Black is a very slow drying color therefore not a good choice for underpainting or leaner layers. It produces a soft and brittle oil paint. It can never be used in Fresco as it crystallizes.
Mars Black was developed much later in the 20th century. It the most popular black not made from carbon and considered fully non-toxic. Mars Black is not as dense and dark as Ivory Black. However, it has a much better tinting strength. It is slightly warm in tinting strength but cool in mass tone. Mars Black is extremely opaque. It is more matte in surface sheen and has a faster drying time than Ivory Black. Some other names on the market for Mars Black are Black Iron, or Black Iron Oxide. It is an excellent black to use where the painter really wants to use a strong opaque black, or needs a black for leaner layers. Also, did you know that Mars Black is one of the few colors which does not make use of charred animal bones? It's the perfect choice for cruelty-free artwork!
Lamp Black was originally produced by collecting soot, also known as lampblack, from oil lamps. This was the black preferred by the Egyptians and can be found on Egyptian murals and tomb decorations. Lampblack was also used in creating India ink, and was a main component in early American house paints. It sometimes also referred to as Soot Black, Flame Black, and Carbon Black. Lamp Black possesses a more intense and pure black than charcoal with a slightly brown mass tone and bluish undertone in tints. Lamp Black, as an oil color, is one of the slowest drying colors. It should never be used underneath other oil colors unless mixed with an alkyd or fast drying medium, or a fast drying color such as Umber. It is semi-opaque with a cool undertone. It is not particularly a good color for mixing with other colors, but it is excellent for subtle outlining, line work, emulating ink effects, etc. Its slight transparency also makes it good for over-toning colors with a wash of lamp black.
Vine Black belongs to groups of blacks made by burning grape vines, cork, and other woods or vegetable products. The way these are produced means they're a great choice for the compassionate consumer - no animal products were used to create this black! Some other types of these blacks are called Drop Black, Frankfort Black, Peach Black, Spanish Black and Blue Black. The Blue Black name comes from the fact that these types of blacks tend to have a strong bluish undertone. These blacks also tend to be less intense and deep compared to their other carbon counterparts. Vine Black has less popularity due to reputation alone - that of being less pure and inferior to other blacks. Although it is slightly less lightfast, it is still a very useful black to use especially in portraiture. Because it has a low tinting strength, and produces a subtle cool gray, it is excellent for toning down flesh tones without dirtying the color.
Don’t forget to check out Grumbacher's Class Schedule for the next month! Visit our classes page and get the details! Here are some highlights:
- John Stuart Pryce in Belleville, ON. Weekend Acrylic workshop.
- Johnnie Liliedahl in La Porte, TX. Nine day oil workshop.
- Josie Grant in Santa Rosa, CA. Oil demonstration at Riley Street Art Store in conjunction with an exciting Santa Rosa street fair!
- Gene Feller in Clinton, NJ. Oil demonstration at the Hunterdon Art Museum.
- Joyce Ortner in Houston, TX. Oil workshops at the Houston Art Expo!
- Valerie Stewart in Ausable Forks, NY. Three day oil workshop.
- Dorothy Dent in Republic, MO. Oil workshops in July!
If you are in the Chicago area between July 10th and the 13th, don’t forget to check out the Learning and Product Expo in Lisle, IL! It is open to the public. Grumbacher will be there with a booth giving away fun goodies, and selling paints and brushes at fabulous deals. Betsy Popp will also be giving some excellent workshops on everything from oils, watercolors, to acrylics. We hope to see you there!
Contest! Win a FREE can of our famous Grumbacher Final Fixative by being the first to answer our Trivia Question! Click Here
The first twelve correct answers will receive a free can of our famous Final Fixative!
Grumbacher Final Fixative is a workable fixative that can be used for dry media artwork such as charcoal, pastels, and pencil drawings. It is compatible with many surfaces such as paper, photographs, printed material, and ceramics. It is non-yellowing, colorless and flexible. Our artists also love how fast-drying it is. It can be drawn over when dry. Grumbacher Final Fixative provides a gloss or matte finish when dry depending on which kind you use.
Want to tell us your thoughts on our Final Fixative? Send us a note and we will post it!
***New Product Alert!***
In stock this month, Grumbacher’s new palette and painting knives are perfect for the artist who needs versatile yet economical palette and painting knives around the studio. Visit your local art store and request them today! Read about the wonderful characteristics of these knives in our product accessories section here. I particularly fell in love with them this last weekend when I had to mix a large jar of paint, and the typical small plastic palette knife I had lying around just wasn’t cutting it. These palette knives are a full ten inches long and sturdy, and because they are plastic, they are easy to clean, won’t rust on you, and won’t break your wallet!