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And fifty shades of gray!

Yes, I know what you’re thinking; black, white and especially gray – BO-RING!

But consider the following:

Is a full moon riding in a black sky boring? Just imagine that fabulous white luminous disk in the inky darkness of a night sky…boring?

Is a chess set boring? Imagine the tense excitement, the mental warfare that goes with at beautiful black and white checkerboard and the gorgeously carved shapes of knights, queens, kings, bishops, rooks and pawns.

Now can anybody tell me that a Dalmatian dog is boring? Pul-eeze! That lovely, playful, athletic animal? Boring? I think not.

Is a dinner suit boring? (Especially with a lovely man in it!) Think dancing, ballrooms, banquets or weddings! Boring? Yeah – right!

Think of a cold winter morning when the ground is blanketed in snow and the trees are nothing but black skeletons with white icicles hanging down from them! NOT boring!

Zebras! Wow! With their white coats and dramatic black stripes, they still manage to resemble a domestic donkey, so you may think they’re harmless. Don’t try to get close to one. I did. Wrong! NOT boring!

Penguins, with dinner suits of their own, are cute and funny, but not boring – and neither are the black and white orcas that feed on them!

Last but not least – pandas. Big, cuddly furry things that would probably eat you alive given half a chance (they don’t just eat bamboo, you know!) No, not boring!

BUT!

Gray has got to be the ultimate put-you-to-sleep colour, right? No – not right! Gray can be very exciting indeed!

Think of stormy skies, the clouds building up from pale gray to charcoal just before the storm hits. Whether you’re paralysed with fear or excitement, you must admit you’re not dropping off to sleep!

And think of the gray rocks that stand as harsh, forbidding sentinels between the sea and the land. Think of the noise the waves make as they dash themselves against them. Feeling drowsy yet?

Lastly – wolves! Does the thought of those fierce wild animals give you happy thoughts and sweet dreams? Yes? Then you’re on the wrong planet.

I could go on and on – koala bears, gray squirrels, British Blue cats and African Grey parrots, but I think you get my drift now. Just because it’s not a riot of colour doesn’t mean it’s not exciting. Read on.

Whenever you start to mix black and white, or any colors that contrast very strongly, the important thing is to start with the weaker colour, in this case, white. If you put a drop of white in a bigger drop of black, you won’t see much difference; however, if you do it the other way round, black into white, you will immediately see that the white has turned to gray. Start with a round brush; I like to work with a soft brush of medium thickness. It can be made of anything you like; badger, sable, synthetics – as long as it does the job you want it to do, in this case, mixing colors. Mix thoroughly, and do NOT put a brush to your paper till you’re certain that every single particle of the two colors are united into the one you want. Hold your brush next to the color you’re going to put it next to, but make sure that your paint doesn’t drip onto your paper. Remember that most watercolours will dry slightly darker, so factor that in before you make your first mark. Now take whatever size brush is best for you and put it in the middle of the space you want to paint, and then gradually work towards the edges. (Don’t load the brush with too much paint – better safe than sorry!) This means that you don’t commit yourself to that final stroke of the brush till you’re absolutely ready. The nice thing about working with black is that of course, the lines are black, and if you have a little wobble it won’t be so easily noticed. If you make a boo-boo on your white you can put a tiny dot of white acrylic paint on it, which is waterproof when dry. You can get amazing effects with the gradation of white through fifty, a hundred, two hundred shades of gray to black – so go on! What are you waiting for? Get on with it!