Color vs. Black and White

The Beauty of Black and White


I always had at least one student in every class that I taught, all grade levels including college, throughout the years that when it came time to add color to the picture, they would balk. At first, in my early years in teaching, I just couldn’t figure out the refusal to add color, as I LOVE color. When asked, they usually would reply with rather mundane answers” it looks nice in black and white” or “I like it in black and white”. I would use my teacher’s authority and request that they add color. It took me a few years of teaching to figure out that they were afraid of messing up a totally good sketch with colors that didn’t “work” for them. For those students, I gradually introduced color. I gave exercises that included adding 1- 3 colors to the sketch. It could be monochromatic or it could be opposing colors. Usually, by the end of the year, the students felt more confidant in adding color. Truth is, that some pictures are just made for black and white. Ink drawings can be absolutely gentle and lovely in black and white. Adding any color would definitely ruin the drawing. So how do we know what works only in black and white? Well, the intent is one. If we decide that a certain drawing is to remain in black and white, then it will be. Besides intent, we just don’t know and “play-as-we-go-along”, just wing it. Actually, that is part of the dialogue: to add color, which colors, what do the colors do to the work? Often it has to do with our state of mind or mood. We just may not be up to color. As for my students, both the student and I had to decide if the sketch was perfect in black and white or if the student needed to move from their comfort zone and needed to advance at the risk of “ruining” a perfectly good sketch.

“Fantasy Still Life”- Ink on Heavy Linen Paper 19/19cm @Barbbara Adler Art Oct.2021


With today’s technologies it is no longer an issue. We can copy and print on almost any media and then decide by trial and error and comparison. What do you like? Black and white? Color? Which colors? Vibrant colors or earthy colors? Where would you hang a black and white drawing? Where would you hang a vibrant acrylic ink drawing? Is size a relevant factor on where to hang a black and white painting? I’d love to hear what you think!

“Dancers” – Acrylic Ink and Markers on Heavy Linen Paper 33/33cm @Barbbara Adler Art Oct.2021


Everybody needs art. There is Art for everyone’s state of mind, desires and tastes. Take a break, reflect and delve into some of my art, to my stories.


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