point of view

In the On Language column of the Magazine section of the New York Times this past Sunday was an article titled Optics, by Ben Zimmer. I loved it.  It had nothing to do with color- but everything to do with how we see (color).

Larry Grossman says "...it has everything to do with the way the public sees things."  For me, color is nothing on its own, it is a color, it is subjective, but the surroundings effect the way an on-looker perceives the color.

Mid-way through the article Mr. Zimmer gives the reference of the word, "in standard French, optique can refer to the science of optics or it can mean perspective, point of view." Point of view for me is also everything.  I posted about this earlier- embroidered color studies,  my comment then- the same as it is now, is that when designers use the full color spectrum I feel that it lacks focus.  It lacks a point of view, and with the enlightenment of the recent article it lacks Optics.  Continuing on in the article are other quotes, 'matter of 'optics' is also used interchangeably with 'perception'.  Sir Issac Newton published, in 1704, Opticks, A treatise on the reflections, refractions, inflections and colours of light. His book offered pivotal findings of how light is transferred through a prism to reveal the rainbow, which he named in seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo, and violet.)  The outstanding contributions he made to science  are undeniable- however, are, ironically, of his own Opticks, point of view, or perception, if you will.

In many writings about Newton's rainbow the colors have been reduced down to 6 (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple- instead of violet, seriously, what child have you heard say violet?- or adult for that matter)  Newton came up with seven colors as he tied the amount of colors in the rainbow to other measurements of importance at the time: 7 days in the week, 7 notes on a musical scale, 7 planets at the time.  This was his interpretation of what he saw, and he's been famous ever since.  His information has been burned so intensely into our ancestral retina that we do not question the colors we see anymore when we see a rainbow, we simply accept it for the colors we think we know it to be.  My optic is different and I wish to question the point of view of the naming of the rainbow.

First, we must look at the labels in the current system.  The naming of the color "blue" in the rainbow is really Cyan, and Indigo is really blue.  When one takes time to look at the rainbow, one will see that.  What you see, is not always what you have been told.  Second, most of the "basic" colors, they are given names, red, yellow, blue and green are essentially only known as a color.  Exceptions come with orange- the color of a fruit, and with indigo and violet, both from plants. Lastly, for now, we desperately need to increase our vocabulary on color.  The digital age is stripping us of our ability to see all colors available to the naked eye.  At the same time we are at the height of possibilities for color naming, and it will only soar higher as we continue to develop our language.

The importance of color and how one views it is simple.  Have a point of view, have reasoning behind the choices made, and have a bit of fun with the results as they are applied to texture and various materials.  As the article suggests in the end, "the beauty of optics is in the eye of the beholder,"  I believe that with a conscious thoughtful point of view, many eyes will see the beauty of optics.