White can be blinding. White can disrupt your thinking. White can be tiresome. According to Faber Birren’s book “Color & Human Response,” white can be bleak, emotionless, sterile. K. Warner Schaie, in discussing the pyramid test in which wide assortments of colors are placed on black-and-white charts, noted that incidence of the use of white by schizophrenic patients was 76.6 percent as again 29.1 percent for supposedly normal persons. So anyone who places white first perhaps needs psychiatric attention. It would be better to dislike white, but here again few persons are encountered who so express themselves.
Ingres’ Bather of Valpinςon is the calm representation of Classical beauty in the human nude. Notice the varying shades of white in Ingres’ painting. White and light colored skin is, depending on the artist, a few chosen pigments and white. Notice the white covering over the settee, there are other colors in it. Can you see them? There are hundreds of variations of white.
Then when is white a practical solution?
White for the artist. For the watercolor artist, white paint is not necessary. I have never used white in my watercolors, because you can lighten your colors with water. And, you can leave the white of the paper in your painting for the white areas. For the oil or acrylic painter, mix the white into color to lighten, or for pastel, add color to white.
Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? It isn’t hard, but you need more information if you use white in more than one color. White can make mud out of your paint. Pastel painters have scads and scads and scads of color sticks as do oil painters who have gazillion tubes of paint from the lightest to the darkest in almost every color. So why do you need white? It’s possible to use white in your mixes, especially if you add white to lighten only one color. If you add white to more than one color, it can muddy up your work, the same as cadmium yellow can. We talked about cad yellow in last week’s blog with David Dunlop. More mixing meant less light bounced back to the eye and resulted in a weak color effect. Mixing opaque colors together is called subtractive mixing because it subtracts light. http://gailingis.com/wordpress/?p=2252.
Your intent was to lighten, but instead, it deadened. Deadened with
opaque pigment. But it takes time to learn what makes beautiful mud. Yes, there is such a thing as beautiful mud. You always want your colors to be rich, to glow, to evoke emotion. To confuse the issue, white comes in several variations, some of which are: Flake White, Ivory White, Zinc White, Titanium White and the combo of Zinc White and Titanium White. The properties of these paints vary.
According to Ralph Mayer’s The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Fifth Edition, Revised and Updated, titanium pigment has the greatest opacity and tinctorial power of any of the whites. Titanium is the most important opaque white pigment in current use. An extremely dense, powerful opaque white of high refractive index and great hiding power. Absolutely inert, permanent. Flake White is stiff, and Ivory White is fluid, both are semi-opaque and good for touching-up and mixing. According to Winsor & Newton, Zinc is less opaque, making it ideal for tints and glazing, however, it dries to a brittle film that can crack.
White for your home/office. The everlasting question to me as an interior designer is, “should I paint my kitchen white?” My answer is always, “NO.” Not pure white. If your preference is to make it look bright and clean and you think white is the answer, here’s mine. Paint your walls off-white, like Benjamin Moore’s 966 or 969 (I call them greige, 969 is the lighter of the two), or something with a little more pizzazz, like BM’s 860 that is in-between white and gray. The finish on the walls should be Eggshell finish. Ceiling, super white flat. All the trim can be a bright semi-gloss white. Now the room has that sparkle you are looking for and stays clean for years. And, you can have your white cabinets, but in Benjamin Moore’s Dove White. Never use pure white on a large expanse of space like the walls, cabinets, or floors. With these combinations, you have contrasting surfaces and varying textures giving your kitchen interest as well as beauty.
Can you see the correlation between white for art and white for the home? Did you discover the white you never knew? What does white mean to you?