The Colorful World of Black and White

The Colorful World of Black and White
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Some say that black and white are not colors, and according to the laws of physics, that would be correct. White contains all wavelengths of visible light (the full spectrum) and black is the absence of light, but...

For a moment, I would request that you put that theory aside.

As a young art student, I recall the assignment of using only black and white paint to illustrate various emotions, such as anger, giddiness, sadness and hunger. A challenge in itself, but when told to show the color “red” with only the black and white paint, I knew I had been asked to communicate in a way that I had never before even considered. “How does one do that?” I asked myself.

In retrospect, the exercise was to have us dig into the emotion we feel when we see a color, to really feel what a color is and does, even the smell. The varied interpretations of the class were as varied as each one of us.

How do we “see”? The simple scientific explanation is that light passes through our eye (the lens). The lens then focuses the light onto the back surface of the eye, called the retina. Information of the light entering the eye travels through the optic nerve, where it is then interpreted by the brain, using memory in order to make sense of the images that the brain ultimately “sees.”

While you definitely can’t see without your eyes, nothing would make sense without input from the brain.

The vision that an artist conveys in black and white can be as exciting, and descriptive, as the array of colors on a palette. There is elegance in Black and White. It can capture sound, texture and emotion and then our mind will translate and interpret. Using all of our senses, coupled with past experiences, we adjust to visualize the missing element.

A Rorschach inkblot test is an example of the mind interpreting what it sees without really seeing the entire colorful, detailed image.

German Artist Werner Knaupp in his painting ”Westmannerinsein” (“Black Sea”) captures the energy of the weather and sea as if in full color. I can “see” the dark blue, and deep green, stormy waves exuding power and intensity. Can you?

<em>"Westmannerinsein" ("Black Sea")</em><br><em>Acrylic</em><br>11.12.2011<br><strong></strong>
"Westmannerinsein" ("Black Sea")
Werner Knaupp

Ansel Adams the American photographer and environmental activist took photographs of breathtaking views in US National Parks. His black and white photographs have become synonymous with his name, most notably in Yosemite National Park. The grandeur and majestic photos, show us in black and white the beige sand colored stone of “Half Dome” stoically above the green pine trees, positioned against the gentle blue sky. Most of us “fill in those blanks” when we enjoy looking at the photograph.

Op Art, that grew in popularity in the 1960’s, would show black and white images that gave the impression the they were moving, flashing or vibrating. Tricking the eye to see something entirely different than what is actually there.

The eye and mind connection is a fascinating process where the mind creates a connection that may or may not be visibly there.

<em>"Dominoe Effect"</em><br><em>Acrylic 30" x 40"</em>
"Dominoe Effect"
Acrylic 30" x 40"
Barbara Mosher

”Art As I See It” is a column by Barbara Mosher In which she provides her insight on the world of art, including thought-inducing commentary, the process of art, and to showcase artists.

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