Color (Theory) by Numbers

February 22, 2012

A random outgrowth of moving the slider around in the color pads a lot and via a talk with a friend: in Photoshop all colors are represented by three numbers ranging between 0 and 255 in three categories: red, green, and blue. (255 x3 is white and 0 x3 is black.)   That makes for I’m not sure how many millions (billions?) of possible numbers but I’ve been wondering about two things: 1) why 255? and 2) if this information is unrelated to our perception of color, why do we need to see the numbers when we’re looking at the color block?  (Maybe so we can move just shy of pure white, like I did for the abstract squares you can see a ton of a few pages back, so that they would print on an inkjet printer and not leave a blank, for example.)

I’m not sure of the answers for each but decided to make some work about it, so below you have some abstract pieces where the colors weren’t chosen; they were entered in as three arbitrary numbers.  (I chose the line of six because it looks like some kind of test strip or color key and because for a (mysterious) reason the printing service I usually use has a 5×30″ format, which is what these are.  Why 5×30″ I don’t know but I decided to group the mysteries together.)  Examples:

And I’m not sure whether to include the numbers on each block so that you get a running string of them at the bottom; not sure whether that would be interesting or just confuse people even more than being confused by “why am I staring at this?”

And I’ve been thinking about color relationships, “natural” and arbitrary, because in the Memory Loss (Baldessarian) project photos below, some colors are easy to use (red, blue, green–natch) while some are tough, like purple and magenta.  So below you have two versions of the same image; in the lower one, I simply dragged the hue slider in Photoshop to the left until I got something that was pleasant instead of tough.  All the colors still are related to each other in the same form, just in a way that isn’t tough like magenta.  And when I’m saying “tough” I don’t mean loaded cultural connotations that come with something like hot pink, I’m thinking more about visual acuity–the ability to read between the blocks and see the relationships they highlight on the backdrop image.  But maybe for these guys the “tough” way is the way to go even though connotations might make it look like an easy shot.  Jury’s still out.  Maybe I should just make them a diptych.  And all of this slight-color-gradation stuff (because in the square pieces no color ever repeats) is starting to make me think of another artist, my former prof/amazingly process-oriented painter Anoka Faruqee, whose work you can see (and see explained) here.


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