Vision Problems Guide Artists

By looking at his paintings, you probably never guessed that Edgar Degard could not see well. However, the French realist painter was believed to have a congenital retinal problem. Similarly, Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet both had cataracts, which explain why the artists had trouble differentiating color later in life. And sketch artist Charles Méryon never toyed with color because he was well aware of his color-blindness.

Several artists have suffered from eye problems that pose obstacles to their chosen career paths. However, many artists leveraged their disabilities, using them as tools to guide their distinct style and career.

For instance, Peter Milton was diagnosed with color-blindness in 1962. This occurred after he spent years painting, teaching art, and studying under the master of color, Josef Albers. Upon receiving his diagnosis, Milton abandoned color; instead, he committed himself to the creation of black and white masterpieces. The absence of color did not void other creative elements of his artwork, though. Milton produced intricate works of art that are best described as “visual puzzles in which past and present seem to merge.”

Milton found a way to work around his eye problems while other artists did not. It has been reported that one in 10 men has color-blindness. A professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, Michael Marmor, recognizes the challenge artists face when diagnosed with vision troubles. He tells NPR that “most artists who found out they were colorblind just switched to printmaking or sculpture.”

Some artists worked through their eye problems to create the art they loved and were known for. Claude Monet was quoted as saying, “At first I tried to be stubborn. How many times … have I stayed for hours under the harshest sun sitting on my campstool, in the shade of my parasol, forcing myself to resume my interrupted task and recapture the freshness that had disappeared from my palette! Wasted efforts.”

Throughout history, several artists approached vision troubles differently. Some worked through them, others looked past them, and many worked around their eye problems. Milton, who is a shining example of how to work around color-blindness, attributes his artistic style to his disability. “… It helps to have a disability,” he told NPR, “because when you can do anything, which of all the things you can do are you gonna choose? So something has to help you make the choice.”

Some of the world’s most well-known artwork has been produced by artists with vision problems. The pieces may seem to use askew color options or be void of color entirely, but to us, these color choices make the artwork appear distinct. And who knows, perhaps an artist accepted his or her disability and set out to create art in this authentic way.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

EnChroma Introduces Colorblind People to Color

The Gift of Color Vision

The Importance of Color Vision and Art

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The Animal Kingdom Uses Color to Survive

Humans have it easy compared to other species in the animal kingdom. We reign at the top of the food chain and do not fear becoming another animal’s lunch. However, survival is a real concern for other mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and fish.

Nevertheless, today the animal kingdom is alive and well because different species have developed non-aggressive defense techniques. For instance, throughout the process of evolution, several animals have changed colors to better blend into their surroundings. Beyond protection, animals also use color to attract mates, and, in effect, prolong the existence of their species.

When we think of color-changing animals, chameleons quickly come to mind, but do you know that flamingos, robins, and snakes are said to have developed their colors somewhat deliberately, too?

For instance, baby flamingos are gray while adults are pink because the flamingo diet includes foods filled with carotenoids, which contain natural color pigments. Some of these foods include shrimp, crabs and algae.

Humans can realize this color changing sensation to some degree. Have you heard of a person’s skin or eyes turning orange after eating a lot of carrots? “Carotenoids,” advises an NPR article “are abundant in plants, where they play a role in photosynthesis. Different carotenoids make carrots orange and beets red….”

Diets rich with carotenoids shine a new light on the familiar phrase you are what you eat. However, the same article points out that “Animals… have a lot of… color limitations.” An Ornithologist from Yale, Rick Prum, points out that birds with mostly brown and gray coloring can develop yellow and red tints if they eat certain foods but they will not have the same luck if they want to turn blue or green.  In fact, Prum says, “Blue is fascinating because the vast majority of animals are incapable of making it with pigments.” Nevertheless, several species appear blue.

Since pigment-rich diets rarely produce this color, how can animals like beetles and butterflies appear blue?

The answer is simple: several blue animals employ optical illusions. A biologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Dan Babbitt, uses morpho butterflies to explain this phenomenon.

The butterflies have a 6-inch wingspan — one side a dull brown and the other a vibrant, reflective blue. The butterflies have tiny transparent structures on the surface of their wings that bounce light in just the right way to make them appear a vibrant blue that’s so bright it almost hurts your eyes. But if you grind up the wings, the dust — robbed of its reflective prism structures — would just look gray or brown.

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Many animals have centuries of diet and optical illusions to thank for their survival. By eating high carotenoid diets or employing strategies of design, animals have developed colors that allow them to protect themselves from attackers, as well as attract mates.

Even though humans have it easy, sitting at the top of the food chain, it doesn’t mean we know it all. In fact, we learn a lot from observing animals who know how to survive and thrive and adjust to their surroundings.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

Coral Reefs: Rainforests of the Sea

Communicating with Color in the Animal Kingdom

An Art Project For Human Kind

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An Interview with James Ostrer

What do French fries, licorice and cream cheese have in common? For many of us, all three foods make it into our diets every now and again. However, it is rare to think of these items together. In fact, it takes an inventive mind, and extreme circumstances, to imagine a combination of these opposing foods. However, photographer James Ostrer creates fine art by combining these diet death traps.

In his critically acclaimed art exhibit, Wotsit All About, Ostrer uses odd but generally acceptable junk food combinations to bring grotesque monsters to life.  Showing at the Gazelli Art House in London from July 31 to November 9, Wotsit All About puts various junk foods on display in interesting ways.

The underlying message of Ostrer’s most recent art exhibit is rather clear: our relationship with junk food is horrifying. This reality is, for lack of a better word, sugarcoated by fanciful advertising and winsome marketing practices. However, Ostrer’s photographs reveal a truth that the billion-dollar junk food industry doesn’t want us to know: junk food is not safe. It is addictive and has the power to transform an individual into an unrecognizable being, either emotionally or physically.

Wotsit All About is unique in many ways, but for James Ostrer, it seems to fall in-line with the out-of-the box art he is known for. In prior years, Ostrer has taken his family to a morgue, gone to a brothel, been photographed by prostitutes, collected mattresses from the street and buried himself in “vast quantities of food,” all in the name of art.

If you only know his junk food monsters, you don’t know James Ostrer. In a brief interview, Segmation got to know the English photographer a little better. Through his transparency, insight and unique intelligence, we are beginning to see his artwork, and art in general, in new ways.

  1. You just finished a solo show at the Gazelli Art House. If you could summarize the past four months in three words, what would they be?

Totally Fudging* Awesome

*Except, Ostrer, in the midst of his war on junk food, did not use the word “Fudging.”

  1. Let’s travel back in time. If I were to ask six-year-old James, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” what would he say?

I really don’t remember considering the future in that way until at least the age of sixteen which even by then when asked I would get really anxious and just say I don’t know. So in reality at six years old I think I would have been freaked out and just wanted to see my mum and have a snuggle.

  1. Your artwork is, for lack of a better word, unique. What triggers your out-of-the-box concepts? 

All of my work is based on a desire to find or understand my own concept and experience of happiness. My art practice is like being booked into a self-help course that doesn’t have any structure, timeline or preconceived ideologies of what will help me while relying wholly on my desire for positive change. The concepts that I work around are in direct response to what I am trying to unpick about my negative self.

  1. In your interview with Tony Gallagher, you mention “The Journey” required a “huge amount of research around human behaviour.” In your opinion, how does research enrich art?

I think it totally depends as it can be as detrimental as it enriches…..Obviously historical context and referencing can be very valid and often almost everything about a piece of work…. but as interesting as I can sometimes find this kind of work I can equally find it clinical and boring. I find the visceral relationship between the emotions of an artist and the thing they have made the thing I truly love in art…..so when I see a great piece of outsider art where there has been no influence or contamination from outside influence/research it can blow my mind away like nothing else….

  1. In the same interview you mention that you use art as a way of expelling your “deepest demons.” According to Aestheticamagazine.com, “Wotsit All About” was your response to a sugar addiction that resulted from, among other things, well-calculated marketing. We know all sorts of people struggle with addictions; many of them have artistic temperaments. What advice would you give the artist who wants to use art as a tool for addiction recovery?

My emphasis would be on the fact that it is a great tool but with all the many complexities and extremes to addiction you need a whole tool box full of things that help to work your way through.

I would also suggest regularly taking rain checks with your process of making art to challenge whether u are simply just excusing yourself to have a continued engagement with something you have a problem with. A clear example of this could be where people use self-harm as a form of artistic expression. I am not saying this kind of work isn’t valid but as an artist (especially at the beginning) you are often every member of your business so unlike if you were working for a company you don’t have a boss or human resources department keeping an eye on you so you need to do this yourself….

  1. What is your favorite color?

The few seconds of black in a cinema just before a film starts.

View more of James Ostrer’s work by visiting his website: http://jamesostrer.com/home.html.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and food:

James Ostrer’s Junk Food Art

Coloring Each Season with Healthy Food

Food Never Looked So Good

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Alfred Stevens – A Life Immersed in Art

Defining Belgian artist Alfred Stevens (1823 – 1906) has always been a challenge. Throughout his career, the painter’s artwork fulfilled styles seen in various movements, like Romanticism, Impressionism, and Realism. As his styles changed so did his subject matter; regal women, political scenes, and sea settings were among his many focal points. Perhaps the most profound constant in Stevens’ life was art itself.

Alfred Stevens was introduced to art at an early age. His father and brothers were painters, art dealers, critics, or collectors. If he and his family members were not creating art they could be found discussing art at the café his grandparents owned. The establishment was always intended to be a place where artists could congregate.

At age 14, the young painter attended an art school where he developed drawing abilities. These skills preceded his enrollment in the influential Parisian art school, Ecolé de Beaux-Arts, where he may have studied the work of Dutch genre painters. This art style, known for portraying “scenes from everyday life,” quickly launched Stevens into fame.

www.segmation.comAfter four years of publically displaying his work, Alfred Stevens painted Ce qu’on appelle le vagabondage (translated to What is called vagrancy) which got the attention of the Emperor at the 1855 Universal Exhibition. After viewing the piece of art depicting Parisian soldiers leading an impoverished mother and her children to prison while signs of wealth shroud the scene, Napoleon III enacted political changes.

Shortly after this, in 1857, Alfred Stevens returned to his favorite subject matter: women in fashion. One decade later, by the time the Great Exhibition of 1867 arrived, paintings like Woman in Pink, Miss Fauvette, Ophelia, and In the Country were added to his portfolio.

His career was postponed in 1870 when he fought in the Franco-Prussian War. When the war was over, he continued to paint. In 1878 he was elected Commander of the Legion of Honor. (He received a Legion of Honor award 15 years earlier.) He also received a medal from the prestigious Paris Salon the same year.

Despite his acclaimed portfolio and notoriety throughout France, Alfred Stevens experienced significant financial troubles in the 1880s. Serendipitously, this struggle would catapult Stevens into a new art style. Falling on hard times was exacerbated by unrelated health concerns. Even though his diagnosis was never known, the prescription that surfaced proclaims a doctor ordered Stevens to vacation by the sea. For three years, vacations were funded by a Parisian art dealer who accepted the artwork Stevens created as an even exchange. This is how sea settings began to appear in Stevens’ artwork. Nevertheless, Alfred Stevens had a few more genre paintings in him.

The pinnacle of Alfred Stevens’ late career was Panorama du Siècle. Painted alongside Henri Gervex and other assistants, the masterpiece received many accolades at the 1889 International Exhibit.

Stevens was often honored in the final years of his life. In 1900 his alma mater, Ecolé de Beaux-Arts, ushered his name into history as the first living artist to receive a retrospective exhibit. Other honorary exhibits sold Stevens’ work but did not provide him with enough money to live the rest of his years comfortably. Alfred Stevens passed away in 1906. His most valuable assets were works of art already in circulation.

Alfred Stevens left the art world with a rich and lasting legacy. His artistic talents evolved throughout his career. He produced numerous paintings that fit different styles, genres, and artistic movements. In addition, he stirred politics with his honest portrayal of daily life in Paris and captured women of the era in latest fashions. Most importantly, Alfred Stevens paralleled the essence of art itself. Like art, Stevens was not always easy to define. Still, many art enthusiasts looked at him with awe; he was a man who lived his life fully immersed in art.

However, this post is meant to recognize his artist style and some major pieces. For those who want to read more of Stevens story, visit this link: http://www.segmation.com/products_pc_patternset_contents.asp?set=AST . Also, Segmation is proud to offer 29 digital Stevens patterns. By downloading these paint by numbers masterpieces, you can emulate one of the most fascinating artists who ever lived.

Enjoy the 29 Alfred Stevens – A Life Immersed in Art . Segmation has for you and continue to learn and celebrate the life of a great artist.

Read more Segmation blog posts about other great artists:

Benjamin West – The American Raphael

Jan Gossaert – A Great Flemish Painter of Antiquity”

Joaquín Sorolla – The World-Renowned Spanish Painter

Sources:

Alfred Stevens (painter)

Alfred Stevens

Alfred Stevens What is called vagrancy

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Properly Defining Color: Webster’s Dictionary and the Science of Color

Color is one of the hardest things to properly define. Most people do it by using comparatives such as “sunset orange,” “sky blue,” and “jade green”. But Webster’s Dictionary, wanting to be as direct and precise as possible, actually hired a color scientist to assist with color definitions for its Second Edition.

Isaac H. Godlove, who was chief color consultant for Webster’s from 1921 until 1935, had excellent credentials for the job. He was the chairman of the Committee of Measurement and Specification of the Inter-Society Color Council, a member of the Colorimetry Committee of the Optical Society, and director of the Munsell Research Laboratory, which created the Munsell Color Company, formed specifically to standardize colors.

Dr. Godlove created a system of defining colors by hue, saturation, and brilliance. Hue was the color itself, such as red or yellow; saturation described how the color looked under certain lighting conditions; brilliance (also known as brightness) was measured by how close it was to white. He defined ‘cherry’ as “a bright-red color; a color, yellowish-red in hue, of very high saturation and medium brilliance.” The entry for color is three columns long and includes graphs and two color plates.

Pleased with and even awed by his work, Webster’s editors called Godlove in to work on color definitions for the Third Edition. In the intervening years between the two editions, color names had become increasingly standardized. Popular use of these names had even been analyzed in mass-marketing campaigns, and their findings were to be incorporated into the new edition.

The Third Edition contained comprehensive color plates as well as an entire page dedicated to explaining the color charts and the descriptive names of each hue. There was even a five-page dye chart! Other additions and changes included:

  • Color definitions were now relational: each one was now something “more or less of” another. There were no more formulaic descriptions of a color’s hue, saturation, and brilliance.
  • Color names were defined by so-called ‘color specialists’ from retail giants Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. This resulted in consumer-style definitions such as ‘Cerise’: a moderate red that is slightly darker than claret (sense 3a), slightly lighter than Harvard crimson (sense 1), very slightly bluer and duller than average strawberry (sense 2a), and bluer and very slightly lighter than Turkey red.

In retrospect, the Third Edition took the ‘color as science’ concept too far. These definitions are too full-blown and subjective to make sense to the average person, except for ‘light blue’, ‘pale green’, or, in the cerise example ‘moderate red’. Accordingly, they were demystified and translated into simpler language in future editions: today, Webster’s defines the color blue as ‘the color of the sky’.

When Webster’s original 1847 edition was being revised during the 1850s, colors were more simply defined. Red was blood. Green was fresh grass. Those are descriptions we can easily relate to today, over 150 years later.

Science is an amazing and liberating field, but when it comes to describing the raw beauty of color, it seems simplicity is all we need.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

Color Advances Science

Art Illuminates Science

The Psychology of Color

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Fun Facts About Familiar Colors

Color. It defines our reality, evokes emotion, can affect our choices, and makes a difference in the way we look. All of us are familiar with the primary colors, but this post reveals some little-known facts that may surprise you.

Red:

Red is usually associated with power and passion. It is vibrant, daring, and attracts attention. For instance, think about the responses drawn by red cars and crimson lipstick.

Fun facts about red:

  • Although it’s widely believed that red capes make bulls angry, the reality is that bulls are colorblind. In this instance, the red lining is meant to conceal any bloodstains.
  • Seeing a red object can make your heart beat faster.
  • In China, brides wear red wedding dresses for good luck.
  • There are approximately 23 different shades of red crayons.

Orange:

The artist Wassily Kandinsky once said, “Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.” It’s one of those colors people love or hate. Vibrant and engaging, it is the only color of the spectrum that gets its name from an object- in this case the orange fruit.

Fun facts about orange:

  • In France, the middle traffic light is orange.
  • In Hindu tradition, orange is an auspicious and sacred color.
  • Orange is both the name and emblematic color of the British royal family.
  • The ‘black boxes’ on aircraft are really bright orange so they can be located more easily.

Yellow:

German writer and statesman Johann von Goethe said in 1840, “With yellow the eye rejoices, the heart expands, the spirit is cheered and we immediately feel warmed.’ The same holds true today: yellow is associated with optimism and enlightenment.

Fun facts about yellow:

  • Although yellow is considered a peaceful color, people lose their tempers more frequently in yellow rooms.
  • Legal pads are yellow because it improves concentration ability.
  • 75% of the pencils sold in the U.S. are yellow.
  • A yellow flag indicates a medical quarantine.

Green:

Green is not just a color anymore; it is a symbol of environmentally friendly products, buildings, and lifestyles. Green has represented growth, regeneration, and fertility since the beginning of time.

Fun facts about green:

  • People waiting to appear on TV wait in ‘green rooms’ because the color can soothe a bad case of the nerves.
  • Hospital decor is usually green because it calms patients.
  • Seamstresses won’t use green thread before a fashion show, fearing it can cause bad luck.
  • Brides in the Middle Ages wore green to represent fertility.

Blue:

Blue is one of the most popular colors. It causes the human body to produce calming chemicals, which is why it’s often used in bedrooms. Blue is also gender-neutral, appealing to both men and women equally.

Fun facts about blue:

  • Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it represents loyalty.
  • Weightlifters can lift heavier weights in blue-walled gyms.
  • Workers are more productive in blue rooms.
  • Blue plates make food appear less appealing: a note to dieters!

Indigo:

We have Isaac Newton to thank for adding indigo to the color spectrum. He wanted the number of colors to match the seven-tone musical scale of Rene Descartes, so indigo was chosen to bring the color spectrum count to seven.

Fun facts about blue:

  • Black light turns ripe bananas a bright indigo color.
  • During the Elizabethan era, only royalty, nobility, and members of the Council could legally wear indigo.
  • Indigo is often called ‘royal’ blue.
  • The Virgin Mary is frequently depicted wearing indigo clothing.

Purple:

Because it appears so rarely in nature and is expensive to create, purple has a powerful history that has evolved with the centuries. It is the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow and denotes wealth and sophistication.

Fun facts about purple:

  • The Romans used to extract an essence for making purple by boiling thousands of marine snails.
  • In some cultures, purple is the color of mourning.
  • Only two of the world’s flags contain purple.
  • In Italy, performers refuse to go on stage wearing purple.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

Colorful Jewelry Inspired by Classic Art

Red Artwork is Worth Fortunes

The Reason Why Barns Are Red

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The Gift of Color Vision

There is a rare condition that’s not fatal, but many artists would kill to have it. It is called tetrachomacy. Its main symptom is near-superhuman vision.

Impressionist painter Concetta Antico has tetrachomacy. When she examines a leaf, she sees a “mosaic of color,” not just shades of green.

“Around the edge I’ll see orange or red or purple in the shadow; you might see dark green but I’ll see violet, turquoise, blue,” she says. In her line of work, this ‘disorder’ is a rare gift that produces extraordinary works of art.

Tetrachromats have more receptors in their eyes to absorb color, letting them see hues that are invisible to everyone else. The average person has three cones, or photoreceptor cells in the retina that control color vision and allow people to see up to a million colors. Tetrachromats have four cones, so they can detect nuances and dimensions of color that others can’t.

Researchers believe that one percent of the world population is tetrachromatic. According to Kimberly Jameson, a cognitive scientist at the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences at the University of California in Irvine, the differences between the color range perceived by a tetrachromat and someone with normal vision is not as drastic as the difference between someone who is colorblind and someone who is not.

After studying Concetta Antico’s genes, Jameson determined that her fourth cone absorbs color wavelengths that are “reddish-orangey-yellow.” As a cognitive scientist, Jameson is fascinated with how people like tetrachromats can form and communicate concepts, especially since their visual perception of the world is so different.

Research suggests that tetrachromacy may be more widespread than assumed: those who have it don’t always notice because they haven’t trained their brains to pay attention. Antico admits that she was more color-aware than most children; at age seven she was painting and thoroughly fascinated with color. Because of the extensive exposure at an early age, her brain wired itself to notice and take advantage of her tetrachromacy.

She actively supports continued research into mutations that affect color perception. Her reasons are personal: five years ago, her seven-year old daughter was diagnosed as colorblind. Antico believes that the more she helps science professionals understand tetrachromacy, the better they will be able to help her daughter one day.

Kimberly Jameson agrees. “If we understand genetic potential for tetrachromacy and how their perception differs,” she says, “we can understand quite a lot about visual processing of color that we currently don’t understand.”

Antico may actually be helping colorblind individuals via her art. She has been teaching painting for over 20 years, and many of her students have been color-deficient. Jameson has looked at their artwork and found it to be surprisingly color-aware. She believes that Antico’s sensitivity to color differences at a very early age may have given her the understanding and articulation to help these students. It’s a hypothesis that still needs to be proved empirically, but raises the possibility that people’s perception of color can be improved by retraining their brains.

Antico has her own art gallery in San Diego and hopes to one day open an art school for the colorblind, to help them improve their color-awareness.

“What if we tetrachromats can show the way to color for people who are less fortunate than us?” she says. “I want everyone to realize how beautiful the world is.”

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

EnChroma Introduces Colorblind People to Color

The Importance of Color Vision and Art

Blind Artist’s Vision is Clearer than that of Sighted Individuals

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