Black and White

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Black and white is salt and pepper of colors, for life tastes bland without them.
Vikrmn Corpkshetra

Hello! A rather universal greeting that has a veritable black and white directness to it in its intent and meaning. But how we say it can make it colorful. My previous blog was about the impact and importance of color in our lives and in art. Today, I’m talking in contrasts. Black and white and the gray area in-between.

Lovetts Gallery represents artists who execute their creative and visual artworks in these colors. Colors? Are they colors?

Well……...let’s just say this is going to be a rocky road and involve some things like light, wavelengths, electromagnetic energy and retinal cones!

Or I could just spill the beans right here and tell you up front that you don’t really “see” color!

Wait! Don’t click away yet. Give me a chance to explain.

Yes, we do see color and I can tell you right now I am seeing the very blue color in my hair. (It was supposed to be temporary and has instead taken up permanent residence) Personal issues aside, the color is really a reflection of color. Color doesn’t exit outwardly. It’s all about the eyes. Color is nanometers of electromagnetic energy that our eyes identify as color. Thank goodness for retinal cones!

(wavelengths around 700-760 nanometers sends information that we translate into red, for instance)

Some people believe the theory that dark is the absence of light. True…but in total darkness in the absence of any light at all, our eyes cannot detect white or black because there is no light present to be reflected off a ‘white” or “black” object to be received by our eyes. So……… to create 100% black would require a surface containing all colors; this being the only way to prevent any color from being reflected back to the viewer. That’s the black of the matter.

The white of the matter? For our eyes to have the visual perception of an object as white, the subject must reflect all colors. A surface capable of reflecting all colors must be void in color itself, any color would hinder all light to be reflected and therefore would not create white perceived by our eyes. Scientist John Stapleton explains: White is a rich color if you “unweave the rainbow”.

Did you know new fallen snow is quite white at about 90 lumens per watt?

That being said, I repeat my question. Are black and white colors?

Black is not a color; a black object absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum and reflects none of them back to the eyes.

BUT………here is where the grey area cometh forth…………….

A black object may look black, but, technically, it may still be reflecting some light. An example would be if a black pigment results from a combination of several pigments that collectively absorb most colors, so what appears to be black may be reflecting some light. In comes gradation.

White is a color. White reflects all the colors of the visible light spectrum to the eyes.

Absorption and reflection makes all the difference.

The colors that we see are simply a degree of how much of the color is present in the light that is reflected. To be completely accurate, a color reflects the wavelengths in the nanometers range that our retinal cones respond to.

The medium is the process of reflection of the wavelength of the color.

The receiver is our eyes which receive the wavelength of the color.

Wow! I didn’t intend to go all physics on you! For you see, there are other explanations besides the ones I have just spoken of and why I forewarned this was a hotly debated subject. I am trying to make this as painless as possible!

Are black and white colors when they are in pigment forms or molecular coloring agents? A chemist will agree that black is a color. Mix together all three primary colors with paint or food coloring and you will get a shade of black. Black pigments historically have come from charcoal, iron metals and other chemicals as the source of black paints. Some say white is not a color. Getting a headache yet? This is another “gray” area since technically, pure white is the absence of color. The point being you can’t mix colors to create white. However, when you take a look at the pigment chemistry of white, ground -up substances (such as chalk and bone) or chemicals (such as titanium and zinc) are used to create the many nuances of white in paint, chalk, crayons and even products such as Noxzema. White paper is made by bleaching tree bark (paper pulp). Therefore, you could say that white is a color as far as pigment chemistry is concerned. Mix a color with black and you get a shade. Mix a color with white and you get a tint. The first decreases lightness, the second increases lightness! I don’t know about you but all this is making me light-headed!

What? Physics? Biology? Chemistry?

Trying to explain a supposedly black and white issue ended up with a ton of gray area without me even getting to the subject of gray color. (Gray-American English: Grey-British English)

Gray is considered an intermediate color between black and white. Neutral or achromatic color which means literally that it is a color “without color”. Like the gray in my hair that didn’t turn blue! Still have that headache?

What you just read means that there are equal components of red, green and blue. It is the variations in intensity of these colors that produce the different shades of gray. Until the 19th century, artists traditionally created gray by simply combining black and white. Rembrandt usually used lead white and either carbon black or ivory black along with touches of either blues or reds to cool or warm the grays. It’s these additions that lead to a broad range of “grays”. People usually refer to “that’s a gray area” as speaking of something that has wide view of adaptation. Something existing between two extremes and having mixed characteristics of both. Seeing the gray scale in value is seeing a series of tones from light to dark that can be made between black and white.

Have I gone down a rabbit hole with this topic?

Probably. I have innocently digressed a little.

Okay…a lot!

Back to art we shall go with much haste!

Artists have been creating their works in black and white and gray since antiquity until now. We see it in paintings, drawings, photography, pottery, sculpture, and jewelry. And of course, nature, where many of the elements are derived for an artist to utilize. Lovetts Gallery is proud to present artists who have chosen to create professionally and imaginatively in these “colors”.

Please visit our website on these artist’s pages to see and learn about them and their work. All of them do black and white work, while some of them add color as well. They vary in mediums, subject matter and technique.

Barbara Fox: Charcoal on paper

David Hochbaum: Mixed Media- traditional darkroom photography, painting, printmaking, collage

Alex Jove: Charcoal and White Pastel on paper

Nancy Von Der Launitz: Oil on Linen

Daniel Segrove: Mixed Media on paper

Cavan Gonzalez: Pottery

Dan Christian: Charcoal, White Pastel, Colored Pencils

Chelsea Herron: Charcoal on paper

Ryan Jacque: Graphite on paper

Victoria Steel: Oils and Charcoal

Joseph Crone: Oils, Colored Pencil on Dura-Lar Film

Whether on-line or in-gallery, you will be enamored by the expertise, execution, exploration and expression these artists exhibit!

Thank you for hanging out in the blog! I end with a song……….

Don’t know much about chemistry
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the physics I took
But I do know that I love art
And I know that if you love art too
What a wonderful world this would be!



Raven Sawyer

Copyright © 1978 - 2019 Lovetts Fine Art Gallery - Tulsa, OK | Accessibility

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