Saturday, 12 August 2017

It's Never Black and White

My obsession with colour has lead me to read as much as I can find on the subject when I am procrastinating with regards to other things.   I am quite intrigued with the concept of temperature in colour because it's more subject to language vagaries than descriptions of saturation and clarity are.  How colour is perceived and described differs depending on whether we are talking about light or pigment and the idea of colours being warm or cool has mainly to do with how much blue (perceived as cool) or yellow (perceived as warm) are in the pigment mix.  I wonder how consistent this warm/cool perception is across cultures though I believe every human on this planet would consider shade cool and fire hot and generally we associated blues/greys/purple with shade and red/yellow/orange with fire.

Somewhere in my internet wanderings I got into a discussion with someone in which I was trying to explain why black and white, although usually referred to as neutral, were not flattering on everyone and particularly people whose colouring leans warm.  If black and white are neutral, why are you claiming they are cool? The woman asked me.  I didn't have an answer for her that was satisfactory to me, I only know that most humans do agree that black and white seem cool as opposed to warm and that in terms of personal colouring they are not neutral/work for everyone options.

It frustrated me that I understood this intuitively but could not explain it so I have been on a mission to improve my ability to explain this.  I doubt I have fully succeeded but it's taking better shape in my mind now.

The concept of warm or cool colour has to do with blue being perceived as cool and yellow as warm and thus the more blue in a colour the cooler it seems and the more yellow the warmer it seems.  That in itself had me puzzled as I tried to understand why a purely warm coloured person could wear any blue at all or a purely cool coloured person could wear any yellow.  I came to understand that in terms of personal colour analysis and pigment mixing, the idea is that people who need a palette of colours we would call warm need a palette of colours where there is obvious yellow added.  Those who need cool colours need their colours to be obviously blue infused.  People who are slightly warm or slightly cool wear colours that are less warmed or cooled by yellow or blue.

I wrote a blog post in which I explored what warm blue is, explaining that it is blue with yellow added, it pushes the boundary of what we would call turquoise or teal.  Cool yellow has a bit of blue added so it begins to push at the boundary of green.  Yellow is also cooled by the addition of white. 

Adding white pigment makes what we call pastel colours and pastels are generally viewed as cooler than the original hue they are based on. 

Black is reminiscent of shade or night which are experienced as cooler and pure black has a bluish tint to it.  Artists often use a pigment called Payne's Gray instead of black and Payne's Gray is a very dark blue that appears black but isn't as flat looking as actual black paint.

In  colour theory  based on light waves black is the absence of all light (colour) and white is the presence of all light (colour) which makes black a non-colour and white a colour.

In colour theory based on pigment black is the combination of all colours and white is an absence of them because you can't mix anything to make white, thus black is the colour and white is the non-colour.

In real life, colour is something we see and we see black and white just as readily as we see blue or red or yellow.  For practical purposes black and white are colours.  But are they neutral?  What does neutral mean?  Can anybody wear them?

Neutral is a word used differently in different contexts. Sometimes black, white and the grey they combine to make are referred to as neutral, based on the idea that white and black are non-colours.  This leads some people to assume that it follows that black and white as non-colours are also non-temperature, that is to say neither warm nor cool.

 Fashion neutrals refer to colours that go well with all or nearly all other colours.  There are caveats involved there because fashion neutrals can lean warmer or cooler or be highly saturated or very muted and this will influence how well they work with other colours exhibiting various properties.

The idea of personal colour analysis is that the colours that work to flatter a person are in harmony with that person's natural colouring, and thus share the same properties.  When it comes to perceived warmth (yellowness) or coolness (blueness) there is a blueness and a distinct lack of yellowness in what we call pure white and black.  That is why they lean cool and suit people with cool colouring better than people with warm colouring. 

Black can be warmed up by using a colour we may perceive initially as black but is actually a very darkened brown.  White can be warmed up by turning it into ivory by adding a bit of yellow.  Whether or not a person is flattered by warm-black (brown-black) or ivory-white will depend on what their personal mix of cool and warm colouring is.  For people who are very or purely warm, brown-black and ivory-white are not warm enough. 

Black and white are also very strong colours and so they work best for people whose own colouring is strong.  If you suit bright, clear colours black and white probably work for you.  If you are predominantly cool toned, they also probably work.  If you are cool toned but lighter and softer, in a category often called Summer, you are probably better off with your black softened to charcoal or replaced with navy blue and your white just hinting at ivory, taking away the intensity that will look harsh on someone whose personal colouring doesn't match it.

I had to think all of this through, organise my thoughts coherently and then write it all down in order to be able to explain this and the lengthy explanation given here would not be appropriate for a response to someone in a YouTube comment section.  I doubt that woman who questioned me on why black and white don't work for everyone will ever see this but this is for her.  This is the complete reply I was unable to give at the time.  This is the consolidation of everything I intuitively understood but could not express. 

This is also for anyone else who has been mislead by the fashion industry into thinking black and white are always right.  Wear them if you want to, if you love them, if you just don't care what personal colour theory says, but if black or white can't find anything to connect with in your skin tone they won't be doing you any favours and perhaps you would like to know that.

There are bigger things in this world to be worrying about than whether or not you should wear black.  Sometimes I just need to avoid those topics.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Life is Never Free of Drama for Very Long

At some point in our lives most of us encounter someone who would be considered a toxic person, although the terminology is new enough that I know of several people who will never have heard it.  With the internet available to help us diagnose everyone we know, it seems now that half the people I know on Facebook are dealing with someone who might be a sociopath or a narcissist.  There are a few people from my own life who might fit those descriptions too and I know how difficult and painful encounters with them can be, particularly if these people are family members or close to you in some way.  Toxic co-workers seem to be a bit of a problem as well.  After fifty years of living I find myself still somewhat surprised that there are people who just seem to be okay with not being very nice, with manipulative and lying behaviour, and who are quite willing to malign you  to others for their own gain.

Sometimes what is most painful is not the loss of what you thought was a good relationship with this individual but when they convince others to believe in their lies about you and you lose those relationships too or they are significantly weakened.

You have to ask yourself what kind of relationship existed in the first place if people are so willing to drop you, ignore you or believe lies about you, but the asking tends not to relieve the pain.  Only time does.

I've struggled most of my life with the belief that I can make people see truth or reason if I just explain things well enough.  Learning that I cannot has been a long, difficult though useful lesson.  I still have to resist the urge.  None of us can control what others think about us or even what they say about us.  We can only be concerned with our own integrity, make our choices, learn from our mistakes, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 


Friday, 4 August 2017

More Colour Talk...I Can't Help It


I have just updated my Facebook profile picture to this, the most summery photo of me that I have taken this year. Yes, it's a selfie with the timer, it's outside on a cloudy-bright day, with the sky dimmed by smoke drifting in from the fires of interior BC.

It has been a long time since I've seen outdoor photos of myself, in natural lighting, showing that I am indeed warm-toned and summer has brought me some freckles.  Believe it or not that is a suntan though admittedly a light one. 


This is a makeup free face except for my Peach Me lipstick and the dress is my new favourite pink  colour, a pink that is warm, perhaps best described as a soft coral pink. I wear a lot of peach and coral these days.  It's one of the more easily found warm-muted colours at this time of year.  I feel fantastic in it to the point of being in danger of making it a signature colour. 

Although there are warm and cool versions of just about every colour, with a few exceptions as there is no cool orange, while cool yellows and warm blues can be tricky to identify, I find I like my appearance best in the very warm colours, that is the warmest versions of the colours that come from what most of us know as the warm side of the colour wheel. 

The right blue, which is something approaching teal, feels dramatic and perhaps it is.  In a sense, it is a complimentary colour to my golden skin tone as opposed to the analogous or more harmonious effect of the right versions of colour from the yellow/orange/red side of the wheel.   Cream and brown and olive also feel harmonious and natural, making good neutral bases.  

I Can't Wear Blue/Yellow/Pink/Green...

It's easy to rule out a colour if we've only ever tried wearing one or two versions of it.  It's also easy to mistakenly think all versions of a colour will work if we find that one or two do.  I have heard people say things like "I can't wear pink" or "Blue is my best colour" but these statements always need to be qualified.  I used to think I couldn't wear yellow but I now know I'd only tried the wrong yellows.  I didn't know that yellow could be made warmer or cooler, brighter or more muted, and when I wear the wrong yellow for me it makes me look yellow in a bad way.  The right yellow makes me look golden and glowy and more tanned than I actually am.  I made assumptions such as, if bright, clear orange looks bad on me all oranges will.

This was before I understood the three properties of colour which can all be understood on a scale.

Cool-Warm
Bright-Muted/Soft
LIght-Dark

Getting all three properties right will lead you to your best colours to wear.  Often people instinctively get one of them right and there are personal style/colour gurus who tell people it's only necessary to get one property, your dominant one and then they offer up a selection of colours so wide they are really just leaving it up to you to figure out which ones work for you and which don't, whereas other systems will work that out for you and explain why.

I am of the opinion that we don't all see colour in the same way but that some of us see more nuances.  If you really can't get your mind around the three properties of colour, or learn to recognise them, you won't want to bother about them when choosing colours to wear.

 We all have a best fit for each of the properties and a dominant property.  Knowing what these are helps us select the best colours to wear because our best colours share properties with our own personal colouring. 

We see and understand colours best in comparison so we understand a warm blue or a cool yellow, a muted red or a bright red in comparison to other blues, yellows or reds but we can also learn to recognise them more readily with practice.

We have biases and personal preferences and many people identify the colours that best flatter them as their favourites, others wear their favourites without either recognising or caring that they aren't flattering and I have met people who are so fixed in their preferences they see the colour of the shirt and not the person, and thus believe everyone looks good in their favourite shade of blue.  I have to gently accuse my mother of this and thus she didn't look at her daughter and see someone for whom she should buy an orange shirt, she bought for me and later encouraged and complimented the cool, soft colours she favours herself and which happen to suit her.  She now admits with astonishment that I look amazing in peach.

There are colours I generally do not care for or would not use in my own home decor or on my person but can admire them when they are worn by someone who suits them.  Context is everything.


My partner loves bright colours and those that lean warm, and it does seem that what looks best on him are the colours of the True Spring palette, clear, fresh, bright and warm colours. Colour warmth is confusing to him and I probably bore him to death when I try to explain it.  It gets even trickier when I tell him that yes, he and I are both predominantly warm but that my best warm colours are a bit muted and earthy, slightly dirty looking even, while his are clear and bright.  I think I've mostly got him convinced to trust me when I say "this yellow is better than that one although they are both bright."

 Why Am I Obsessed?

Every once in awhile I stop and ask myself why I think it matters so much to wear the most flattering colours.  I know there are people who believe that if you like it you will look great.  Anyone who says this to me leaves me wondering whether or not I should tell them that they actually don't look great in every colour I've seen them wearing.....I always decide not to.

It's true that I don't very often see someone who makes me think "Oh dear that colour looks awful on her and she looks like death warmed over."  (Though there is a chance that is the case with many people wearing black.)  I think it is a form of perfectionism that I must confess to.  I tend to believe there is, if not 'a right answer' then 'a best answer' for most things and I have difficulty settling for less.  When I see someone wearing a colour that overpowers them and makes them look faded, or conflicts with their warmth or coolness level and makes them look a bit ill, I think 'don't you want to get it right?"

But many people really don't care and there is no good reason I can think of why they should.  Sure, it can be argued that looking your best, which can in part be accomplished by wearing the most flattering colours, is a form of presenting your best self to the world and thus increasing your chances of success.  For me, it's relaxing to achieve sensory harmony, and wearing the colours that harmonise with my natural appearance actually feels like a gentle resting place.  Like an evangelist I want that for everyone but I promise that I haven't yet begun knocking on doors and asking people if they know about personal colour analysis and offering to share the good news.