Design Exercise: Is That White?

Collage, "Letter From Aunt Evelyn," by Barton Lidice Benes
Barton Lidice Benes, “Letter From Aunt Evelyn”

This assignment will help you understand color and value relativity, while developing your visual acuity. Before starting I suggest you review Chapters 6 (Value), 7 (Color), and 10 (Grid) in our book Design: A Beginner’s Handbook.

Collect papers and fabrics that are white. Now really look at them. Some will have a warm tinge, others cool. Move them around and watch what happens when different swatches are next to each other. Did their hue and value seem to change? Do some look greenish while others appear pink?

Employing a grid format use your collection of white to make a collage. The grid units do not need to remain square, they can be any shape you want. The white scraps can abut, interlock or float on the page. If they float, how does the negative space influence the white and what hue and value is the most effective for the background? For examples of artworks that are based on the grid look at our Grid Pinterest board.

Now let’s fine tune what you’ve learned. Make two more grid collages. You will use the same scraps in each so make sure to cut out two of each – if you decide to use the same white more than once make sure to use it the same number of times in both collages. In the first piece make the whites look as different from each other as possible. In the second collage try to make them look as similar as you can. The whites will be influenced by both value and hue differences between the swatches, an example of simultaneous contrast (which is covered in our book.)

We’d love to see what you come up with. You can share your collages on our Facebook page.

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