How critical are you?

We don’t wish to pry into your personal life or enquire how you may struggle to interact in a positive way with others – what we should ask is ‘how colour critical are you?’

Working in a colour mill makes everyone here very aware of the variations in the way we perceive colour. Sure, there are the obvious and quantifiable grades and types of colour blindness, but even amongst the laboratory team here, there are slight discrepancies in how colour is perceived. One colleague sees greens marginally differently from one eye to the other! Others appear to be particularly gifted at teasing out differences between particular shades. Craig’s your man for reds!…

The ability to discern and describe differences in colours appears (according to research) to be linked with language. Cultures that have only a limited number of words to name colours also have a reduced chance of discerning colour differences.

Colour discernment can be nurtured and trained. Certainly, new members of staff will take time to develop the skills of both noticing and describing colour differences. Colour blindness however is something different. It is a rather clumsy term for a range of conditions that can affect colour sight. Some disorders are so small that someone can live an entire lifetime completely unaware that they have an impairment, whilst other forms of colour blindness can have a more profound effect. The statistics concerning colour blindness or colour vision deficiency CVD as it can be more helpfully described are interesting. It impacts 1 in 12 men and only 1 in 200 women. The common cause is generally genetic but full colour blindness is extremely rare. Instead the general effects of colour blindness are helpfully demonstrated by these pictures of coloured pencils produced by the colour blindness awareness association.

Normal vision:

Deuteranopia is the most common colour deficiency, caused by an insensitivity to green light which can cause confusion between greens, reds and yellows:

Protanopia is an insensitivity to red light making it difficult to perceive differences across greens, reds and yellows:

Ttritanopia is an extremely rare form of colour deficiency caused by an insensitivity to blue light. This gives rise to confusion to greens and blues:

Some treatment or assistance with these various conditions can be achieved with adapted glasses and contact lenses that can help increase the colour contrast.

With an understanding of the range of colour sight conditions one might ask what detriment these can cause the artist. Rather than asking me, perhaps we should look instead at the work of some eminent painters who would speak more eloquently and from personal experience on the matter including Monet, Turner, M-ryon, Degas and many more besides….