Notebook, 1993-


Back [to Color in 'Vision and Invention' by Harlan]

The Color Wheel and the Natural Order of Colors - The Afterimage - The Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Hues - The Achromatic Scale - Color Terminology - Chromatic Gradations: Tints and Shades - Chromatic Whites and Blacks - Broken Colors - Chromatic Grays: Warm and Cool

[From: Harlan, Calvin. Vision & Invention, An Introduction to Art Fundamentals. Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1986.]

Chromatic Whites
and Blacks

Chromatic whites and blacks are blacks and whites that contain in their pigment makeup a small amount of a warm or a cool color. Ordinarily these tinted whites and blacks go unnoticed until several of them are seen in combination. For example, tear or cut a few pieces of "white" paper and paste them down on a larger piece of white paper. You will notice not only that they are slightly lighter and darker in value, but that they are also slightly different in temperature--some being cooler, some warmer. The same would be true of an assortment of black papers. One may be tempted to ask, "So what?" The answer would relate to the afterimages. Whites and blacks are as much affected by these afterimages as any other ingredient in a color scheme; they can be made to come alive or go dead, participate positively or negatively. A white or a black beside or inside a strong red will pick up a lot of bluey green or greeny blue from the red's afterimage. If this is not wanted, the artist may add a tiny amount of a broken red [a brown or a burnt sienna] to the white or black, whereby its warm semi-chromes will neutralize the cool semi-chromes of the afterimage. The point is that every single area in a color scheme is a functional part of that color scheme, whether the artist chooses to be conscious of it or not.

Study 4
a. We could make large swatches of several chromatic whites and blacks by adding the smallest amount of several broken cool colors [broken greens and blues] and broken warm colors [broken oranges and reds] to white and black paints. Very often these whites are referred to as off-whites. Why not also off-blacks? In any case, they should definitely "read" as white and black, not as light tints and shades.

b. We would need to make about four or five off-whites and as many off-blacks for two quite separate designs. [A number of white papers and black papers may also be included in these designs.] The basic unit of these designs may be a one- or two-inch square. Squares of these dimensions and/or rectangles of the length of two of these squares may be cut from the off-white swatches for the first design, and from the off-black swatches for the second design, and incorporated in square or rectangular compositions. We should experiment with placement, while also examining the subtle interactions throughout the whole neighborhood, seen from bottom, top, and the two sides. All elements should be pasted down contiguously [touching], in order that they may react directly upon one another. It is best that the off-white design be pasted upon white paper, and the off-black design upon black or a dark gray paper, for a very important reason, which we shall need to emphasize time and again: Great contrast of value tends to kill subtle colors. [pp. 96-97]

[Harlan, Calvin. Vision & Invention, An Introduction to Art Fundamentals. Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1986.]



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