The Essential Element ~ COLOR

   Color is a phenomenon of light. White light, or daylight, is composed of a number of rays or waves which vibrate at varying wavelengths visible to the human eye. These wavelengths which the human eye can perceive are collectively referred to as the color spectrum and individually as hues. The hues are visibly perceived and capable of being differentiated between according to the particular specific color sensation one produces on the eye as compared to that sensation caused by another.

   The spectrum of hues can be separated into basic or primary hues which include red, yellow and blue. Red light measures about 1/33,000 inch from crest to crest of its waves while blue light measures about 1/67,000 inch from crest to crest. Yellow light falls somewhere in the middle of these two wavelengths. In between each of these fall the secondary hues which include orange between red and yellow, green between yellow and blue and purple between blue and red. The spectrum can be further separated into what are known as tertiary colors which fall between the primary and secondary hues and include red orange, yellow orange, yellow green, blue green, blue purple and red purple. Any particular hue is perceived by the eye according to the wavelength which is reflected by a partiular pigment and stimulates the eye.

   A pigment is a material which tends to absorb certain wavelengths of light while reflecting all the others. A pure blue pigment will absorb all the yellow and red wavelengths and reflect only the blue wavelengths. A pigment which reflects a pure secondary hue such as green will absorb all the red while reflecting a combination of blue and yellow wavelengths. Pigmentation exists in all objects which reflect colors as opposed to black (which results from the absorption of all wavelengths) or white (which results from the reflection of all wavelengths), both of which are not properly referred to as color.

   The configurations possible in the element of color consist of the variety of hues which exist as a result of particular wavelengths of light being reflected by a pigment. Any particular hue configuration may be produced either by manipulating light itself (by use of prisms or filters) or by manipulating pigments.

   There are certain properties which pertain to color, as is the case with all the other elements. These properties include chroma and direction.

   Chroma refers to the brilliance or dullness of a color. (Being reciprocals of each other, I will refer to this phenomenon simply as dullness.) Chroma is affected by tone. A pure color hue stimulates the eye’s cones in a particular way. When a hue, possesses any degree of tone, the pure color hue is adulterated and the stimulation upon the cones in the eye is affected by a perception of a dull quality to the basic hue. This perception is due to the fact that tone relates to the amount of light being reflected (or absorbed) by an object. In this case the light refers to purely white light which does not exhibit color through refraction. A pure color hue exists in the situation in which the total amount of light striking a pigment is reflected (at a particular wavelength). In a situation where more light is reflected (along with the hue) which is not refracted, the hue is adulterated with the excess pure light and may appear lighter ( or duller) than the hue normally would appear. In a situation where less light is reflected than would be needed for the cones to pick up the particular hue in the eye, the same situation occurs: the hue appears dull. In terms of value of tone, a hue which is adulterated with more white light is considered a high value; a hue which is adulterated with less white light is considered a low value.

   Direction in terms of color does not merely refer to an orientation toward horizontal, vertical or diagonal (although such orientation may exist in relation to a particular shape which color encompasses The property of direction in color refers to the phenomena of recession and advancement. Certain hues seem to come forward or advance toward the viewer while others move away from or recede.

   Colors such as reds, oranges and yellows advance (perhaps because of the fact that they vibrate at a higher wavelength and stimulate the eye’s cones more profoundly) while colors such as greens, blues and purples recede (perhaps because of the fact that they vibrate at a lower wavelength and stimulate the eye’s cones less profoundly). Color possesses this property of direction inherently due to the fact that color itself exists in the physical stimulation of the human eye.

   Because of the nature of color to exist as a phenomenon of light itself, any thing which is in visual existence may embody the element of color. Likewise the aspects of the other elements may be incorporated in color.

   Color which inhabits the space of points may be fused into line and exist in the various configurations which line possesses of its own accord. Color may be confined into shape in its various configurations. In terms of texture, color may exist as a structural element (in which case two or more colors may form the total structure of the texture) or as the surface on which a texture’s structure is built. Color by its property of dullness incorporates the element of tone as described in the above.