31 July, 2008

Color Intensity and Space

Casey's Palette

Intensity was my self selected assignment for the two month color study that Katherine Tyrrell has been posting about. Here is what I found out about intensity, and how it relates to the elusive color space theories.

Consider me a convert to the linear color space proposed by Da Vinci. The reasons are that the spectrum lays out in a linear fashion when you view it through a prism, and that my actual palette is arranged in a line.

Also, I understand that violet cannot be produced in the additive system except by blending, and that red violet inhabits a pole opposite blue violet on the spectrum. I know that sounds horribly brainy and hopelessly immaterial to the pastelist. Let's just say that the visual perception side of the house teaches me that light is a dominant reason for intensity in color.

Put plainly, your eye sees wavelengths at their highest meter and this represents greatest intensity. See this page about wavelengths and color. Need it plainer? See this page.

High key (more intense) blue is the peak of its wavelength, and so is high key green. I understood this intuitively before I knew the why of it, and made a special place in my palette for high key green. Later, I organized the blues by key as well.

I like Marie Meyer's use of the Munsell system as a number space, since their is a linear aspect to the numbered hues. Although the Munsell is a cylinder, I like seeing the linear description better. But, I find Munsell too abstract, and apropos to the additive people. My own color space will always be subtractive and pigment mixture based.


Katherine Tyrrell said...

I don't find Munsell to be additive if you instead consider that there are three categories of colours:
- additive (created by light)
- subtractive (created by pigment)
- perceptual (perceived by the eye)

What I do like about Munsell is that value gets added to the melting pot. I find that most people struggle with is seeing colour AND value at the same time.

I don't feel like I need a model of colour - so much as an understanding of how it is created (and hence why I struggle to recreate in pigment some things that light can do) and an understanding of how colours relate and impact on one another.

A theory of colour juxtaposition if you like. I think that was what Albers was doing.

Casey Klahn said...

You are right that Munsell is not an additive system. What did I mean there? I guess I was looking at the way the additive people put green on a par with the 3 primaries that I recognize. Da Vinci did that, too, and I found that out, Katherine, via your matrix page on your July 10th, '08 post.

I lumped Munsell in with all of those red, green, yellow, blue systems which I associate with additive color spaces. That mixes the categories - lazy mind on my part.

Thanks for getting me straight on that. Amazing the mistakes one makes while recovering from a big art fair, huh? I was under the gun to get the intensity post done before the end of the month, and didn't proof read like usual.

I do think, however, that intensity is directly connected to perception (light and the eye). At the same time, I reject the descriptions ( occasionally put forth ) of saturation by light as a subset of intensity. I find the color to be what it is, regardless of how much illumination is on there. Keeping with my paradigm of subtractive and pigment based systems, the pigment is intense when pure or without gray. But, I did find the visual perception idea of high meter light waves to be a helpful tool for my understanding of why a hue looks so intense. Those are the more intense hues, BTW, that are not available to the CMYK/RGB people.

Have I lost most of my readers by now? Probably. For those techies still here, the back story on all of this is Making a Mark's Colour project, and found by clicking on her "Colour" label.

I hate having a mistake on this post. I'll probably rewrite it, since I need to comply with my own "genius is as genius does," saying.

Like most of us, you are gravitating to the practicalities of understanding color. Me too. Now, to go look up Albers, again...

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