• Jessica

painting in black and white



My weekly art class started back up this week and what a relief! We started with an exercise to paint in black and white and it's such a great exercise. Any level of painter can get so much out of it.


One of the main tricks of painting is to remember that you're not painting an object, you're painting light, shadow, shapes, and colors. When your brain gets too confident it starts "helping" you by telling you "those are flowers! I know what a flower looks like!" But it's never helpful. When my brain does this my flowers get very flat, very simple, and often they're all the same size and equally spaced apart. As in, not at all how flowers exist in the world! Thanks, brain! Painting in black and white is a great trick to quiet the brain.


Variations of light and dark in a painting is referred to as the painting's value. Value is incredibly important in painting and often, when you look at things in full color, it's hard to tell where the darkest and lightest parts are. The most successful paintings will look as good in black and white as they do in color. Often as I'm painting I will do a value check and take a photo, switch it to black and white and see what I need to work on.


Painting in black and white is really a brain exercise in ignoring color and looking only for lights and darks. It's challenging but also simple enough for painters at all levels! I highly recommend you try it!