Conceptions of Color in a Colorless World

Conceptions of Color in a Colorless World


A world devoid of color, posited John Arthur Thomson, "would not be uninteresting; but it would be very difficult and dull" (Riddles of Science, 1932). Even on the grayest of days, the human mind struggles to imagine a life destitute of color. However, sometimes imagination isn't required. Damage to the visual cortex can bring about Central Achromatopsia, a defect in color perception that renders the world into a "dull, dirty, faded, gray, washed out" wasteland like something on a black and white television (Alex Byrne and David Hilbert, Readings on Color, 1997). Besides being less pleasurable, a colorless world would be more difficult to navigate. Color experts Vernon Lee and C. Anstruther-Thompson explain how inhabitants of a colorless world would be strangers in a strange land: "Color gives the eye a grip, so to speak, on shape, preventing its slipping off; we can look much longer at a colored object than an uncolored; and the coloring of architecture enables us to realize its details and its ensemble much quicker and more easily. For the same reason colored objects always feel more familiar than uncolored ones, and the latter seem always to remain in a way strange and external; so that children, in coloring their picture-books, are probably actuated not so much by the sensuous pleasure of color as such, as by a desire to bring the objects represented into a closer and, so to speak, warmer relation with themselves" (qtd. in The Enjoyment and Use of Color by Walter Sargent, 1964).

Colorless Life.

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img by WTL Photos

Even people without the faculty of sight must take color into account, Walter Sargent notes, "because they hear about it as one of the distinguishing qualities of objects." He cites the American activist Helen Keller, the first person with deafblindness to graduate from college. Keller used her imagination, analogies, and senses of touch, smell, and taste to develop her own conceptions of color. As she explained:

I understand how scarlet can differ from crimson because I know that the smell of an orange is not the smell of a grape-fruit. I can also conceive that colors have shades and guess what shades are. In smell and taste there are varieties not broad enough to be fundamental; so I call them shades. There are half a dozen roses near me. They all have the unmistakable rose scent; yet my nose tells me they are not the same. The American Beauty is distinct from the Jacqueminot and La France. Odors in certain grasses fade as really to my senses as certain colors do to yours in the sun. . . . I make use of analogies like these to enlarge my conceptions of colors. . . . The force of association drives me to say that white is exalted and pure, green is exuberant, red suggests love or shame or strength. Without the color or its equivalent, life to me would be dark, barren, a vast blackness. (qtd. in The Enjoyment and Use of Color by Walter Sargent, 1964. Emphasis mine.)

Though blind to the physical world around her, Keller could not and would not allow her thoughts to remain colorless. She always asked for things to be described to her in terms of color, so that she could imagine their resonance. "The unity of the world demands that color be kept in it whether I have cognizance of it or not," she explained. "Rather than be shut out, I take part in it by discussing it, happy in the happiness of those near me who gaze at the lovely hues of the sunset or the rainbow."

The COLOURlovers library testifies to the fact that even colors and palettes seemingly devoid of pigment can be interesting.

Dull Day Devoid

Colourless Sky Colorless

Grey, Not Colorless Water is Colourless;

colorless Colorless_View

Colorless_World colorless

colorless Colorless_Blood

colorless_fear colorless_feelings

Colorless_External Colorless_Landscape

colorless_lemon colorless_toxin

Cover img by Sarah Reed.

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Website: http://www.OneLetterWords.com
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

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Little-Known Meanings of Crazy Color Names vol. 5

Little-Known Meanings of Crazy Color Names vol. 5


Baffling color names often tell entertaining stories, at least to those who are willing to delve beneath the surface. We continue our strange and wonderful adventure into the uncharted fringes of language, where we'll discover new "shades of meaning."

The deep green color called nnnn represents a “closed,” “intimate” hummed sound which “resonates mostly in the head,” as opposed to the “exposed” aaahh sound “which resonates in the chest. You can keep the closed sound a secret, sitting calmly at a committee meeting while others about you are losing their minds” (W. A. Mathieu, The Musical Life).

nnnn

The light gray color claled nnnnnn refers to the “head guy” of “a bunch of dudes from the nameless planet”: "Nnnnnn moved his green hand in a circle, indicating the stream, the forest, the city. 'I know you feel like an alien here,' he said softly. 'But that is because you are thinking too small'" (Bruce Coville, “I, Earthling,” Odder Than Ever).

nnnnnn

The deep blue color called nt represents the word not, written in Roger Bacon’s all-consonant secret code (devised in 1250), as discussed in The Voynich Manuscript by Gerry Kennedy.

nt

The tan color called pff is an indication that one is miffed, as by a failed pursuit: "[W]hen they rounded the corner the bird had disappeared, and though the children searched high and low, there was not a feather to be found. 'Pff! Typical,' Georgie spat, turning back down the stairs" (Justyn Walker, The Magician’s Daughter).

pff

The pink color called pfff refers to a French expression of loneliness, as when everyone is having too much fun to give one a call, as in “Numéro privé” by Erwan Le Goffic.

pfff

The magenta color called pfffft recalls the sound of a stabbing hypodermic needle: "She stuck the needle in, pushed pfffft, just like that, and it started burning immediately" (Janet Laurel, Heart and Soul: What It Takes to Promote Health While Confronting Cancer).

pfffft

The light mauve color called pffft echoes the sound of a balloon deflating: "The volunteer was given a pair of safety glasses and a long bamboo pole to the end of which was secured a match. This was lit, and placed under the balloon. It collapsed with a dull pffft" (D.W. St. John, A Terrible Beauty).

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The Colors of Same-HEX Unions

The Colors of Same-HEX Unions


Colors, like people, tend to mix and mingle according to their inclinations. Sometimes two complementary HEXes will combine to create a new color. Sometimes two similar HEXes will merge to illuminate a more brilliant hue. Is it preposterous to label such unions as "straight" and "gay"? The ColourLovers library is full of colors with orientations identified in their titles. At a glance, can you tell a "straight" color from a "gay" one? Here's a three-part quiz, each more challenging than the last. In this first quiz, one column features colors with exclusively gay names. The other column features colors with exclusively straight names. Which is which? For the answer, click on any color to reveal the name.

A

B

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The Color of Money from Around the World

The Color of Money from Around the World


In honor of this month's release of the United States' redesigned five dollar bill I have been scouring through the 191 currently circulating currencies of the 192 member states of the United Nations to find some of the most colorful, unique and dramatic bank notes.

The New Five

Photo from moneycenteral.msn.com

The redesigned $5 bill was unveiled on September 20, 2007, and was issued on March 13, 2008. Previously covered here on COLOURlovers, the redesign involves some very noticeable changes, mostly for security reasons, but also in an attempt to make the bill more friendly to the visually impaired.

The new five incorporates the use of micro printing of type to make it more difficult to copy. On the front, "FIVE DOLLARS" is written inside the left and right borders. "E PLURIBUS UNUM" is printed at the top of the shield. "USA" is between the columns of the shield and "USA FIVE" is printed on the edge of the most noticeable change, the giant purple "5".


Photo from moneycenteral.msn.com

The giant purple "5". Yes, well, it was added to help those who are visually impaired but it may just leave more of us wishing that we were. Not that I necessarily dislike it, mostly I'm not too concerned with what the money looks like since I'm not collecting it for its aesthetic qualities, but a more reasonable choice, or at least a more colorful choice, would have been just to make the whole thing purple and start color coding all of the bills, much like many, if not most, other countries do. Maybe the Government doesn't want to get too far away from our 'greenback'.

One Interesting thing about the new five is the use of the EURion constellation which many photocopiers will refuse to copy. This pattern, which is used for the series of little yellow "05"s, is used on many other currencies as well.

Other changes to the bill include the increased use of water marks and an added security strip like those already used for higher denominations.

The Most Colorful Currencies

Compared to those previous drab gray and green bills the US has made some colorful changes to the currency, but it is still nothing compared to the beautifully crafted and colored currencies of Venezuela, Switzerland, and Kyrgyzstan.

The Bolívar Fuerte

Bolívar Fuerte

The Bolívar Fuerte is the new currency of Venezuela since January 1, 2008. It replaced the old Bolívar which was the currency between 1879 and 2007. My personal favorite currency, it is a great example of the amazing bright and colorful notes that are seen throughout many South America countries.

The Bolívar Fuerte includes illustrations of Francisco de Miranda, Pedro Camejo, Cacique Guaicaipuro, Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi, Simón Rodríguez and Simón Bolívar, on the fronts. On the backsides, the notes feature Amazon river dolphins, a giant armadillo, an American Harpy eagle, the hawks bill turtle, a spectacled bear and the red siskin.

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Stained Glass: A Colorful Mosaic of History

Stained Glass: A Colorful Mosaic of History


Having recently returned from a trip to Madrid, I found myself still marveling over the brilliant colors I had seen there, most evident in the city's cathedrals, which displayed gorgeous stained glass tributes to all the familiar figures of the Catholic church. I've always had an affinity for stained glass, most specifically the Art Deco period, which you can see examples of in the pictures below. While most people think of stained glass as something you really only find in churches, in reality its had a much more diverse spread, finding its beginnings as far back as the 4th century.

262958814_54676b30df_b.jpg
img by Atelier Teee

Creating stained glass is a daunting task, as there are several major steps to completing such a piece of art and require to maker to be equal parts artisan and craftsman. The glass itself would be colored using metallic salts during its manufacturing process, then artfully arranged between lead strips to hold together the design. These windows can also be created by painting a design on and having the glass annealed in a furnace to set the colors. The first method is the more revered, although both are still considered stained glass. These windows were incredibly durable, some of them lasting hundreds of years ( in Western Europe, stained glass windows from the Middle Ages are the major form of pictorial art to have survived to this day.)

Stained glass found its beginnings in clay pots, where it was mixed with metal oxides while in a melting state over a furnace. Copper oxides were added to produce green, cobalt for blue, and gold was added to produce red glass, creating what was called pot metal. The types of stained glass diversified from there, finding form in cylinder glass, crown glass, table glass and flashed glass (all these were named for the technique used to create each type of glass.) Each method produced different variations in color. Today there are modern glass factories who produce the glass using traditional methods and modern expediency, located everywhere from the USA to England, Russia and Poland.

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img by Tomasz1950

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Modern Color Field: Artists Using the Full Spectrum

Modern Color Field: Artists Using the Full Spectrum


I'm excited by artists who are finding ways to adapt the rainbow spectrum in their work. Color is so powerful and can be so striking. The color field (or chromatic abstractionist) artists of the 50's often painted with bold swaths of color but rarely used as many together as the featured artists of this article. In the 60's, psychedelic art used colors and patterns together too. The modern artists I'll cover in this post use color in an undiluted, anything but soft array of graphic lines and shapes resulting in work that is both vivid and alluring. Their work circumvents the boundaries their predecessors put in place to arrive at a new and bold take on prior styles.

Jim Lambie
Jim Lambie header

Jim Lambie is represented by the Anton Kern Gallery. Glasgow-based, Lambie uses glossy tape in varying colors to build installations. The vinyl tape, an everyday material applied in continuous lines, transforms the dynamics of space, changing a white box gallery space into an energetic/emotional space of sensory pleasure. To read more about Lambie's work click here.

Maya Hayuk
Maya Hayuk header

New York based, Maya Hayuk is an artist I first noticed on Fecal Face, they did a great interview with her that is a must read.

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Which Color Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?

Which Color Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?


Pearly white, cream, yellow, brown, gray, blue, violet, green, olive. Chicken eggs are colorful even before they're dyed and decorated for Easter celebrations. "The color of eggs comes exclusively from the pigment in the outer layer of the shell and may range from an almost pure white to a deep brown, with many shades in between.

chicken_eggs.jpg

The only determinant of egg color is the breed of the chicken. . . . A simple test to determine the color of a hen's eggs is to look at her earlobes. If the earlobes are white, the hen will lay white eggs. If the earlobes are red, she will produce brown eggs" (David Feldman, Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise? and other Imponderables, 1988.

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Little-Known Meanings of Crazy Color Names vol. 4

Little-Known Meanings of Crazy Color Names vol. 4


Seemingly unintelligible colour names often tell fascinating and amusing stories, at least to those who are willing to delve beneath the surface.  We continue our strange and wonderful adventure into the uncharted fringes of language, where we'll discover new "shades of meaning."

The light green colour called hmm represents a sound which a “great conversationalist” makes while listening to keep people talking, as discussed in Think Like Your Customer: A Winning Strategy to Maximize Sales by Understanding and Influencing How and Why Your Customers Buy by Bill Stinnett.

hmm

The bright orange colour called hmmmm refers to a “trite expression of wonder, envy and awe” that, along with “oh my,” “well well,” “say now,” and “really?” “will cover your adventures in New York” (Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967).

hmmmm

The golden colour similarly called hmmmm recalls a chant from the Igbo Folk Epic from Sub-Saharan Africa, as discussed in Traditional Storytelling Today: An International Sourcebook by Margaret Read MacDonald.

hmmmm

The dark red colour called hmph recalls an exclamation by the “Good Magician Humfrey” that, according to a translator golem, means “You blundering aviary feline!  Get your catty feet on the ground!” (Piers Anthony, Source of Magic).

hmph

The pale orange colour called hnnn echoes the grunt of Frankenstein’s monster, according to poet John Quinn in “Subway Station Meditation (New York),” Do Not Ask Me to Compete with the Angels.

hnnn
photo by Love Not Fear
img by Love Not Fear

The deep purple colour called hssss refers to the sound of a city bus pulling away from a stop, as in The Hearse You Came In On by Tim Cockey.

hssss

The bright blue colour called kkkk refers to the sound of silk being stolen: "Aye, Silk’s what they fancy out in India ... over the wall, in your Window, kkkk!  Job’s done." (Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon).

kkkk

The deep green colour called kkkkkkk echoes the rapid bill-clapping sound of the Choco Toucan, as described in Toucans, Barbets and Honeyguides: Ramphastidae, Capitonidae and Indicatoridae by Lester L. Short.

KKKKKKK

The dusky purple colour called mmmmm recalls an expression of feeling vulnerable upon finding oneself stranded in a strange place at night, as in the song “Cross Road Blues” by Robert Johnson, as transcribed in Trouble in Mind by Leon F. Litwack.

Mmmmm

The pale yellow colour called nnn echoes a response to the question “You spigotty anglease?” in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce.

nnn

All of these colour name insights are derived from my Dictionary of Improbable Words, which is available for online reading.

Cover img by jovike.

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Website: http://www.OneLetterWords.com
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

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Colors From The Harbin Ice Festival

Colors From The Harbin Ice Festival


With temperature extremes that reach negative forty degrees Celsius, and normal average temperatures that stay below zero for half of the year, Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province of China, is the perfect place to hold the most spectacular ice and snow festival. Bringing in artist from all over the world the annual Harbin Ice festival is one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Ski Festival. It includes some of the most incredible ice carvings, sculptures, and structures that illuminate with color each evening for an entire month.

The festival first dates back to 1963, but the tradition of the Ice lanterns started during the Qing Dynasty, between the years of 1644 and 1911.

The Derivation Of The Ice Lantern


Photo by gadgetdan

The first Ice lanterns were a winter-time tradition in northeast China during the Qing Dynasty(1644 - 1911), the local peasants and fishermen often made and used ice lanterns as jack lights during the winter months. At that time these were made simply by pouring water into a bucket that was then put out in the open to freeze. It was then gently warmed before the water froze completely so that the bucket-shaped ice could be pulled out. A hole was chiseled in the top and the water remaining inside poured out creating a hollow vessel. A candle was then placed inside resulting in a windproof lantern that gained great popularity in the region around Harbin.


Photo by ianwhitfield

From then on, people made ice lanterns and put them outside their houses or gave them to children to play with during some of the traditional festivals. Thus the ice lantern began its long history of development. With novel changes and immense advancement in techniques, today we can marvel at the various delicate and artistic ice lanterns on display.

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WINNERS: Photo Color Inspiration Contest

WINNERS: Photo Color Inspiration Contest


You all are just way to talented! Choosing 3 winners from the 1,500 entries was an incredibly difficult task. It actually took more than a few hours to look at all the entries. (You can view all the contest entries here: Photo Color Inspiration with LuckyOliver) So many were creative, interesting and works of art themselves... but in the end we only have enough prizes for 3 winners and here they are:

Paris Underground

1st Prize

8GB iPod Touch or $300 via US check or PayPal
50 LuckyOliver tokens

Woodbine

2nd Prize

iPod Shuffle or $79 via US check or PayPal
50 LuckyOliver tokens

Double Dahlia

3rd Prize

iTunes Gift Card or $25 via US check or PayPal
25 LuckyOliver tokens

Honorable Entries

Getting 3 from 1,500 was nearly impossible. Along the way we kept trimming the list of palettes we loved down to a smaller number and the palettes below stayed with us for most of the way. Even though they didn't win, we wanted to share a little extra love with these palettes.

The moose is back
LuckyOliver: Fuzzy Red Oak Leaves ~ New Spring Growth

Abstract Love
LuckyOliver: Abstract painted pink and orange background

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