There is no white in nature.

There is no white in nature.

I stumbled across this video on Facebook a while back and it freaked me out.

It shows melting down a solid block of gold to a molten state.

What this shows is the progression of light from dark to light.

You see, Mother Nature doesn’t make a variety of colors, say green, when creating a tree. She creates one color of green - of course, if that’s what we really see. (God only knows what we see when we view the world out there.)

The different shades of, say, green that we see are really ONE color. Green is green, right? The reason we see different “shades” of green is because of the effect of light reflecting off the object. (At least that’s what Leonardo said in his notebooks.)

So our attempts to match the color we see is not a true reflection of what’s really “out there.”

The point is, there is no white in nature. If you doubt that, stare at the sun for a minute or two. If you’re not blind after that, when you look away, what do you see? Is it not blotches of green? What is the compliment of green? Is it not red? Therefore, the light from the sun is red. (Note the progression of color in the video. It starts with red and progresses to, what, yellow?)’s the cool point of all this.

We KNOW that linseed oil yellows paintings. Laurie documented this in his book. Linseed oil is the key ingredient in most, if not all oil paint. M Graham uses walnut oil and Sennelier uses sunflower oil, but the effect is the same. IF the oil has a yellow cast, you get the same result — yellowed paintings.

The problem with oil is muscilage (look it up). Unless you remove all the muscilage (as the Old Masters did), your paintings WILL yellow over time. If you want to learn how to “clean” your oil, you can check it out here ( This dude has the process down. Of course, the only reason you’d go to all this trouble is if you’re making your own paint.

Here’s the cool point. If you don’t use pure white paint for your highlights, you shouldn’t ever have to worry about yellowing. That, of course, is if you give a darn about your paintings lasting over 100 years or so. (I wrote a blog post a while back about viewing 100 year old paintings and seeing first hand the effects of linseed oil based paint. It’s NOT pretty.)

I’m not trying to disparage any artist’s method excerpt that IF you want to paint light as it really is, then it’s NOT about matching color. It seems to me it’s deeper than that.



  • SummerSummer -
    edited June 2019
    I laughed because of the "white" space--before the bear showed up; the LOL was made prior to the panda image--haha.
  • Of course la deeper than that..there is a difference between the subtractive and the additive method and a lot more of other complex stuff about neurophysiology. Believe me you dont want to start with neurophysiology..for example staring at the sun as you said just saturate your cones and you see a colour only because the other are completely over firing not because the light is green! A similar things happen to your rods during the day..Than there is philosophy of perception, it's from dawn of the time people are doing a lot of studies, it is much more complicated than mere physiology. Believe me white does exist and it is the perception you have when your cones or rods are exited at the same time with around the same energy.. Otherwise all the other colours do not exist and are only characterised by their wavelength and frequency.
  • edited June 2019
    Are atoms coloured? For example would an atom (molecule) of cadmium red look red if we could see something that small. I think probably not. Another question I find intriguing is whether, if we were both to look at the same red thing, the red you see would be the same colour as the red I see.  We're into physics and philosophy here. But given the nature of the OP I don't think it's off topic. :)
    [Deleted User]
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited June 2019
    At last! Thank you, John21601 now I understand the lyrics to Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale". But really we have to acknowledge that we are all babes in the wood when it comes to understanding nature. Not a day goes by that scientists aren't dumbfounded by some new fact that often contradicts "facts" already known. Artists have learned to compensate by painting what we see (taking things at face value) and thereby avoid being dumbfounded by science and getting an inferiority complex.
  • Don’t try this at home, but I think our big star is white, all colors, full spectrum, or whatever you want to call it. Or did I miss something? We are just trying to interpret what gets reflected off different objects.
  • I once had a pacemaker that would automatically shock my heart when it misbehaved (arrhythmia). I had a horrible episode of nine shocks (cardio versions) before the docs fixed things. Point is: with each shock I saw a blast of WHITE light. Purely a response to the electric charge!

  • This needs white to paint so I guess white exists. Why can't we just keep it simple for painting purposes? I see nice blacks too.
  • Snow, clouds, polar bears, panda bears, etc. Some also say there are no straight lines in nature. But look at the rays of sunlight bursting through clouds. I agree with @Kaustav
  • If there were no white, there wouldn't be a word for it.
  • edited June 2019
    No whites in nature? Really? I think I agree with @summer and @BobItaly.
    And if anyone wants to argue that titanium dioxide is not white they will need to to explain to me what colour it actually is and why I should believe them. Same goes for my toothpaste which is the same colour as my titanium dioxide. And if titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and lead carbonate are not white then what are painters supposed to use to accurately represent what looks like white in nature - snow, clouds, toothpaste etc? And, in the abscence of someting better, should painters even care if the (apparent) whites they've used successfully for centuries are not really white? I don't understand what the OP has to do with painting. Or am I a dummkopf who's missing something important here?
  • Please don't stare at the sun. This is your mum speaking. Don't do that. ok.
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