Monday, August 7, 2017

Colorblindness has Consequences

Learning art gets complicated when color is added

A little back story. I graduated from High School at the end to May 1964. I immediately entered Auburn, in June, as a Commercial Art major. In my first year I excelled at drawing. Basic drawing, figure drawing, perspective, etc. It was when I started a design class that I ran into trouble. Color. I think I see colors reasonably well in the mid-tones. But as colors go lighter and darker in value I get lost. This became very apparent in the color chart assignment. My instructor was dismayed at the chart I turned in.  : )   The next Quarter I was a Business major. One and half years of art school derailed.
Pencil drawing - 1964

I always wanted to get back to art. After I retired I eased back into it. It wasn’t long before color became an issue again. When I tell people I’m colorblind I often get responses about how interesting my work can be. That I should go for it and exaggerate it. That I see a different world, an exotic world. However, when they see my work they are reaching for the barf bag.
Recent watercolor with "unconventional" colors

So far, my main problem has been the greens. I have evidently used some very inappropriate “greens” in some pieces. I tried to mix green. I tried straight from the tube. It does not go well. In particular I am having problems with the color of water (in lakes and streams). Occasionally water will be reflecting a clear blue sky, but most of the time it appears green tinted to me.
People say the greens I use are too bright (as well as the wrong green for the subject). That makes sense. My vision is not as sensitive to green and red as “normal” vision. What doesn’t make sense is that they think what they see in my art is how I see. Well, maybe, but I don’t think so. What shows up in my art is the result of my inability to make accurate color selections. For instance the color Viridian. That color is in my new pocket watercolor palette. I wasn’t at all sure about that color. I Googled it. I found out it was green. A cool green. A blueish green. Sounded like a color for water. I used it.
I often make inaccurate assumptions about the color of things. When confronted with a gray wall paint I may guess it to be green or blue. Another complicating factor is the different color vision in my eyes. I had cataract surgery in my right eye a year ago. With that amber colored cataract gone, now my right eye is much more sensitive to colors than my left eye. Color is much more vivid in my right eye, especially blues.
Another thing I have become aware of is that I simply tend to ignore color. Although I see plenty of color, I just don’t “SEE” color. I am more sensitive to texture and value. For instance, if I am looking at a sunset with someone they may comment of the pinks and lavenders they see. I will not be aware of those colors until they say something. Once it is brought to my attention I will begin to see them, too. Another example is a rose bush. I will see a bush. I may pick out a rose bloom based on its different texture from the leaves, but I won’t think of the leaves as green or the bloom as red. If someone tells me the rose is reddish pink, I will then start to see in color. There are times, though, when the green hue of the foliage and the red of the bloom will be in my dead zone. I will not distinguish one from the other.
Sometimes I will have a “happy accident” in my art. The colors may not make sense, but they turn out pleasing or at least interesting to others.

I am developing strategies. Studying color theory. Developing resources.

A limited palette is an option.

Otherwise, I think I must rely on some “happy accidents”.

"Colour is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment" Claude Monet

PS: This post turned out much more personal than I planned. I guess I needed to vent. I intended to provide resources about colorblindness and artist. Maybe I'll try again....