Seeing Colors Through Rose-Tinted Glasses

Seeing Colors Through Rose-Tinted Glasses

Thine is the heritage of the world, thine the task of moulding destinies, thine the privilege of seeing all things through rose-coloured glasses.
—Charles W. Wood, The Argosy

"To see the world through rose-colored glasses" is an idiom referring to a positive outlook colored by naivety or sentimentality. As feminist commentator Pamela Varkony puts it, "Looking at the world through rose colored glasses makes for a pretty picture, but not an accurate one." To be sure, one famous drawback of rose-colored glasses is that not everything that appears red is objectively red. Hence, the lovelorn are cautioned against wearing them: "When we are in love, or when we want to be in love, we sometimes see the world through rose-colored glasses and don't spot the red flags" (Christine Hassler, 20 Something, 20 Everything, p. 224). Sightseers are also advised against wearing rose-colored glasses while on holiday: in Alaska, you'll miss seeing the Northern Lights; in Australia, Mount Uluru will be invisible; in Bermuda, you could sunburn and not know it; in Switzerland, the Matterhorn will appear bright pink. Rose-colored glasses are likely rarely abused at the Grand Canyon, where at close of day the sky turns purple, the sun glows orange, and the clouds blush pink.

Rose-Colored Glasses

Whimsy aside, although the exact origin of the idiom has been lost in the "rose-coloured mist" of time (Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, 1856), we can speculate that it may reference the sanguine light of sunset, when the world is momentarily bathed in rosy radiance. That healthy glow is soon followed by twilight blindness and then impenetrable darkness—hence the air of suspicion. Ironically, though, private investigators and varmint hunters assure us that red lenses help the eyes adjust to low lighting and improve one's night vision. That's because red lenses filter out lower wavelengths and reveal a brighter panorama. So the poetic caution against rose-colored glasses would appear to be ill-conceived.

img by Malingering.

Indeed, Dr. John Izzo suggests that figurative rose-colored glasses can be a practical tool enabling starry-eyed romantics to pinpoint their ideals and pursue them with focus. He explains: "Usually meant as an insult, [seeing the world through rose-colored glasses] is a way of saying that someone is a bit too innocent, that he or she sees the world with too much optimism. The intimation is straightforward: Wake up and smell the coffee. Some people see the world through other kinds of glasses—cynical glasses—and surely the lenses they choose color their experiences. When it comes to rediscovering wonder and innocence . . . few decisions are more critical than choosing your glasses" (Second Innocence: Rediscovering Joy and Wonder, p. 73). Dr. Izzo seems to be suggesting that in the absence of adopting some sort of rosy focal point, one is likely to see a world limited to depressing shades of grey. It's true that "the particular glasses we wear reflect how we analyze and interpret what we see" (John Peter Rothe, Undertaking Qualitative Research, p. 137), just as the microscopic lens unlocks a richness of detail. These glasses symbolize what Prof. Jerry Griswold calls "forcible shifts in perspective, techniques for seeing things differently." Prof. Griswold cites The Wizard of Oz, "in which Dorothy and her companions put on green glasses before entering Emerald City, and then marvel at how green everything looks. In Pollyanna, however, the equivalent image is, significantly, not rose-colored glasses, but the prism. When the girl hangs dozens of these in the windows of Mr. Pendleton's house, we see something more than her transformation of his gloomy room into a rainbow-spangled place. We see how she has changed him in her prismatic shifts of perspectives. It is her pointing to a spectrum of possibilities, her reminding him of his freedom to choose, which leads Mr. Pendleton to conclude that Pollyanna is 'the very prism of all'" (Audacious Kids, p. 235).

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Octarine: The Imaginary Color of Magic

Octarine: The Imaginary Color of Magic

"Octarine" is a color name coined by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novels. Octarine is said to be the color of magic, as it is apparent in the crackling and shimmering of light. The word refers to the "eighth color," in a spectrum of black, blue, green, yellow, purple, orange, and red. Octarine has been likened to a fluorescent greenish-yellow purple, a combination impossible to perceive with normal human eyes. Imagine, if you can, the marriage of these two swatches:

smile_magic magic_eyes

Scholar of magic Pete Carroll says he imagines Octarine to be "a particular shade of electric pinkish-purple," a common color in optical illusions. Who can see octarine with the naked eye? Legend has it that only wizards and felines can. That's because an ordinary eye, equipped with rods and cones, would see greenish-yellow purple as gray, black, or nothing at all, while a wizard's eye is said to be equipped with octagons. Some people claim to catch glimpses of octarine in peacock feathers, lightning bolts, rainbows, lens flares, soap bubbles, bonfires, and gemstones.

OctarineThere can be no doubt that octarine is an imaginary color. But is it preposterous to think that normal human eyes might one day be able to perceive a fluorescent greenish-yellow purple? The folks at the Conscious Entities blog posed that very question: "There has to be an octarine, doesn't there? The mere conceivability of another color shows that the spectrum is not an absolute reality. It seems to me that, just as we can always encounter a completely new smell, there would always be scope for a new color, if our eyes were able to develop new responses the way our nose presumably can. But I don't even need to rely on conceivability. Some insects can see ultraviolet light, for example, and some snakes can see infrared. They must assign to those wavelengths colors which we can't see, mustn't they?"

OctarineTheir conclusion, however, is negatory: "Look at the way the spectrum forms a closed circle. If we extended it downwards below red, we should simply get another, lower, violet. Now I grant you that the 'lowerness' would have to be expressed in some way - possibly as 'warmth.' The colors of the visible spectrum are differentiated in terms of warmth, so perhaps the lower violet would appear distinctly warmer than the one we're used to (great scope for interior decorators...). I repeat, the spectrum is a reality. You can call it a mathematical reality if that helps, but it's real. If we saw color the way we hear pitch, all this would be obvious. But the fact that we can't see color harmonies or more than a single octave of colors means there's never been any scope for a genius to come along and produce a regularized interpretation of the spectrum, the way J.S.Bach did for the musical scale."

The COLOURlovers library shimmers with magical colors, though as of this writing there's no color named "octarine." Some magic colors include:

the_magic magic_teal

magic_lime Purple_Magic

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Michael Surtees: “New York City Color Study”

Michael Surtees: “New York City Color Study”

Most observations of sky color tend to focus on sunsets and sunrises when the most dynamic and vibrant colors can be seen, but what about the soft transitions and subtle changes of color from day to day? Michael Surtees's observational photo series “ New York City Color Study” focuses on just that, and in the process enlightens us to the dramatic in the mundane.

On January 16, 2008 Micheal started capturing pictures of the New York City sky though the window of his Manhattan apartment. What has come from this seemingly mundane observation is an amazing set of inspiring images and a reminder that everyday is a new color.

The series is on-going and he isn't planning on stopping anytime soon. The latest photo was taken April 17, 2008.

New York City Color Study

About "New York City Color Study"

For thirty six days now I’ve been taking an image of the sky from my apartment in Manhattan. It wasn’t until I started noticing that most mornings have a really unique colour to the sky that I thought there might be something to comparing the colour day to day. There isn’t any specific time for me to point my camera in the same direction though for the most part I’ve been taking the photograph somewhere between 7 and 9 am. As the sun starts rising earlier my time will probably adjust accordingly.

Uncropped View of New York City Colour Study

It’s a fairly uncomplicated process with the photos. Whether it’s sunny or cloudy doesn’t really matter because each day is unique. I always make sure that the crop of the sky is in a 4:3 aspect ratio with my Leica D-Lux 3. One of the cool yet unexpected things that happens when I upload the photos to flickr and place them in their set is that they create a square which is what the image above is. I always mark the date and time on the photo as extra information that I might want to use at a latter date.

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Color In Nature: Wood

Color In Nature: Wood

Sorting through the incredible number of wood varieties is a task of enormous proportions, and one we didn't even think of taking on. Lucky for us there are people who are doing just that.

Exotic Wood Pictures: Exotic Wood Displayed, described, and Identified is "a non-commercial site focusing on color-correct pictures of exotic and domestic woods." The site, which I found while performing the always necessary first step in any research, a Google search, is wonderful for exploring the amazing colors of the different varieties of wood. The highlighted statistics for the site read:

# different types of wood represented: 685
# unique pictures of those woods: 17,722

For any hard core wood fan out there this a great site to sort through hundreds of options for any upcoming wood related projects you might have on the table, or in the COLOURlovers case, this site can offer inspiration from the unique colors that make up each type.

Below we have assembled a few inspirational palettes with their corresponding types from some of the 685 wood varieties represented on the site. Plus, a few images of the incredible colors of petrified wood.

Wood Color Inspiration

  • Angico
  • Guearu
  • Bosse
  • Cinnamon
  • Caretto

  • Oak, Bog
  • Bishop Wood
  • Briar
  • Podo
  • Zircote

  • Cocuswood
  • Blackbean
  • Beech
  • Makai
  • Buckthorn

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Cooking Inspiration: The Colorful Kitchen

Cooking Inspiration: The Colorful Kitchen

While it takes a brave soul to paint one's living room a vibrant shade of persimmon or yellow, the kitchen is often a room in which one feels more courageous when it comes to decorating vibrantly. It is truly the best room for it, especially if one subscribes to the beliefs about the effects of colors as used in the home (although if everyone subscribed to that, we would never see the gorgeous red rooms that leave us breathless on the pages of design magazines!)

As the kitchen is essentially a creative place, use of colorful decor can only intensify the mood and give the room a vibe of powerful positivity. There are several ways to add color to your own kitchen, whether you choose to take the route of permanent change with paint or simply using colorful accessories for accent, it's all up to you!

Via Tsuga Studios

Adding Accessories

Painting your kitchen a strong color is a definite commitment. No matter how long you spend staring at your color swatches and envisioning the new walls, it never quite matches up to the final product. For the decorator uneasy with a complete overhaul, colorful accents in a plain white or neutral kitchen go a long way when it comes to making the room "pop." Best of all, if you tire of the look they can be removed, or if you want to try a different color all you have to do is change your accessories and you have an instant new look. Here are a few fun pieces that can make immediate impact:

Via Pottery Barn

Via Williams-Sonoma

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Pantone Color: Product Guide

Pantone Color: Product Guide

Pantone was founded in 1962 as a small business that manufactured color cards for cosmetics companies. Since their humble beginning, Pantone has become a mainstay for color in the design world. The Pantone Matching System allows colors to be "matched" when they reach the production stages. They also assert that their lists of color numbers and pigment values are the intellectual property of Pantone and free use of the list is not allowed, which is controversial and could be said to cause problems, especially for open source uses. Controversy aside, the world leader in color hasn't stopped with just their matching system and has started to move into taking over the 'universe' of color as well with the launch of Pantone Universe.

Pantone Universe, Pantone's consumer product extension, "comes in color to match your personal taste and express your inner emotions." And since here at COLOURlovers we like our things to be, well, colorful, and since the Pantone Universe site is not that user friendly, we have put together a guide to some of their products.

This guide was inspired by the guide posted over at the wonderful blog, 'If it's hip, It's Here.'

Pantone, and their off shoot of products has been a frequent subject here at COLOURlovers and we have previously covered some of the phones, bags, coffee mugs and art that make up the Pantone Universe, plus a fun post about Pantone Colors Found in Real Life.



Notebooks, file folders and business card holders available here.

USB Drives

"Express your personality and store your creations in style. These durable, aluminum design thumb drives allow you to store your digital photos, music files, business documents, and more on an ultra-small Hi-speed USB flash drive. Available in 14 PANTONE Colors." Shop USB Drives.

Coming Soon

Coming soon from Pantone will be a line of basic office supplies like twin markers, colored pencils, staplers, and scissors.

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Color From The Adelaide Festival: Northern Lights

Color From The Adelaide Festival: Northern Lights

Light projection installations have been filling dark nights with radiant colors a lot in the past year. With the previously mentioned exhibit Evoke, by Usman Haque, who wrapped the facade of York Minister with projected colors that were sensitive to the sound waves created by people in the immediate area, to the recently ended Adelaide Festival exhibit, Northern Lights.

The Adelaide Festival of Arts is an innovative art festival that takes place every other year in South Australia and includes an array of events, performances, exhibits, and theater, including the incredible projection installation created by The Electric Canvas, a Sydney production team.

Photo by SpacePotato

During the Festival which ran from February 29th through March 16th, an estimated 15,000 people made their way each night to see the multi-building installation light up with 70 different projections that changed every five minutes. The turnout must have been a little unexpected because the installation was extended two weeks beyond the original ending date to March 30th. Even though the installation was such a success the festival honored Earth Hour on March 29th by turning off the lights for one hour.

The 2008 festival as a whole was also a huge success, with the announcement that box office projections were vastly exceeded.

The Electric Canvas

The Electric Canvas team, who provides design, production, technical and creative services for installation, used huge projectors that weighed in around 200k (440lbs) to project a selection of patterns and colors on the State Library of South Australia, the Institute Building, South Australian Museum, as well as the Art Gallery of South Australia, and three landmark university buildings including the Mitchell Building, Bonython Hall and Elder Hall.

Photo by SpacePotato

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Living With Color: A Vibrant Decor

Living With Color: A Vibrant Decor

I can't imagine living with a beige decor. I love color and feel that my home should reflect that love. At the same time I don't want a
rainbow home with garish flashy colors and prints all over the place. I think the key is to have vibrant colors dispersed amongst more modest ones.

We just moved into a new place and chose a dusty rose for the bedroom. I love it because my bedspread has a bright green butterfly pattern on a white background. Our livingroom/diningroom is an atmospheric blue that contrasts the warm wood tones of the floor and table. A brightly colored vase or cushions on the couch can accent any room. I go for the colors I love without trying too hard to match everything, and at the same time without going mad with bold colors everywhere.

Here is some stunning furniture that would brighten up any room!

slump vases

Esque Slump Vases via Velocity

Each glass esque creation is hand-blown and will vary slightly from piece to piece. Each piece is a signed, unique, original, functional work of art. Esque glass is now all made with recycled glass stock; processed in an electric furnace that's powered by wind energy. Another Velocity Green Product! Available in fuschia, orange, or extra light blue.

Ferm Living wallpaper

Ferm Living wallpaper

WallSmart is a new generation of non-woven wallpaper that is designed for easier and more flexible hanging by applying the paste directly to the wall. It is washable and has very good light resistance. It is designed in Denmark and manufactured in Sweden.

folding chairs

Sprout ornate folding chair

So it's just a folding chair eh? But not like this, not this darn cute. Powdercoated Steel makes this chair fairly weather resistent, that said we suggest putting it away during wet periods, if you were to use it outdoors. Sit, done sitting, and want it out of the way, fold it up...


Strut dining table via Design Public

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Pure Photography: Colors of a Fleeting Movement

Pure Photography: Colors of a Fleeting Movement

Established in 1932, the Pure Photography movement boasted a palette with a maximum of two colors. Pure photography was defined as being completely free of any other artistic movement. That meant it had to be free of qualities of technique, composition, and objective. Due to its strict requirements, the possible body of work was severely limited. That's why the visual poet Geof Huth calls Pure Photography "one of the shortest artistic movements of all time." As it is such a narrow school of art, Huth was able to complete all the possible works of the genre in a single day. He explains: "A black & white photograph might look like it is made out of grays, but it is made out of bits of black organized on the surface of a white sheet, so in its purest form it is either all black or all white."

Black_photo photographers_white

photo by DitB
img by waffler

Huth's technique was simple: "The black photograph must be exposed to uncontrolled light, so I turned on the lights in the darkroom, exposed the paper & then developed the photograph. The white photograph must never be exposed to light; it is fixed so that it never changes from its white beginnings. I framed one of these photographs in a bright metal frame, but I don't know where it is anymore."

Here are some colors and palettes from the COLOURlovers library reminiscent of the short-lived Pure Photography movement.

instant_photo over_exposure

grandmothers_photo photoalbum

Black and White Black and white

Black and White 2 High Contrast Love

Cover img by Breno Peck.

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
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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The Controversy of Naked Colors

The Controversy of Naked Colors

"It was color as such, naked color, unabashedly itself, and assertively dominant."
—Elizabeth Frank, Esteban Vicente

So-called "naked colors" expose a stark naturalness that many viewers would consider titillating or indiscreet. Naked colors invite the viewer to peek into an intimate range of wavelengths that yield a profoundly sensual impression and uncover a hidden truth. Naked colors embody what the French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls "interpenetration," wherein the fine line between a public arena and a private one starts "gaping open" (qtd. in Henry James and the Philosophical Novel, by Merle A. Williams, 1993). In other words, Merleau-Ponty is suggesting that a naked color on a visible surface can serve to lead the imagination toward something typically not visible.

Naked colors appear in the art world and the natural world. The red and gold Santa Rita mountains and the violet Catalina mountains of Arizona display a "wild bright beauty" of "naked color" (Glenn Hughes, Broken Lights: A Book of Verse, 1920). In the springtime in London's city parks, flower bulbs "break against the renewing grass in naked colour" (David Piper, The Companion Guide to London, 1983). In the Dutch painter Pieter Mondrian's later work, he focused his attention to "'naked' colour dynamics: patches of pure red, yellow and blue held in place by a grid of black lines (Jon Thompson, How to Read a Modern Painting, 2006). In the world of fashion, "naked color turns into decorationism" (Marc Chagall, Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, 2003). However, quantum physicists tell us that "naked colour is never to be seen" in quarks (Nigel Calder, Magic Universe: The Oxford Guide to Modern Science, 2003).

The COLOURlovers library is full of naked color inspiration. (Viewer discretion advised.)

stark_naked naked

naked naked

naked Nude

Naked Leave_Me_Naked

Naked_Truth feel_good_naked

nude naked

Cover img by auntie.

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
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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