What is color?

mona lisa

Hi There!


Mary Here.


I figured since I love painting we will start out with a conversation/lesson about color.


I’m the painter of CJS creative and prefer to spend my day nose deep in oils or arcrylics. (I’ll talk about the difference in a future post).


Today, let’s talk about color.


Color is more of a trick to the eye than something real.  At least that is what I think.


We have these little cones and rods in out eyes that allow us to bend light and see it differently.


Color is how our brain reads a particular wavelength of light.


I actually wonder if other organisms see color in the same way as us depending on how closely they are related to us in regards to evolution (if you believe in it).


So let’s start with talking about color in regards to how science sees it.


Color is created when white light is bent and separated into different wave lengths.


Our eyes capture that wavelength and see it as a color as we have learned in elementary school.


The absence of color is one of two things:


  1. White Light – Created when all light wavelengths mix together in our eyes.
  2.  Black (absence of light) – created when all colors of light are absorbed into the object.


White light is pretty interesting because it is everywhere we look. We see color when light is absorbed and some light is reflected.


Let’s use the red apple as an example.  The pigments in a red apple absorb all colors but the ones you see, so an apple that is showing to your eye as red is actually absorbing orange, yellow, green, blue, violet and indigo light colors and reflecting the red.


In a way, the apple is not red but rather it is every other color and it rejects red.


Crazy huh?


How can I prove this to be true?


Let’s talk about the difference of black and white objects.


Black objects warm quickly in the same location in comparisons to white objects.


Did you ever notice that black t-shirts are hotter on hot day than white objects?


Why is that?


Well, the white objects reflect all light colors.  Light is a form of energy and energy absorbed creates heat in regard to light emission.


White objects do not absorb that energy but rather reflect them and therefore staying more cool in comparison to a black object of the same shape and size.


Black object absorb all of the light rays and in turn absorb more energy and “generate” more heat.


In the same like, brown objects absorb more than one light ray (say red and orange rays) versus just an orange object which would absorb more light rays and reflect orange.    If the brown only reflects two rays of light, it would be cooler in the same light and conditions as the orange object which is only reflecting one light ray.


Light is interesting. …which is why color is interesting to us.


Using paints and pencils of different colors allows us an opportunity to understand light a little better AND how it can affect us at a social and emotional level.


Colors in artwork lay the foundation for our artwork and can change whole ideas with just a slight change in brush movement or color variation of a whole piece.


I’ll talk about Emotional Color and some color theory in my next post.

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