The Power of Black and White Artwork: The Emotion of Color

Why white and black hue’d artwork is so captivating and how to add it into your art collection.

The perception of color fascinates neuroscientists and our brain influences our perception of colors to such a degree that some scientists consider colors to be an illusion.

A series of experiments was done that showed humans have been conditioned to expect certain things in the way of color: example: green ketchup doesn’t make sense and is kinda gross.

Color enters your brain at every turn, but makes an impact in at least two major ways;

  1. one dominant color registers in the subconscious before the subject is known; example; a background color.
  2. the ambient light temperature – a warmer white balance setting that shifts towards red and yellow channels will impart the artwork with a particular quality and tone.

In this article we’ll stray from colorf and delve into the equally powerful and tonal, black and white artwork crafted by local artists.

- Black And White Artwork 2
Umbilic Priapic Knobby. Collage: archival pigment prints on watercolor paper. 22" x 22"

View all available artwork by Ray Beldner on Embrace Creatives

- Black And White Artwork 3
Dancing Echinacea. Digital photography. 28"H x 24"W.

View all available artwork by Rita Patel on Embrace Creatives

In the absence of color, as in black and white artwork, brightness (luminosity), shape and contrast become the main means of communicating, but instead of it limiting the viewer, an achromatic piece of art can create visual cohesion and interest without the “interference” of color.

Why? Black traps space, while white opens space. Black evokes sophistication; white communicates innocence. It’s clear: black and white are opposites.

contrast creates completion. The convergence of black and white (more so than any other color combination) is an example of how two divergent colors communicate more powerfully together than they do on their own.

Let our expert advisors guide you to the right artwork.

- Black And White Artwork 4
Bipolar. Wood sculpture. 48" x 48"

View all available artwork by Rich Lanet on Embrace Creatives

- Black And White Artwork 5
Harmonious Gravity. Archival print on Canson Infinity luster canvas. 36″H x 36″W

View all available artwork by Lane Last on Embrace Creatives

- Black And White Artwork 6
Lotan 9. Ink on yupo paper. 30″H X 24″W

View all available artwork by Christopher Rico on Embrace Creatives

What black says to us:

Black is visually heavy and its message is strong. Black’s most common association is power, authority, and strength. In stories of good versus evil black and darkness is always symbolic of the villain. Other associations of black include intelligence (black horn-rimmed glasses), professionalism (suit and briefcase), mourning and mystery. As a deep and serious color, black can direct communication in a powerful way.

What white says to us;

White is considered safe and open. In direct contrast to black, white is directly linked to that which is righteous, good and peaceful. Furthermore, white projects clarity, cleanliness (doctors in white coats), purity (wedding dresses) and salvation. White is said to promote creative thought (a blank whiteboard) and is also synonymous with fresh beginnings. As a positive, clear and open color, white can direct communication in a powerful way.

- Black And White Artwork 7
Autumn. Oil on canvas. 42" x 42"

View all available artwork by Bryan Grose on Embrace Creatives

- Black And White Artwork 8
Ghosted. Acrylic on canvas. 16" x 20"

View all available artwork by Karen Zuk on Embrace Creatives

- Black And White Artwork 9
Grifology #2. Cotton fabric and batting. 51"H X 34"W

View all available artwork by Debbie Grifka on Embrace Creatives

Most humans respond in similar ways to color, namely:

Red – danger, warning, attention;

Blue – cool, calming, relaxing;

Yellow – warm, friendly, open;

Green – natural, fresh;

Black – mysterious, sinister, classic, premium, heavy;

White – pure, open, light, honest, clean

Gray – apathy

Simply put, there’s a reason why most people purchase red sports cars, and most hospital rooms are white.

Do you match with artwork on this page? 

- Black And White Artwork 10
White on White Abstract. Throw Pillow: Polyester and fleece. 18"H X 6"W X 18"D

View all available artwork by Jessica Molnar on Embrace Creatives

- Black And White Artwork 11
Coping Skills. Mixed Media. 24" H x 24" W

View all available artwork by Andrea Bogart on Embrace Creatives

- Black And White Artwork 12
Night Walk. Photography, archival pigment print. 12" H x 12″ W

View all available artwork by Jessica DeMuro on Embrace Creatives

Another way humans respond to color is through contrast: one color against a backdrop of a complimentary color (red and green or blue and orange) then the colors will pop because it’s the only thing in the scene that is visually discordant. 

However, the absence of color allows humans to concentrate on the subject without any distracting elements. Without color, the eye and mind immediately see the components, subject, mood, composition of the artwork. Black and white can have various looks too.

There are an infinite number of grey, black, white levels, as well as contrasts. These can also have a dramatic influence on the emotion of a black and white artwork.

So as much as you enjoy color don’t overlook the power and incredible emotion that black and white artwork can bring your home or office. If you’d like expert guidance finding artwork, contact me today!

This article was written by Andrea Bogart, founder and lead art advisor of Embrace Creatives.

To see the highly talented artists featured on Embrace Creatives, visit our artist listing. For help finding the right artwork for your home or office, reach out to Andrea here. Interior professionals can easily request white glove art consulting or custom pieces.



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No. 267 – Embrace.

Wood and plaster sculpture by EC artist, Robert Mirek