Minimalist Colors

Minimalist Colors

All colors tend to white,
the fiercer the intensity of light
—Marcel Minnaert

by Greencolander

Did you hear the one about the minimalist who bought a coloring book but deliberately overlooked the crayons?  Visual artists who subscribe to the Minimalism philosophy seek to simplify things down to what's necessary.  Since the white page of a coloring book reflects all colors, is a crayon truly necessary?  Inspired by COLOURlovers, I created the Minimalist Coloring Book, a meditation on the spectrum contained within white.  As the book features images of white things printed on white paper, it invites us to expand our eye for subtlety.  For, indeed, there is a rainbow of whites at play within the dendrites of a snowflake, the ruffles of a flag, the tufts of a polar bear, or the plumage of a seagull (to name but a few examples).

Following is a random sampling of images and quotations from the Minimalist Coloring Book, accompanied by subtle palettes from the COLOURlovers library.

Seagull A Flock of Seagulls

A wintry seagull hung white as a winter leaf above the surface of the waves.
—Achmat Dangor, Waiting for Leila (1981)

Polar Bears Polar Bear

The polar bear will make a rug
Almost as white as snow:
But if he gets you in his hug,
He rarely lets you go.
—E.V. Lucas, A Book of Verses for Children (1970)

Flag of Truce white flag

A few more years and there will be nothing but the white of our empty chairs around a table, white as the white flag of our shared surrender.
—Marie Claire Blais, These Festive Nights (translated by Sheila Fischman, 1997)

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The Colors Of Scenic Stones

The Colors Of Scenic Stones

Imagine if an artist could take millions of years to complete a single painting.

Over millions of years the natural process of water penetrating and seeping into stones, bringing with it solutions of iron and magnesium, along with other elements, leaves traces of color and forms within the stone. This, along with cracks created from pressure and channels of water, combine their lines to push up imagery of mountains and trees, creating landscapes of unmeasurable beauty.

Known under a few names, such as: scenic stone, pictorial stones, pietra paesina, marble ruiniforme, lithographic limestone, and stone Florence (there may be others too), these stones were highly prized in early modern Europe and, before that, Asia, because of the beautiful naturally created organic landscapes.

© Bill Atkins

There are three areas in particular that are known (or were known at some point in time) for these types of stones: Florence, Italy; Jasper, Oregon; and Cotham, England.

Hercules Segers


Artists also used these stones as a canvas adding their own hand and transforming the natural lines and shapes of the stone's face with their own paints, like the one on top painted by Dutch painter Hercules Segers, and the other one by Johann König.

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Classic Colors: Fauvism

Classic Colors: Fauvism

Fauvism (french for "the wild beasts") was a short lived art movement popular in the early twentieth century. Lead by Henry Matisse, the movement was known for its use of color; brash, uncontrolled colors often straight from the tube, and applied using bold brush strokes.

André Derain:The Turning Road, L´Estaque

Turning Road

The artists of Fauvism which included: André Derain, Albert Marquet, Charles Camoin, the Belgian painter Henri Evenepoel, Jean Puy, Maurice de Vlaminck, Henri Manguin, Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, Georges Rouault, the Dutch painter Kees van Dongen, the Swiss painter Alice Bailly and Georges Braque; believed in color as the main force behind expressing emotion, and were followers of van Gogh's color ideals, who once said, "Instead of trying to render what I see before me, I use color in a completely arbitrary way to express myself powerfully."

Henri Matisse: Luxe, Calme et Volupté

Luxe, Calme et ...

The movements name was coined during their first group show in 1905 at the salon d'Automne by the critic Louis Vauxcelles. Vauxcelles described the groups work with the phrase "Donatello au milieu des fauves!" meaning, "Donatello among the wild beasts," contrasting the work with the Renaissance-type sculptures that shared their room. That phrase, which was printed in a popular paper of the time the next day, along with other outlandish critic quotes, such as: "A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public," helped gain attention and bring the groups works into popularity.

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As Seen By The Color Blind

As Seen By The Color Blind

In the U.S. 7% of the male population – or about 10.5 million men – and 0.4% of the female population either cannot distinguish red from green, or see red and green differently. Color blindness affects a significant amount of the population, and it is even more prevalent in more isolated populations with a smaller gene pools. It is mostly a genetic condition, though it can be caused by eye, nerve, or brain damage, or due to exposure to certain chemicals.

For those of us who see colors just fine, it is hard to imagine what those with color blindness are seeing. Luckily humans are smart and have created technology like the Color Blind Web Page Filter.

Popular Websites: As Seen by the Color Blind

The Color Blind Web Page Filter, which was used in this post to demonstrate the different types of colorblindness, allows you to view what a site looks like to people with each type of color blindness. Here are a few examples from some popular websites.

Google Logo / Color Blind

TechCrunch Logo / Color Blind

etsy Logo / Color Blind

Digg Logo / Color Blind

Read Write Web Logo / Color Blind

Twitter Logo / Color Blind


Iconic Art: As Seen by the Color Blind

Some would say we all see art in our own unique way... that would be especially true for the color blind. Here are a couple examples of some of the most iconic paintings as seen by the color blind.

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso / Color Blind
Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol / Color Blind
The Scream by Edvard Munch / Color Blind
Armand Guillaumin: Sunset at Ivry / Color Blind

Color Blindness Background

Using the filter we'll take a look at the current most popular palette, July, and how it is seen by those with different types of color blindness.



The normal human retina contains two kinds of light cells: the rod cells (active in low light) and the cone cells (active in normal daylight). Normally, there are three kinds of cones, each containing a different pigment. The cones are activated when the pigments absorb light. The absorption spectra of the cones differ; one is maximally sensitive to short wavelengths, one to medium wavelengths, and the third to long wavelengths (their peak sensitivities are in the blue, yellowish-green, and yellow regions of the spectrum, respectively). The absorption spectra of all three systems cover much of the visible spectrum, so it is not entirely accurate to refer to them as "blue", "green" and "red" receptors, especially because the "red" receptor actually has its peak sensitivity in the yellow. The sensitivity of normal color vision actually depends on the overlap between the absorption spectra of the three systems: different colors are recognized when the different types of cone are stimulated to different extents. Red light, for example, stimulates the long wavelength cones much more than either of the others, and reducing wavelength causes the other two cone systems to be increasingly stimulated, causing a gradual change in hue. Many of the genes involved in color vision are on the X chromosome, making color blindness more common in males than in females.

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Hearing Color: Neil Harbisson, Cyborg

Hearing Color: Neil Harbisson, Cyborg

Neil Harbisson suffers from achromatopsia – or complete congenital color blindness, and until meeting Adam Montandon, a cybernetics expert who was giving a speech at the art school which he was attending at the time, he only painted in black and white. Montandon had the idea of creating a way to harness the frequencies at which different colors reflects light; violet vibrating at fastest rate, red the slowest.

Queen Elizaborg

The first design for such a device only enabled Harbisson to hear six different frequencies and analogously, 'see' six different colors, but after a some time of research, the Eyeborg system was developed that allowed him to 'see' 360 colors.

Harbission is able to discern the differences in the colors on the paint palette in front of him by wearing a headset integrated with a digital camera connected to a backpack containing a computer which slows down the frequency of the light waves to the frequency of the sound waves. The translated tone is heard through an earpiece.

“I used to paint rather literally,” Harbisson said. “I would stand in front of something and just paint what I saw immediately before me. Now I’m doing more abstracts and being much more free and liberal with my art.”

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Nudibranchs, The Most Colorful Creatures in the World

Nudibranchs, The Most Colorful Creatures in the World

Part of the mollusk phylum, Nudibranchs are the shell-less relatives of the snail and are known for their garish colors. These tiny sea creatures are usually only 2cm - 6cm in length and can be found worldwide. They are able to thrive in any depth of salt water from the deepest darkest ocean floors to warm shallow water.

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There are over 3,000 known species of nudibranchs, and scientist estimate that only half have been discovered so far. The creatures soft-body and short life span of 1 year make it possible for many of them to live undetected and vanish from the earth without a trace.

Photo by wildsingapore

Nudibranchs are blind, and the animal relies on smell, taste and feel to navigate their surroundings to find coral, sponges, eggs, small fish, and other nudibranchs to eat.

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Genetically Modified Color: GloFish

Genetically Modified Color: GloFish

I guess there weren't enough colors in the ocean.

When scientist first started working to genetically modify Zebra fish, it was in the hopes that a small mutation would allow the fish to identify certain pollutants in waterways wherever they were introduced.

In 1999, Dr. Zhiyuan Gong and his colleagues at the National University of Singapore extracted the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene from a jellyfish that naturally produced bright green bioluminescence. They inserted the gene into the zebrafish genome, causing the fish to glow brightly under both natural white light and ultraviolet light. Their goal was to develop a fish that could detect pollution by selectively fluorescing in the presence of environmental toxins. The development of the always fluorescing fish was the first step in this process. Shortly thereafter, his team developed a line of red fluorescent zebra fish by adding a gene from a sea coral, and yellow fluorescent zebra fish, by adding a variant of the jellyfish gene. Later, a team of Taiwanese researchers at the National University of Taiwan, headed by Professor Huai-Jen Tsai (蔡懷禎), succeeded in creating a medaka (rice fish) with a fluorescent green color.


The fish were first introduced into the U.S. market in 2003 after FDA approval:

Because tropical aquarium fish are not used for food purposes, they pose no threat to the food supply. There is no evidence that these genetically engineered zebra danio fish pose any more threat to the environment than their unmodified counterparts which have long been widely sold in the United States. In the absence of a clear risk to the public health, the FDA finds no reason to regulate these particular fish.

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Fish On! : Selecting The Best Lure Colors

Fish On! : Selecting The Best Lure Colors

One of the more colorful things that sometimes gets overlooked by many of us city folk, who only see nature and bodies of water when there is a popular video on YouTube of someone crashing their personal watercraft, are the carefully crafted colors of fishing lures. Special care is taken in the color selection by lure makers, as it is a very important part in catching the right fish in the right conditions.

Most fish, except for some of those in the deepest of darkest of oceans, where there is no light at all, can see colors, some even have four to five different cones making their ability to see color even greater than our own. While there is some, but not much, evidence that fish have a particular tendency towards red, there is more to selecting the right color of lure than just picking the one with the palette you like best. So, if you ever get a chance leave you computer behind and head out to the lake, we've put together a guide to help you make the right color choice when selecting a lure.


Photo by eaglemac


In order to select the best lure color palette there are a few things that need to be considered, such as: Water depth and clarity, season, and the time of day.

Here is a wonderful article, with great graphics that I really wanted to steal for this post, that you should check out for more information: Exploding The Myths With Some Truths About Lure Color, by Greg Vinall.

Water Depth


The consensus is that on sunny days brighter colors are the best option, and on cloudy days, darker more natural colors should be used. This is because the various light wavelengths are absorbed at different rates in water, longer wavelengths, like reds, are absorbed easily where as shorter ones, like violet, are absorbed much more slowly and can penetrate into deeper water. So, the farther down your lure goes the fewer and fewer colors will be seen by the fish.

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The Colors Of Global Brand Identities

The Colors Of Global Brand Identities

Today, more than ever, companies need to separate themselves from the others who share the same crowded marketplaces, and it is being done with branding and creating a unique and easily recognizable visual identity. The visual identity of a business can be one of its most valuable intangible assets, and big part of that visual identity is color.

Referring to Business Week's 'Best Global Brands 2007' (link to PDF) report, which ranks "brands which place high importance on managing the economic value of their intangible assets, and primary their brands, consistently out preform basic economic measures," we selected what may be the most easily identifiable logos in the corporate world today, then stripped them of every line and gradient to pullout just the color palettes. See if they are just as strong without the logo itself.

Google ebay

Pizza Hut Nintendo

Coca-Cola Shell

Kodak McDonalds

BP Ikea

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Colors Of Religion: Shinto

Colors Of Religion: Shinto

"A simple and harmonious life with nature and people."

Shinto is considered Japans native religion. A system of simplicity and beauty, the main ideas behind Shinto are rooted not in the after-life, like many other popular belief systems, but rather in finding harmony with your current surroundings in the present. There is no strict dogma or prayer, and no hierarchy of Gods to worship. Rather, Shinto is a collection of rituals and methods to strengthen relationship of living humans and kami, also known as spirits. Some kami can be specific to local customs, others, are larger, shared natural objects such as Amaterasu, the Sun goddess, or Mount Fuji. But the general understanding is that everything contains a kami.

Photo from MShades

Four Affirmations of Shinto:

  • Tradition and the family: The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage.
  • Love of nature: Nature is sacred; to be in contact with nature is to be close to the kami. Natural objects are worshipped as containing sacred spirits.
  • Physical cleanliness: Followers of Shinto take baths, wash their hands, and rinse out their mouths often.
  • "Matsuri": Any festival dedicated to the Kami, of which there are many each year.

A common translation for Shinto is "the way of the Gods," with many of the gods falling in line with the animistic belief system, assigning spirits and souls to animals and plants. This belief is the main source behind the Japanese cultural harmony and appreciation for nature, along with many other cultural traditions. Sumo wrestling, chopsticks, garden design, flower arranging, architecture, and removing your shoes before entering a building, are all said to stem from Shinto.

Photo from Just A Slice

Shinto and Buddhism

The system of Shinto went through some changes with the adoption of Buddhism after it's introduction in the 6th century. It wasn't until this time that a name was actually created in order to distinguish it from that of Buddhism. The way of life, and belief system, that was encompassed by that traditional religion, became known as Shinto. The two systems have largely, but not without the usual purification attempts by some, coexisted and combined and become seamless with Japanese culture.

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