Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Color My World…or Not

It's a color spectrum wheel! There are too many of eyes!

Among the many things I don’t understand, including cricket and the International Date Line (Official Motto: Here to Confuse You), are colors.  Now, I  know what a color is and can even recognize some of them.  Like most guys, my color recognition skills are limited to about eight, which just happen to be the colors in the eight-crayon box. Anything beyond that is, well, beyond the pale. Or out of the box. I’m told that the human eye can distinguish about a million different colors.  Maybe I can, but I don’t know their names and I certainly can’t coordinate them. For example, what is fuschia? It sound like it should be a shade of pink and it is, but I had to look it up.  Or magenta.  Is that greenish? No, it looks about like fuschia.

I think, also like most guys, I didn’t care about colors to begin with except on cars. Then you have to have a cool color like silver or black.  None of those little pastel colored girly cars—you know which ones they are. So, with such limited experience, it’s no surprise that most guys do what I did until I got married—wear variations of the same color—blue, brown, and if you’re adventurous, green.  My wife tells me that she thought I was Mr. Monochromatic before we got married.  She had since fixed that by buying my clothes to make sure they match and also telling me what goes with what, usually with an askance look and the phrase, “Those two things don’t go together.”  Really, I’m grateful for the help. I am confident there are men who read GQ  and other magazines of mystery to me and know about fashion and color, but they’re not me.  Obviously.

Another major experience where color deficiency shows up comes when a room is to be painted.  Honestly, have you ever looked at the number of colors available?  And some of the names for them?  One of the rooms in our house is painted—and this is the truth—a color called “Cotton Tail.” (It’s sort of off-white.  I think.) It makes me dizzy just to go into the paint department at a store. It used to be that you took something with the color you want to match and the people at the paint store looked at it and said, “Uh huh,” and mixed up the exact color you wanted. Out of millions of possibilities!  How did they do this? I once met a guy who did this for Sherwin Williams for decades.  I asked him how he did it and he said, “I don’t know.  I just look at a color and I know what pigments will go into it. I think it’s a gift.” Now, of course, they have these amazing scanner computers where you can take in a sample the size of a quarter and they can match it from that!  Every time!  It’s a modern miracle of technology that deserves wider recognition.

Generally, painting at our house starts with a room that hasn’t been painted for a period long enough that the basic palette has changed. If you don’t know, there is a palette  of colors which decides colors for everything and it changes every so often. Some guy in Italy picks it out and everyone else just takes off with it.  You can see this phenomenon at work when you watch an old movie and think the film has faded or the dyes have gone funky.  Nope, those are the colors people actually wore back then.  Someone who is very good at this can date a picture to within a year by the color palette.  That’s kind of scary to me.

Anyhow, Becky decides a room needs to be painted and chooses a color, usually based on a pillow or the mat in a picture.  The rest of the color scheme flows from that.  I have consistently offered to paint any room if she picks the color.  This arrangement has led to some rooms that are colors I would not choose, like a pink living room, but I gave up the right to choose because, well, I can’t.

So, the  color is chosen, and I put the paint on.  I still enjoy painting. It’s relaxing and quiet and I can think about things like why there are so many colors in this world.


  1. "Mr. Monochromatic" LOLOLOLOL!

    Somewhere, I asked how you would describe a color to someone who is color blind or blind since birth. I mean, for pictures, you can teach braille, but for color? And how about sound for deaf people? We're at such a loss when it comes to descriptors, leaving a huge gap in communications.

    I've recently started painting again and am clueless about what colors are mixed to make what. It's trial and error for me. I could look it up, but then the Zen of it all would be lost. Last night, I started copying a picture of a Blue Jay and decided I didn't want traditional colors because that's not really my style. I was encouraged by the youngsters who, like me, think outside the box. I'm going to post it later.

  2. Two more things.

    My bird doesn't look like any known species I am aware of.

    Second, my younger offspring got docked points in art class because she didn't paint her dog sculpture in realistic colors! The thing is amazing and interesting. Some teachers are so literal.

  3. Here's my fake bird, Dan. Colors are random.