Class Notes: Black and White, in Color

In Class, students often ask how to mix "black"; a good question though I don't like to see black in work and don't think absolute BLACK appears often in nature. In reality absolute neutral black (I call it "dead black") really only comes from a tube, and unless skillfully used, creates unnatural looking work.
The same goes for absolute WHITE; seldom seen in nature, using it in a still life or landscape gives a painting the look of animation, or a cartoon.
In the piece above the black is a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson - the 2 darkest pigments on our "limited Palette". It is really violet but in this context has the appearance of black because our eye only perceives the dark and unless white is added, we can't discern the color. It does, however, have a lively look compared to the "dead black" you could actually mix by adding, maybe one other color from the "limited palette"- or by getting it straight from the tube.
The white pitcher appears WHITE in context but is many values of blue and violet.
BLACK and WHITE, are both neutrals but learning to see them as color, and then mixing them as color will create work with more energy and color interest.
The question should not be "how do I mix black?" but
"how do I see, mix and use color to appear as black (or white) in the context of the painting?"

If you are not familiar with a limited palette- here it is:
Lemon Yellow
Cad Yellow Medium (close to the color of a school bus)
Cad Red Light
Alizarin Crimson
Cerulean Blue
Ultramarine Blue, and White

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