Black

Black is the most primitive of colours.

Actually, I think it is a precolour (like prehistory)—the colour that existed before we understood colour. This notion is supported by its presence in prehistoric cave-paintings. And, echoing back to those ancient roots, comes it’s most common source: Bones. Even today when we paint with black, we are still smearing an opaque layer of animal—imbedded with all these memories—cross our canvas …

It is also inseparable from burning. Even when I’m handling it 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 a hand).

These dark pigments are incredibly rich—anyone who thinks of them as the absence of something hasn’t looked closely at black! 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 …

Black is the very first pigment I ever made myself, and an origin I am continually returning to in my art.