Sunday, April 20, 2008

Color Magic: How many colors do you see?

I just completed Dick Nelson's color class and have had my sensibilities of color completely deconstructed. Nelson was a founder of Art Maui 30 years ago and is a former student of Josef Albers.

Try this exercise:




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This is a natural phenomenon of our eyes. The background, or context of a color, affects how we see it. What the evolutionary traits of this are, I have no idea, but we've learned in the class how a painter can use these phenomenon to create luminosity-- vibrancy among colors.

The homework in the previous exercise was to make 4 different colors look as if there were only 3. The effect is not based on any tricks, if anything it is simply the illusion created by the natural state of our eyes. Our eyes are constantly adjusting not just to the light in a room but as well to the variance of color.

Impressionist painters used a similar effect in their work.









These insights on color have profoundly affected my own work.

4 comments:

jdawords said...

I found that very intriguing. The second example (and I appreciated that you set-up the graphic [flash animation?] to replay...'cause I needed to see that again) was surprising. With the blue and purple backgrounds, the interior box color does NOT look to be the same.

Illusions are everywhere!

Wildflowers particularly strong here in CA right now. I've been enjoying their COLOR.

Eric Rubin said...

nice post, gabe. always good to trick the eyes every now and them. keep them on their toes...

Benny said...

Just a short thought... this does not have to be an evolutionary trait. I took a class called Philosophy of Biology where I discovered that adaptations can develop due to constraints. It is possible that there is no evolutionary advantage but a formal (mathematical, physics-related, etc) constraint such as lights behavior in close proximity with various wavelengths (wavelengths = color, yes?) or a historical constraint (it's a lot easier to continue to develop a "flawed" color recognition system than start from scratch).

Hopefully that made sense. I got a class on it and it's still not the most well-understood idea I have.

Gabe said...

Benny -- the philosophy of biology class sounds fascinating... i think i understand what you mean but upon re-reading, i'm not sure. i'd love more examples of formal and historical constraints. is this sort of like stating there are fundamental ways that optics would behave? just like there are colors that exist, so there are the way our eyes perceive them... yikes, i'm getting confused.