Monday, 18 April 2011

Colour Blind?

BBC News has raised the problem of colour blindness as it effects games players (title link). The problem is much wider than games. I know one completely colour blind man who must remember the sequence of traffic lights when driving in order to know when to stop, go or be ready. Artists use colours to trick the eye into seeing depth; red is a "close" colour, blue a "distant" colour. I first became interested in this subject years ago when writing a programme on 16-bit graphics for the Atari ST. Did I have any colour-perception defect I needed to know about? I borrowed a colour blindness test from my library, more extensive than the quickie offered by BBC Suffolk (CLICK). I vaguely recall about 20 pictures. I made 100%. What can you see in the sample test here? People with normal vision should read the number 8. Those with red-green defects will read 3. Someone who is totally colour blind won't see any number at all. That shouldn't stop you becoming an artist. Comics publishers often employ "colourists" to fill in the India ink drawings made by the main artist. And of course there is sculpture.


At 18/4/11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An IT colleague was extremely red/green blind. It became standard practice in the office to get him to test drive any new application's screen layout.

Not so sure that figurative sculpture doesn't require reasonable colour vision - particularly if working from photographs. Red and green tend to be common in flesh tones. Shades of 'same colour' can obscure surface contours that are differentiated by the individual colour variations.

If statues are to be made life-like with subtle colouring then shades of red are essential.

At 19/4/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I agree that some modern sculptors have returned to the ancient Roman idea of painting sculptures to make them look realistic, but I was thinking more of the neo-classicists working in white marble or bronze. Colour blindness might even be an advantage when sculpting marble or a clay mould: nothing to distract the eye from form alone.

At 26/6/11, Blogger Richard said...

Hi. Thanks for posting this. I see the number 3 when I look at your colour blindness test, which confirms what I already knew. I am red/green colour blind. I am also an artist.

While having this colour vision deficiency does present some challenges, it is in no way a hindrance to an art career. I am not restricted to working in black and white either, though to do so would certainly be an option. The term colour blindness is a bit misleading. People hear this and then assume you can't see colour, which is not strictly true. I see colours, but not in the same way as someone with 'normal' colour vision.

What I believe, and what I teach my students is paint tone and shape. Get that right and it almost doesn't matter what colour is used, the image will still be accessible to the viewer. Painting like this frees the artist to make radical and more interesting colour choices than if they restrict themselves to trying to acheive some sort of photograhic realism.

My work can be viewed at

Check it out. Cheers.

At 26/6/11, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Richard

Good to know you're working as an artist, despite your visual colour problem. I agree "blindness" is the wrong word to use.

I tried your link, but Internet Explorer decided it couldn't get that far! (I assume au is Australia.) I'll try again later.


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