Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Some Musings on a Color Thesaurus Chart


A post on mental_floss tells us to 'Name Every Shade of the Rainbow With This 'Color Thesaurus'
Can’t differentiate cobalt from azure or cerulean, but not satisfied with just calling something "blue"? Instead of choosing a word at random, writers and anyone else looking to expand their color vocabulary can now reference Ingrid Sundberg’s "Color Thesaurus."

I was intrigued by the concept, then I was appalled by the mismatch of grossly inaccurate names to colors. I thought well, maybe it had to do with mental_floss's choice of web colors, maybe something got lost in translation. So I also visited Sundberg's original page (from 2014). Nope. But I did note that it took mental_floss two years to catch up with the post. And that the article was a synopsis by way of Bored Panda.  Writer Creates “Color Thesaurus” To Help You Correctly Name Any Color Imaginable


Somehow the executed concept didn't live up to the overblown headlines. Though the idea of a color thesaurus chart is a good idea, both the author's verbal and color acumen are sadly lacking. Her idea of peacock is definitely not peacock, (she portrays it as a dull version hunter green on the blue chart), and sapphire is a dark blue, not teal. And has she looked up at the sky lately? It's a much deeper cerulean blue, not turquoise. And the ocean is not hunter's green. Her use of color definition is very subjective, and weak-kneed.

Her magenta and rose colors are so woefully off, they don't even match themselves in two different color charts. There's almost no crimson to speak of. The reds—all verging on vermilion—are crippled. Hasn't Sundberg ever seen blood, fresh, venial, or dried? Has she ever seen a garnet, or a ruby, or an an emerald up close?

The green color chart fared a bit better. But pistachios are bright green, not a pale toothpaste pastel related to mint.

Tawny is not burnt umber. Think of California hills in summer. Lemon yellow is not even lemon yellow, but a paler shade of chartreuse, or the color of spirit level fluid. Her representation of lemon yellow looks like somebody added black to yellow paint and polluted it. I picked two lemons, a Meyer's and another sour variety. Neither were that color. Wrong wrong wrong.


Image credit: Ingrid Sundberg

"One of my on-going word collections is of colors. I love to stop in the paint section of a hardware store and find new names for red or white or yellow. Having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. " —Ingrid Sundberg

'Splains a lot.

The thing is, Sundberg uses paint store samples to gather her vocabulary and color samples. And we all know that interior decorators arbitrarily rename colors at whim as the next big thing in design. Take eggplant vs aubergine. It's watered down language.
Color naming in fashion and paint exploits the subjectiveness and emotional context of words and their associations. This is particularly seen in the naming of paint chips and samples where paint is sold.  Color term, Wiki

I would strongly suggest that Sundberg first work with artists' names for colors, then branch out from there.

Of the 240 color terms Sundberg identifies, over 100 are food terms, I sure wouldn't eat a tortilla, or corn that color. And if the merlot were really that color, I'd send it back. Just sayin'. So much for the wine-dark sea. It made me hungry for Rimbaud's color / language poem, “Vowels.” Give me vermilion anger and viridian seas.

The problem is with non-artists trying to relate names of colors to actual color. What rainbow was invoked? What I saw were a mishmash of semi-related colors in random order. I want to make her a color wheel using printer's ink as primary colors: magenta, yellow, cerulean—then add related sub-charts where the colors overlap: cerulean to green, green to yellow, yellow to magenta, magenta to red; magenta to purple.  Then maybe she'd have a rainbow.

Those off colors including gray, brown and black (technically not a color), are a result of mixing the three primary colors. That said, her black and gray charts are pretty good. To be fair, Sundberg does explain why she goes off color chart when she named a teal color sapphire, after her wedding ring. She does know the difference.

Yeah, I know that color perception is subjective. And that some of us see color more accurately than others. I always score 100% on those tough color tone/shade matching charts. But this is a very poor color /metaphor chart. Ingrid Sundberg's a children's book illustrator, you'd think she'd have a better sense of color.

Well, you can't teach common sense either.






 An interesting essay on color and poets:  What Is Color in Poetry: Or Is It the Wild Wind in the Space of the Word

Another interesting blog on a Danish designer's take on color and symbolism:  Color Symbolism in Literature: What Do Colors Mean in Literature and Poetry?

 Here's a silly little color test:  25% of the people have a 4th cone and see colors as they are. About 25% of the population is tetrachrmatic, they have 4 types of cones. I'm one of them. That means I have super-vision (I can see more colors in the purple/blue, green, red plus yellow area). And I am definitely irritated by yellow so this color is not in my wardrobe. I bet many women artist also have the extra cone.

and another variant of the same article:  This fascinating test helps you find out how many colours you can see

And a slightly more scholarly article on the subject: Scientists have found a woman whose eyes have a whole new type of colour receptor

first draft (well, maybe 2nd draft...):
Mffft.The idea is good, color execution is atrocious. That peacock is definitely NOT peacock—a slovenly hunter's green, not blue. And those magentas are not magenta, nor are the rose samples a rose (by any name) in two separate charts. Lemon is not lemon, but a spirit-level chartreuse. Definition of color is a common problem with non-artists. And she's an illustrator? But she's using interior decorator's paint samples to name her colors. She needs poets and artists to name the colors.

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