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?

Say it isn’t so–The End of Cursive

I recently read that in the U.S., cursive is no longer part of the common core state standards that are followed by 45 of the 50 states. Time devoted to the written word and penmanship has been replaced by building technology skills. Maybe I’m old-fashioned (I’m definitely low tech), but I think it’s sad that writing by hand is now considered passé.  Have we evolved to the point where our only handwritten item has become our signature?

Memories in Black and White and Grey

I remember all those years ago, when I first learned how to print. Every few days there was a new letter to be learned, in both lowercase and capitals. We had workbooks with pink and blue lined paper—groupings of 3 lines in fact, to make sure we formed our letters correctly. Then practice, practice, practice. At age 7 or 8 we learned those letters all over again, but this time in cursive, still in pencil, those big fat pencils—do you remember? I can’t forget—those pencils gave me a large bump on my middle finger that still remains to this day.   Seems I was grasping the pencil too tightly.

Pretty soon we were in pursuit of our next goal—writing in ink.  Graduating from pencil to pen was reserved for the neatest writers in class–penmanship, they called it.  Those of us chosen by the teacher to write in ink felt privileged and, oh so grownup.

Old Habits Die Hard

I am the product of my generation.  I recall preparing school assignments, book reports and essays. The method was always the same–first, I began by handwriting notes on lined paper, then editing, either by scratching out, drawing arrows to redirect misplaced paragraphs or coding with numbers or stars. Back then “cut and paste” meant exactly that–employing scissors, tape and extra paper to rearrange and edit.

My method for creating stories, journal entries and blog posts hasn’t changed that much even to this day.     Words tumble from brain to hand to pen to page.  Then stars, numbers and arrows abound before they are transferred to type where percolation and final edits are made.

The Benefits of Writing by Hand

For me, no matter what I write, the mechanics of writing by hand relaxes me.  It forces me to slow down and often can sooth a harried mood.  I believe that I think better and my recall is improved.  I have more focus.

Maybe most important to my love of handwriting is that it allows me to indulge in my passion for pens, paper and notebooks.  My pen collection is quite diverse and all are used.  I have a few caveats–to become part of my pen collection the ink must be black, the point should be fine, although the occasional chisel tip finds its way in. I prefer fat pens over slim ones, in homage to those pencils of long ago.  I guess that’s why I still have that bump on my finger.