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Black is the most primitive of colours. Actually, I’ve come to think of it as a precolour (like prehistory)—the colour that existed before we understood colour.

Echoing back to its ancient roots, it comes from a common source: Bones. Even today, when we paint something black, we’re smearing an opaque layer of pigment from an animal’s spine or legs across the canvas—imbedded with all its memories in the present and past …

Black is also inseparable from the primal element of burning. Even when I’m handling black as a finished pigment, I can still smell its sooty aroma as I grind it and feel the echo of its experienced heat on my hand. And, like the fire from which it originates, black is a tenacious colour; one that is impossible to hide once it touches the gesso (or the hand).

These dark pigments are also typically rich—anyone who thinks of them as the absence of something hasn’t looked closely enough at them! This group of pigments represent a wide tonal variety of warmth and coolness, and they share other hues within their nigrescent colouring, all of which is only seen as if through different depths of deep smoke …

And, like our ancestors, black is also the very first pigment I ever made.

Black Entries

Firing Ochre and Bone

July 1st, 2017

This week I fired some ochres and bones at my studio in Conestoga. I love this process, and was excited to see the results of heating a few different soils and clays from here in the village in my outdoor firing pit. I’d also been given a large bag of bones last… Read more

Found Wanting Black

September 25th, 2015

  Last week I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful bunch of people out in Edmonton, Alberta in celebrating, finishing, and perhaps resurrecting Betty Spackman’s Found Wanting exhibition. I was lucky enough to attend the exhibition when it appeared at the Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford, British Columbia… Read more

Betty’s (Bone) Black

August 10th, 2007

A few months ago Betty Spackman sent three cow bones that she picked up during a trip she took to Albert. Most of the bones she collected are earmarked for an exhibition she is planning but she was kind enough to send a few my way. As a thank you… Read more

Elephantium Pigment

March 18th, 2006

Historically, the making of ivory black was first described in the 4th century BC. The process, and the resulting pigment were largely unchanged until the last factory, which made this pigment, closed in Germany in 1929. To this day, Ivory Black or it’s close relative, Bone Black, are still the… Read more