International Colour Day, 2014

Today is International Colour Day – nicely chosen to coincide with the Equinox.  Around this date, “night and day are equally long which symbolically juxtaposing the complementary nature of dark and light, of shadow and illumination, that are expressed in all human cultures“, Colour Group GB

pencil shards

To celebrate, here are some of my photos where I think colour speaks for itself. I know, I know, white isn’t a colour but I view it as utterly magnanimous because instead of absorbing or snatching wavelengths, it reflects and shares them straight back again thus becoming the most pure, peaceful and generous ‘colour’ in my mind…

White Peace

White Peace

Beautiful, Elegant Green

Beautiful, Elegant Green

Warning, Agressive Red

Warning, Agressive Red

Endlessly Creative Blue

Endlessly Creative Blue

Ray of Yellow Hope

Ray of Yellow Hope

For more colour inspiration have a look at the  Dulux Colour Awards 2014 which is run in partnership with The Guardian – definitely worth a look.

What colour are you feeling like today and how will you celebrate today, March 21st 2014, International Colour Day? 

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What Colour for a Salvaged Interior?

Today, I find myself completely immersed in NCS colours as I am at the final stages of colour selection for a restaurant opening later this year. Key to the project is salvaging the fascinating semi- industrial building which is full of beautiful hinges, old bricks, timbers and worn and faded graphics. To keep the spirit of the building intact, the furniture and lighting has been sourced from redundant premises and recycled, stamping a clear message of sustainability and authenticity.

It is therefore crucial not to overpower the project with paint that looks in anyway synthetic. It must be strong and edgy but in no way contrived. As the building is such a large shell which will shortly harbour and protect it’s diners, I decided to look at containers, both man made and in nature to give me a steer.

I will be reporting back on this project as it progresses but please read on for some very good news.

It appears that there are some very exciting developments in the world of vision. As I’ve written about before our ageing eyes changes the way we perceive colour. Building regulations Part M, dictates what colours can be specified for buildings for the elderly as it is assumed that the yellowing of our eye’s lens alters the way we see colour and our ability to differentiate colour contrasts weakens. Particular colour combinations must be specified for door frames and walls to increase the visibility of doorways for elderly residents.

However, I have just received an e mail from  Professor Stanton Newman,
Dean of School of Health Sciences, City University London forwarded by Colour Group GB announcing a lecture tomorrow in London by the distinguished Professor John S Werner from the Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science at the University of California, Davis.

His lecture, “What the aging eye can teach us about how we see”, will explore the misconception that with ageing colour perception is altered due to filtering by the ageing lens.

Using the one of the most celebrated case studies, the cataract and
paintings of the French Impressionist Claude Monet, Professor Werner
will demonstrate how the visual system continuously renormalises
itself to maintain stabile perception throughout the life span.
Monet’s paintings alongside recent laboratory results (including
high-resolution retinal imaging with adaptive optics).

I very much hope this is the case as working in colour myself, the thought of changing colour perception with age really concerns me. So, possibly some very good news to come out of this lecture. For those living in London, the event is free and is open to the public, details are as follows:

Title: “What the aging eye can teach us about how we see”
Time and Date: 1:15 – 2:15pm, 10th January 2012
Location: Room AG07 College Building, St John Street

The Colour of Shadows

As we head towards the Winter Solstice, our rather limited daylight here in Scotland has rather surprisingly been a source of colour inspiration to me.

In June 2010, philosopher and art historian, Dr.George Roque read his paper, Chevreul at the Gobelins: The discovery of the law of similtaneous contrast of colours and its consequences, to the Colour Group (GB) in Paris.  Unfortunately I missed the presentation but have been sent a publication,  Chevreul’s Colour Theory and its Consequences for Artists,  written by Dr.Roque which is based on the paper he presented in Paris.

He writes at length about the French chemist, Michel Chevreul who famously published Chemical Researches on Animal Fats in 1823 before being appointed Director of the dyeing department at Gobelins Manufacture in Paris.

Dr. Roque explains that it was due to queries from the weavers at Goblins about the intensity of certain black wool samples that led Chevreul to discover perceived colour, say grey for example, varies depending on the colour it is placed next to. He realised this change in colour was not a chemical change but a psychophysiological change. After intensive research into contiguous colours Chevreul came up with his famous Law of Simultaneous Contrast.

I’ve redrawn the illustration that Chevreul and Dr.Roque used to demonstrate this point. The two grey rectangles on the left are exactly the same colour and the two greys on the right are the same as each other. However, you will notice that when the two different greys are placed next to each other the light grey appears lighter and the dark grey appears darker. Our brains are exaggerating the difference between the two greys.

This demonstrates that colours change their perceived lightness but Dr.Roque goes on to explain that Chevreul also noticed that when two hues were placed next to each other, their hue appeared to change.

Chevreul was aware of complementary colours so he applied the same logic – if the brain exaggerates the difference of lightness between two contiguous shades then  two hues will also strengthen their differences and look as different as they can. Below you will see the red and green in the centre look stronger than they do when they are isolated.

Chevreul’s discovery was of huge significance to artists, textile designers, wallpaper manufactures and artists. Artists such as Delacroix, Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, Van Gogh now had a psychophysiological “tool” to use to help them to strengthen the colours in their work.

If you wish to read more on this fascinating subject, you may want to read Art et Science de la Couleur by Dr.Roque but for now I will get round to the point I was initially going to make about our winter light (or lack of it!).

Artists armed with this new knowledge were able to use colours in completely new and exciting ways. It also led on to the understanding that shadows were not actually normally black or grey. We now know that shadows are the complementary colour of the light source hitting an object so in outdoor landscapes, the yellow sun light will cast a violet shadow (yellow’s complementary colour) – the French Impressionists were the first to really take this on board.

Finally, I arrive at my point. I have been looking at shadows in the past week and capturing some of the violet-greys which are cast. I plan to use some of these natural violets in some textiles I am currently working on. I will also be thinking a lot about Chevreul’s Law and attempting to create some “accidental” colours which are only visible due to psychophysical reasons –  an area that really intrigues me as it gives colour a whole new dynamic……and I’ve not even mentioned colour vibration yet…..its hardly surprising that so many people are fascinated with colour around the world is it?