Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Black or Many?

During Medieval times, painters used ground up mineral pigments for color. The preparation of colors was a laborious process. Black pigments had a strong tendency to clump and were the most time-consuming to prepare.

No coloring agent yields a perfect black; they are either bluish or reddish---cool or warm. Black absorbs light and no paint or dye can quite achieve perfect absorption. Traditionally, natural blacks were obtained by mixing a very dark red-brown with a dark blue. In the 18th century, improved black dyes were made based on indigo and the woods logwood and sumac. These arrived just in time for the 19th century, in which black clothing, with its connotations of morality and modesty, was much prized.

Clerics, teachers, members of the legal and medical professions, and domestics all wore black. As the century progressed it became even more stylish. Dandies dressed in black, particularly in the evening; grieving women of wealth wore glossy black silk.

Like white, black is a color that does not exist in a pure form except in the imagination. It took centuries to create fine blacks in dyeing, but good carbon  black pigments, which absorb light well and approximate a true black, have been known and used since earliest antiquity. The color black has fascinated many artists, including the brilliant colorist Vincent van Gogh (1853-90).

The 20th century modernist Jean Dubuffet (1901-85)  stated, "Black is an abstraction; there is no black, only black things such as black satin, a black cloth, a spot of ink on paper, black shoe polish, black chimney soot and tar. But they are black in different ways, for there is the question of brilliance, whether they are matte or shiny, polished, rough, fine, and so forth, which is very important---the way an artist applies it is more important than the color."

Lilian Verner-Bonds, author of The New Life Library: Color Healing, states that "Black is the favorite color of those who keep control by not giving information to others. Black indicates that something is dormant or buried. It is connected to philosophical thoughts and ideals.

Someone who wears black continuously may be saying that there is something absent from his or her life. Negative black believes all is ended, there is nothing to look forward to. It is afraid of what is coming next.

But at the heart of black is discipline. Black can complete the incomplete. The mystic arts relate to black. There are no parts of the body specifically connected to black except when seen on x-rays or in the aura as disease. A black feather represents respect for the old. And, black foods heighten your awareness of the magic within you.

Wearing black jewellery will announce that you have hidden potential. Some see that dressing in black says 'I'm young, I'm ready and I'm totally in control.'

Negative black keywords: Destructively strong, troublesome, superior, despairing, and constrained.

But, to end on a positive note, the positive black keywords are: Beneficially strong, creative, idealistic, and secretly wealthy."


Monday, August 1, 2011

Royals' Favorite Colors

      Queen Cleopatra aroused the Romans' jealousy by flaunting luxurious purple sails on her royal barge. She was not timid about displaying her wealth in her wardrobe as well. Her untimely death plunged her realm into darkness in many ways as the non-flamboyant Romans pillaged her country.
      Queen Elizabeth I wore red during her youth, perhaps to compliment her red locks. After 1558, when she became queen of England, she began to dress in white to symbolize herself as the Virgin Queen. She also wore black to keep in step with Spanish fashion. Her other favorite colors for her wardrobe were gold for special occasions, and in subdued moods she wore peach, ash and tawny colors. After some of the Spanish ships transporting the highly prized red dyed goods produced in their colonies were captured by the English pirate ships, the rich color was seen more often in members of the English court. The queen had her servants dressed in scarlet livery, perhaps as a sign of the English victory over the Spanish Armada. Vivid colors denoted wealth and high status among those well connected in all realms. In contrast, the poor and penitential wore dull neutrals or black.
      During Queen Victoria's reign, a profusion of colors were harmonized by the simple act of darkening them until they all became relatively easily balanced tones, much like the colors in Turkish carpets which became commonplace in upper and middle class interiors. Garish colors made from the newly invented synthetic dyes, such as aniline purple, alizarin crimson, and chromium oxide green gained widespread use. The Victorians thought white made modish high ceilings seem excessively high and chilling. Heavy curtains and stained glass were used to help cut down the light coming inside.
      In a recent post, I revealed that PrinceWilliam's favorite color is blue while his wife Princess Catherine prefers white. Queen Elizabeth II wore yellow, her favorite hue, to their wedding.


The latter two artists were the finest draftsmen France ever produced. Caillebotte was a subtle colorist who used black effectively. The American Warhol began with product-true colors as in his tomato-soup cans of 1962. He soon flamboyantly digressed into "off" colors--- pink, orange, acid yellow, mint green, mauve and cyan--- colors that were consciously non-naturalistic and influenced by color TV and the huge increase in full-color print advertising since WWII. Applied quite flat in harsh, ever-changing combinations, they were a rebuke to commerce for appropriating the rich language of color to non-aesthetic ends.