Monday, April 5, 2010

The Senses: Revising Nonsensical Colour Theory

Put yourself in the shoes of a scientist trained in the rigors of research. Someone who is not only knowledgeable in your field (research psychology for example) but also someone who keeps abreast of other scientific disciplines such as astronomy and biology.

If it helps... imagine yourself wearing a lab coat. Though I'm not sure research psychologists wear lab coats.

Now picture yourself taking up a hobby. Let's pick watercolour painting. You wouldn't do it half way would you? You'd embrace it completely. Getting good enough to be able to sell your own work. You'd end up exploring the field of watercolours in depth. You're a researcher so you'd end up learning all you can about everything from brushes to techniques to the books that teach watercolours. If you had the bent you'd end up creating a website that takes a slightly "rational" approach to all things watercolourish wouldn't you?

This isn't a hypothetical situation. Let me introduce you to Bruce MacEvoy's watercolors site. Where discussions of paint isn't just recommendations and suggestions but details on how paints are made. Where the artistic and the technical meet.

Now put yourself in his place again. Imagine that as you start trying to understand the colour theory behind painting you come to realize that it's not based on rigorous science or psychology but on "18th century nonsense". What would you do? First you'd start learning more. Then, since you've already created a web site on watercolours, you'd create a definitive online work on color vision. And that's what Bruce did.

He starts with the nature of light and the nature of the eye. Goes into details on the makeup of the eye and its light receptors. Goes on to look at how we see and understand colour. He writes about colour theory that isn't 18th century nonsense but is instead rooted in reality. He goes into detail on how color is represented and explained technically. Talks about other parts of vision that alter our perception suck as how much detail we can actually see and how we see edges. There are discussions on building colour wheels and groups of colours for the artist.

color vision is not a short work. It is not even book length. It's larger than that. It's an invaluable resource to anyone who wants to understand colour and colour vision and it's still being written and expanded. A short browse will reveal the depth and complexity of how we perceive the world through our eyes. Thankfully for us a research psychologist decided to take up watercolours.

1 comment:

Lene Andersen said...

Ah, obsessions... where would we be without them?

(I want to hear more about that "18th century nonsense")