Color and the Artist's Eye

It has taken me a long time as an artist to come to realize that since the most important task of an artist is to look, the most significant thing we can learn from any artist is how they see.

Once upon a time I was interested in handwriting analysis, and I learned that people who study handwriting are interested in both physical and psychological elements. I understand that graphoanalysis fits squarely into the realm of pseudo-science, but I have applied what I heard then to the way I consider art now: what makes each artist’s work--and my work--unique is a combination of physical and psychological characteristics.

For example, the length of the bone and the strength of the muscles in my right arm affect the way I draw a line, a circle, an arc. So does the fact that I had amblyopia (“lazy eye”), a disorder of eye-brain coordination in young children that may linger into adulthood, affecting their stereoscopic vision. So does the steadiness of my hand.

Some years ago an optometrist told me that I had a “a slight color deficiency.” He didn’t identify it for me, but the phrase would most typically mean that I need a lot of light, or a lot of red light, at least, to properly distinguish dull colors, especially greens. So I prefer bright and intense colors to dull and muted ones. Amblyopia might affect my career if I wanted to be an airline pilot, but as an artist, I see it simply as one of the characteristics that make my eye unique.

In my teens I remember seeing a cartoon panel of an art installation in which the title of every piece was appended with the description “(nude),” whether the subject was a living creature or not. The observer in the cartoon was commenting, “Well, if it’s an obsession, all I can say is that it’s a very odd obsession.”

Overlay all these physical conditions--or, in another artist, the lack of some or any of these conditions--atop a consideration of the psychological elements that comprise the way we look at or see things and the way we render them in an artistic medium, and it is easy to see why there are countless ways of being an artist.

My husband Grey’s motto is, “It’s all about the colors, baby!” That’s how it is for me, too—for the many whose color vision is not compromised, at least, there are few questions as to what the colors are in my work, both because intense colors are easiest for me to distinguish and because I like them.

©2018 Khrysso Heart LeFey

Above art: Sweetness of the Wet Garden by Khrysso Heart LeFey, all rights reserved