Painting – How Do Colour blind Artists See Colours?

Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) affects about 8% of the male and 0.5% of the female population. So, with these figures, it is natural to assume that there are a good number of practicing, colour blind artists.

Although there are plenty of reports,data and thesis’ that discuss this particular visual impairment there doesn’t seem to be much written about how artists operate under these circumstances.

Colour test

deep-purple

Deep Purple Badge

As a lifelong artist with CVD I’ve always had an interest in colour and how I perceive it. Over time I’ve realised that how I see a colour, or if I’ve used the correct one, isn’t of importance as my pictures are a representation of how I view the world. I was curious how I could sometimes get things right and other times be so wide of the mark. So I started to catalogue the possible reasons behind this.

All my life I’ve been asked to validate my  colour blindness with adhoc tests where people would point at things and ask me the colours. “What colour is this pen?”, “Is your jumper red or green?”. It became a standard at school and at times I would deliberately get things wrong as people looked so upset when I was right. If only they’d asked about the turquoise instead of the blue pen, that one would always get me.

orange

Orange?

Catalogue of colour

So over time we build up a bank of colour associated things, some natural, green grass, blue sky, some are social conventions, red phone boxes, black taxis, while others are personal, a purple badge or an orange mug. Our brain stores these colour things and then when we have a conflict it searches out possible matches to correct our perceptions.

This could partly explain how we sometimes can see the red flowers in a bush or the girl in a crowd wearing the peach dress. The mind cleverly finds the right match through past objects we associate with a certain colour.

Problems with Tone

red_postbox

Red Postbox

Tonality is another colour aspect that can help and hinder the CVD viewer. The same colour brightly lit or in deep shade will take on a different hue. So a dark green may be confused with deep red, but if the green is a few tones lighter, the conflict will not arise. It may be difficult to find a red tiled roof in a forest during the summer. However, as the leaves change during different seasons the roof will be more visible as they become paler or darker.

Dusk and dawn are times when colour identification can be tricky. At these times the clues are less obvious, the differences not so pronounced and this is when we have trouble deciding between the choices. Equally, two colours, brightly lit can be troublesome.

Colour shapes

Just as we draw conclusions about colours from their environment, our brains can also make connections with shapes and give the known forms a colour code. Objects which have a certain shape, tend to be a particular colour. A leaf, or a plum for example have shades that we would recognise and the brain knows this.

Colour swamping

Colour swamping and object context can also affect our chart. By sheer intensity you can have one colour over-powered by its surroundings. For instance a ginger kitten on a luscious green lawn. The massive quantity of green grass will turn the poor kitty green with no problem. Although if you look long enough the brain can change it back to ginger as it knows there are no green cats.

green-leaf

Green Leaves

I experienced a similar effect when watching the Dutch football team play. Their kit is an incredibly luminous orange, so much so that it changes the colour of the pitch. Now even I know that grass is not orange.

The brain is a wonderfully, adaptable organ and I think that once it knows we struggle with colours it goes some way to help us get things right.

I don’t believe it cures our colour perception but over time, building up a bank of colour knowledge and a list of known colour objects it can make calculated choices. It’s not always correct and most often not right at all. Although this could explain how occasionally we defy the odds and see the berries in the trees.

Watercolor on the Lake – Isola Polvese

 

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Isola Polvese – watercolor and ink, 52 cm x 21 cm (Sold)

Here’s the finished watercolor of the third island on Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy. The picture captures the lusciousness of the place, covered in oak woodlands and olive groves. Dotted around the island are a collection of buildings,a cafe bar by the dock, a ruined castle and an abandoned monastery. The island also has its own oil press where they produce their olive oil.

Tuscan umbria castle towns

Castiglione del Lago 

Travel painting

As it’s perpetually shaded, even on a hot day, it’s a cool place to walk around. The island is now an unspoilt nature reserve with thousands of birds flocking to its shores each year to take advantage of the lovely natural habitat.

Lago Trasimeno, Umbria

Isola Maggiore

Island joy

The painting is part of a threesome, with the Isola Maggiore and a study of the town of Castiglione del Lago completing the set. Lined up together you get an idea of the large expanse of water that makes up Lake Trasimeno and the wooded hills that surround it. However, most of all, you can feel the tranquility of the water as it laps along the shoreline and the serenity that can be found all over the islands.

 

Sketching Trip to the Lake

Lake Trasimeno

Island of Polvese

I took a nice sketching trip out to Lake Trasimeno yesterday to get some drawings and photographs for my next painting. Early autumn can be a great time for packing up your tools and going into the wilds to draw.

 

Lago Trasimeno Rocca

Polvese Castle ruins

Autumn art trip

It was a warm day with that particular bright, piercing sunlight you get in September. The subject for this picture is Polvese, the largest of Trasimeno’s islands and the least inhabited.

Once a thriving fishing community lived here and its ruined castle and abandoned monastery attest to the fact that it used to be home to many more people than it is today.

Isole Polvese

Water logged trees

Walking tour

The island is a lovely place to walk, the gradients aren’t too steep and there are plenty of interesting corners to photograph or paint and a little cafe bar to pick up a snack.

Like the neighbouring island of Isole Maggiore there is a regular ferry,

Monestario Polvese

Polvese Monastery ruins

running almost every hour (except lunchtimes) and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Alternatively you can cruise around the lake capturing the towns along the shoreline and the olive grove strewn hills behind.

If you should find yourself on an art holiday in Umbria, then a day on the lake is a rewarding way to fill up a sketch pad. Happy drawing 🙂

Painting the Dark Alleyways of Castello

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The Dark Alleyways – watercolour and ink, 31 cm x 50

The latest painting is of the back streets of Citta di Castello. The brief included a particular doorway, which is down a narrow alleyway, plus three piazzas.

dscn6344Painting the alleyways

The scene needed to take into account the rear of the cathedral, the town’s famous round bell tower, along with three other structures that make up Castello’s memorable skyline.

The tight cobbled streets and strange irregular plan do not give you much room to work with. This area is also quite tall in some respects with high towers, the mass of the cathedral building and the impressive apartment blocks next door. So all in all I think the result is quite pleasing.

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Stormy purple sky

Colour blind sky

As autumn closes in the weather has turned a little. Gone are the endless blue skies, sun streaked days with scorching afternoons. Instead we’ve been experiencing the odd dramatic thunder storm.

So I decided to answer the question all colour literate people ask. “What colour is the stormy sky in your world?” Well here you have it.  Tell me, who’d swap all of this for a boring, old grey sky? …  🙂

On Closed Doors – Monte Urban Art Project

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ENEL Cover Monte Santa Maria Tiberina – Watercolour and ink 58 x 54cm (For Sale)

I was recently asked, by the Circolo di Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, to take part in a project to decorate the utility meter doors scattered throughout the ancient town. The remit said that it needed to fit the panel, be relevant to the medieval town and take into account the lock on the door.

Designing door covers

Jpeg

ENEL panel

In total thirteen artists were asked to join the group and one Sunday a couple of weeks ago we all met up to choose our doors. Mine is the ENEL cover at the top of the stone stairs leading to the Palazzo and the main piazza.

Naturally I decided that I’d do a landscape of the area but I needed to disguise the black plastic door lock. I thought the best way to do this was to give the painting a harvest theme and hide the lock inside a strange, black, fantastical plant. Continuing the Fruita di Bosco the scene with a nectarine and more flowers in a vase, the meaning behind the books remains a mystery.

Urban art project

The access panel is quite large, some 58 x 54 cm and I felt that a landscape just plonked in the middle of the street would seem strange. So I included a terracotta tile window sill, on which the books, vase and nectarine stand, giving the impression you are looking through a window or archway.

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View of Monte

The town is drawn from the same angle at which you look at the panel, so it has the effect of creating a world within a world. A fairground hall or mirrors, with infinite repeated views of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina stretching off into the distance.

The paintings will be printed onto film and the doors covered and hopefully remain in place for a couple of years. If you are interested in seeing them they will be ready for the town’s festa, which runs on the 8,9 and 10th October.

I hope to see you there. 🙂

 

 

Le Mont Saint Michel – Cathedral in the ocean

Mass San Michel

Le Mont Saint Michel Watercolour and ink 28 x 45 cm (For Sale)

The ancient rocky outcrop at the mouth of the river Couesnon has had occupants going back a millennia. Situated some 600 metres off the coast, near the village of Avranches, its 14 metre tidal range made it a highly defensible site.

Mont_St_Michel_

Mont Saint Michel, Britany

Monastery building

A monastery was first established here in the 8th century but down the years, Mont Saint Michel has been used as a castle and also prison as well.   Victor Hugo was amongst its many political prisoners kept here.

This image of the towering abbey is based around a painting by the Limbourg brothers around the start of the 15th century. Le Mont Saint Michel featured in the lovely Gothic International manuscript Les tres riches heures du Duc de Berry. The original book measured only 29.4 x 21 cm and can be seen in the Musee Conde in Chantilly.

 

Orvieto Painting – The Wine of Popes

neal_winfield_orvieto

Orvieto – The wine of the Popes