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What colour do you see?

Author: Michele Webber Published: 17th January 2013 10:09

 Michele Webber

What colour do you see?

Colour is a strange thing and if you have ever tried to find your bright red car on a dark street you may have figured out that colours are just the way our eyes and brains process daylight hitting and bouncing off different surfaces. Even in daylight colour is not fixed, and how it appears can depend upon the other colours around it.

In our household arguments about colour frequently occur in the DIY store; I choose ‘Soft Aqua’ paint, my other half says “Looks like sewage green to me…” Like many men he has slight blue-green colour blindness, in fact 8% of males have some form of colour blindness compared to just 0.5% of females, this is because it is passed on through a faulty color vision gene on the X chromosome. There is no cure and colour blindness can vary from very slight right through to rare individuals who see the world in black and white.

Although I know male artists and interior designers with an amazing sense of colour, I have also come across many men who have difficulty. One gentleman in my art class asked if he had mixed the right colour for shadows on snow; I was speechless when I looked at the bright pink snow he had painted. The same chap assured me that whilst growing up he thought the family cat was green!

Recently scientists have found an amazing link between colour and language. If, for example, a primitive tribe have the same word for orange and red then you could show them a bright orange square on a page of red and they literally cannot see it. I wonder if this is why many men have a preference for primary colours; perhaps not growing up immersed in a world of fashion, make up, design etc they simply don’t see the more muted colours very well.  

It is tempting to think that the world we see is an absolute, but it just isn’t true. Cats and dogs can see some colours, but far less than humans, and when you are struggling to see in the dark your cat can see more clearly than the most sophisticated army night-vision equipment.

The truth is we all see colour slightly differently, a fact worth remembering the next time you are arguing about which sofa to choose.

Visit www.michelewebber.com for classes, courses and free tuition articles.


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