Surprise! This month’s challenge artwork, M.C. Esher’s Three Worlds, is a black and white affair. There’s not a hue to be found, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about black and white and gray.
Would it surprise you to know that in the world of color theory, black and white and gray aren’t considered colors at all? Color is made up of three parts: hue, value, and saturation. Hue is color distilled down to its purest form, value deals with how light or dark a hue is, and saturation deals with how dull or vivid a color is.
In order to be a color, a hue needs to be present. Since there is none with black or white or gray, those aren’t technically colors. They don’t have a place on the color wheel the way red and blue and yellow does.
It’s hard, though, to think of black and white as not being colors when we see them every day. Instead, think of them as neutrals. Neutrals mix with basic hues to create a wider range of colors, which is how we get dark and light and duller shades.
Neutrals are also used to help explain the other two parts of color – value and saturation. This month’s color palette is a type of value scale, a gradient showing white at the top, black at the bottom, and the shades of grays in between. Value scales help artists determine how light or dark a color is by comparing it to a simple black and white value scale (like above), or by creating an entirely new one for a particular color. This shows how color reacts to black and white.
The same can be done with grays and color. Where black and white affect the value, grays affect the saturation of a color. Ever wonder how a color turns dull? Chances are, gray is added to it to mute the intensity.
For our purposes this month, we’re sticking to the neutrals. As you collect supplies, aim for lots of different shades of gray, with touches of white and black. I see more of the darker grays, but lighter shades are present, too, if you like those better. And if you’re curious about metals, stick with bright or oxidized silver tones to match Three Worlds.
Have you started to plan your piece yet? Are you finding it a good challenge to work without color this month?