50 Shades of Wonderful–The Beauty of Tetrachromacy

2015-02-15 13.02.22Since I began painting, I have trained my eyes to see.  Not only shapes and pleasing compositions but color as well.  I didn’t set out with this specific intent–I think I simply learned by osmosis or, more simply, by observing–A LOT.

When I first started, the grass was green, a red flower was red and the sea was blue.  These days when I look at the sea, I know its color will be a result of the depth of the ocean, what’s in the ocean and what’s under the ocean.  The amount of cloud cover and sunlight will affect the color of the sea as well.

When I paint the Caribbean Sea, I use a myriad of blues–Ultramarine on the horizon, were the ocean is deep.  Ultramarine then merges with Pthalo Blue and Pthalo Green, and depending on the day, transitions to Peacock Blue.  On sunny days there are often ribbons of cool violets and greens.  Moving closer to the shore, in shallower waters, moss covered rocks lend an Army Green tinge to the water, while at the shoreline there is only a hint of the most transparent Aqua influenced by a yellowish tinge in the sand.  Cloud cover greatly reduces the number of colors seen and turns blues steely.

So I have learned to see as an artist, but I am still a mere mortal–a “trichromat”.  There are those who walk among us with enhanced color perception and they are known as tetrachromats.  Talk about visual stimulation!  Tetrachromats have additional color receptors in their retinas, allowing them to see 100 times more shades of color than we mere mortals, and we can see up to one million shades.

Tetrachromacy is a genetic trait present only in women.  Many may not realize that they possess this potential; however it can be developed through artistic training.  In fact, many tetrachromats may unknowingly be draw to the fields of art and design.  How cool is that?

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