top of page

Why I never use black in my paintings

In college, I had this friend in art class who bought a tub of black gesso. "Wow, black gesso?" I didn't realize it even came in black. So I bought a tub of black gesso too. And started a whole series of terribly dark paintings. They were morose. (I should show you some since it's Halloween). But fortunately for you, it was before digital photography so I don't really have good records of them. (Phew! Dodged that one.)

After college, I studied watercolor with a man named Frank Francese. Check him out here. He is the one who taught me to NEVER put black in my paintings, and I have followed that advice ever since. His paintings are vibrant, joyous, and moving. You can really feel the wind, the movement of the people, and get a sense of the local flavor in his paintings. I encourage you to look him up on YouTube and watch how calculated yet frenetically he paints.

Frank said that using black watercolor sucks the life out of any good painting. (Cue the vampire sucking sounds). If you buy your colors in a set, the set always includes a black tube. Just toss that one in the trash! In transparent watercolor, you are working with light, and the reflection of light against the white of the paper

below is what actually you see. Muddy colors like black usually contain gouache which makes them opaque. So your eye no longer can see the reflection of the paper. To maintain vibrancy, Frank would say to stick to the most transparent colors you can find. Frank also encouraged me to find colors in the shadows by mixing dark blues, purples, and greens where you may have wanted to mix black.

Happy Halloween! Stay safe everyone.

A photo of James Worsham’s "2020" Halloween decoration.(James Worsham) Original Story here:

24 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page