colour in the world of light

pot, outsidepot inside
I use glazes the colour of the sky and the sea a lot. Recently, I’ve been developing more glazes in the white/grey/blue spectrum. This was a Chinese obsession too – they have ones called ‘sky after rain’, ‘moon white’. It’s often as much about surface quality, transparency and opalescence as much as tone.
There are other complicating factors though: the way the human eye perceives, and way language works. Yes. Properly complicated! It highlights the limitations of digital in describing the real world too (see ‘that dress’ later).
So, I made the glaze test shown above, and photographed it with my Digital SLR on Auto: one inside, on a white table; one outside, on the ground (which is not that dark, really). I know that the background colour affects perception – Kevin McCloud’s Choosing Colour book comes with a black and a grey template, to hide the white page, so you can see the colours better.
The other complication is that our eyes and brain naturally compensate for the colour of the light striking objects. In photography, this is called white balance. The colour changes with clouds and latitude, and incandescent bulbs are orangier than tungsten, too. But we humans in the real world will see a red as red, whatever, as in the real world we have context – we can look at our hand, or whatever. Unlike the images above.
thatdressI was flummoxed by people talking about ‘that dress’, a snapshot of a white/gold or blue/black dress, where no-one could agree the colour. Note – the woman’s head, arms and legs were not showing. Shut up, feminists, you’ll get your turn another day. Without flesh, you can’t do eye-balance very easily.
In Welsh, we call grass and the sea ‘glas’ – blue. This is pretty common, blue/green is the same in a lot of languages. It turns out we can’t see something we don’t have words for. And blue is uncommon outside of the sky (hence blue-screen tech in cinema, before we became so urban that it became green-screen. Not much green vegetation in LA.) I’ve always been tickled that the Ancient Greeks called the sky ‘bronze’.
colour testscolour tests
So I’m keeping my box of colour tests, and the door open to look at them inside and outside. It also shows, I think, how subtly the digital world differs from the real world of objects.. I suppose it’s get more obvious the more used to it we get.
Here’s one of the Wylan pots that’s causing me so much glaze grief. This one came out well! There’s a 360 degree view over on my website.
The Dulwich Festival is coming up fast – please visit if you would like! It’s 9/10 and 16/17 May. The booklet is online, 18,000 are being distributed around Dulwich.
For the Poetry lovers, check outObsidian Art‘s exhibition and book: I’ve got three works in it. Hurrah. You can read it online or buy it here.

2 responses to “colour in the world of light

  1. I love the idea (well, I would) of the Obsidian Art exhibition. I think your choice of poems AND your work much the most interesting and subtle (well, I would)…Hope to see you the first Dulwich Open Studio w/end. RGS


  2. Thanks! I was worried I was being literal… Of course, it was the best pictures I sent, not necessarily the best work. Sad face. And I had to remake some Swinburne beakers – I’m using Wordsworth mostly, now. Most galleries wouldn’t care or notice, but I thought for Obsidian they should be Swinburne to match both image and poem!


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