WRITING ART: Looking at pigments: Charcoal

Charcoal, the basis for black carbon, rates as one of the oldest pigments in history.  It’s often used to sketch out an artist’s plan for the composition, then covered in other paints, including carbon-based blacks.  By burning various organic materials, artists through time have created a wide variety of blacks–woody grape vines create a bluish black, bones burnt to a crisp create the very blackest black (before artificial pigments mostly ended that practice).

Black Grunge Background from PSD GRAPHICS

One of the most interesting aspects of art to me is the way colors can be perceived so differently from one painting to another.  A color’s overtones change with variations in light, when placed next to another color, etc.  One black is chosen over another for the way it might look next to another pigment in the image being created.

In the opening scene of DISTORTION, Adele uses very matte, very generic charcoal to contrast with other pigments.  The black, as so often in Western culture, represents mystery, evil and sorrow.  I don’t have to say that.  Our culture says it for me.  I don’t have to spell out the history of carbon pigments.  They very word “charcoal” implies darkness, something that burned, and maybe, with context, something macabre.


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