Thursday, July 3, 2008

White - is it a Color?

No, it isn´t.

Many years ago, when I studied oil painting with Sebastian Capella, I learned that White and Black are not colors.
Let me explain:
Color has three dimensions, hue, value and croma.
Hue, as in the tone like red, yellow, blue, etc.;
Value, referring to the degree of light or dark on a scale between black and white;
And Croma, as in intensity or purity of the color.

White fits within the first dimension, it does have a name, so it qualifies as a hue, but it does not have any variation in value, nor in croma. White will always be the lightest on the value scale and there is no more than one intensity - white is white.

Any color, added to another one, will change that color´s hue. For example, if you add red to yellow you get orange, blue to yellow makes green, and so on.
White, added to any other color does not change that color´s hue, it will only affect its value and diminish its intensity.

I don´t use pure white when painting a white object, pure white is rarely found in nature, there is always a hint of another hue present. Shadows and reflected colors will show us the white object in a lovely variety of colors! It´s only our brain which reads them as white.


Anonymous said...

What is interesting is that when I lived in Mexico I liked to paint my walls white. There are many whita walls in Mexico. It was in Vancouver, a place with a somewhat diminished light as it rains all the time, that I discovered that few ever used white in anything. Most houses were off-white. I was told that white was too bright. My photographic studio is in downtown Vancouver and I especially chose it because across the street is what is considered to be our city's ugliest building. It was designed by Argentine/American architect Cesar Pelli. For many years it was Eaton's (a Canadian version of El Palacio de Hierro). When Eaton's declared bankruptcy it became Sears. The building that faces my studio (and its four very large windows) looks like a mingitorio (pisser) that could comfortably be used by Jack (of the beanstalk fame). It is one city block long and it is about 7 floors tall. There are no windows and the walls are white. On bright summer days the light that is reflected into my studio is intense (I sometimes have to wear glasses) and its quality for portraiture is startling. In late summer when I look at the white clouds (on the few days that might be sunny) over the North Shore Mountains I can discern that they are not white but a light cyan. It means that winter is around the corner.

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

sandy said...

ahhh...beautiful painting. I always learn when visiting here.


Ilse T.Hable said...

Alex, I would love to have a huge white wall in front of my painting studio. As a matter of fact, there was one once, but a tree and plants have covered most of the view of it.

Leslie Taylor said...

Yay Mendocino! Beautiful coastline, beautiful painting.
I think you have everything it takes to teach art to people of every age and ability!! You make it easy for anyone to understand painting--often seen as a difficult and mysterious discipline!

Ilse T.Hable said...

Leo, thank you so much. I did teach children as a volunteer in grade school when my own kids were little. It was fun and children are so receptive and appreciative. They need art as much as the three R´s! Now I prefer to teach adult art students with some previous painting experience, I think they can benefit most from what I can tell them.