Black and White
Does Color Get All the Fun?
Last week I wrote about color and how people are drawn to different shades of the rainbow. When you ask someone their favorite color, most people don’t say black, although every women’s closet begs to differ. (How many LBDs do you have?) Black and white are fundamental and evoke emotions in their form rather than in their color. If you’ve ever looked at Ansel Adams’ photography or seen Jackson Pollock's "Number 14-Gray", you would see how absolutely stunning black and white can be. Back in design school, you had to master most things in black and white before you ever went near color. Learning to see and express forms in drawing always started with a simple graphite pencil. Logo design began in black and white, positive and negative space. If it didn’t work in black and white, chances are it wouldn't work in color. Layout and typography worked the same way. The letterforms had to work in black and white before color could be applied. The basics of photography were also taught in black and white. Instead of colors, you had light and shadow creating gradations. I remember having to print my photographs in Ansel Adam’s “Zone System”. Each print had to have the blackest black and the whitest white and nine perfect shades of gray in between. If it didn’t, it was back to the dark room. Black and white sometimes gets a bad rap. They are dramatic on their own, but they can anchor and balance color and make hues stand out in a piece of art. In graphic design, I learned a from my high school art teacher, Mr. Brodman, was “white space is your friend”. There are also beautiful images that have no color at all. My favorite examples of these are shadows. Black, gray and charcoal images on the ground or the side of a building created by light. Sometimes dramatic and harsh and sometimes soft and subtle. They have no color themselves, but their dark forms against objects can be magnificent. I think there is should always be a good balance between black and white and color in all aspects of life. But as far as designing and creating, ideas always begin for me in a black and white sketch then develop into black and white forms. Color always comes much later. So as much as I always say I live a colorful life, which I do, it always starts at black and white.