Artistic Lines from Joan Justis January 2016 White and All of It’s Colors

Artistic Lines
from Joan Justis

January 2016

 White and All of It’s Colors

Photo of snow with purple shadows and orange sunspots

When an artist needs to use white in the painting, there is a dilemma. How can light and shadow be represented if the image is white? There is flat gray, but often that destroys the interest of the viewer. However, you will notice that white seldom is pure. Look at the snow in the photo—shadows are blue and violet and the bright light reflecting off the snow is a warm yellow or orange.


John F. Carlson changes the atmosphere of his winter paintings by choosing what color the white will be. It can be a cool painting or a warm painting. There is no pure white in these paintings, but our mind interprets the colors as white snow.  Note the blue snow in “Forest Silence” (1917) and the yellow snow in “Winter Morning Mists”.  They each evoke different emotions.
Forest Silence painting with blue snow by John F. Carlson                      Winter Morning Mists painting with yellow snow by John F. Carlson

Now look at all of the colors of white in John Singer Sargent’s painting “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose”.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose painting of two girls lighting paper lanterns by John Singer Sargent

We have free rein to give the impression of white in an array of colors!

The current interior decorating trend is to paint and upholster with white. Then any accent color can be used. A commercial paint card will give you samples of many subtle cool whites and warm whites. Do you want the room to have a warm glow or a cool crispness? If you look through a current magazine they are also using grays the same way. There are warm grays and cool grays.

Living room decorated with blue grays creating a cool atmosphere                    Bedroom decorated with warm gray

Do you like cool, sparkly colors in your life or warm, comfortable colors? It may depend on the weather!

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