Freakish Color Phenomenon? You Be The Judge.

A nice mauve colored pastel, right?
A nice mauve colored pastel, right?

This is peculiar but I’m sure there’s a good explanation (which I’m not qualified to supply). While working on the new painting shown in the last post, I was disoriented by a magical changing-pastel trick. One pastel stick+two color backgrounds=two effects. The pastel in question is a mauve. When it goes on the turquoise background, it appears to be dusty-rose pink. Put it on over the salmony-pink background and it shifts to  blue.

Here it appears to shift into pink when applied over turquoise green.
Here it appears to shift into pink when applied over turquoise green.

Perhaps it’s some sort of brain-retinal-thingy going on. If it’s an illusion, it sure had me reaching for the cooking sherry. But then again, even the camera sees it.

Now it's blue- same exact stick of pastel. Damndest thing I ever saw.
Now it's turned blue- same exact stick of pastel. Damndest thing I ever saw.

Any color experts out there? I vaguely remember something from art-school days that covered this, but, dang!

I do love surprises. This sort of qualifies.

21 thoughts on “Freakish Color Phenomenon? You Be The Judge.

  1. Julie Zickefoose says:

    Paging Cindy and Jim! Paging Cindy and Jim!

    Here’s what’s really weird. Not only does the applied pastel shift color, but the whole durn stick shifts color as you hold it in your fingers. WHAA???

    I knew there was a reason I was skeert of pastels.

  2. Ken Januski says:

    Yep, the weirdest thing is that the entire stick changes color in your hand, before even being applied! Of course your fingers look like they’ve changed color as well. Any possibility you had drastically different lighting between shots?

  3. TR says:

    This just messes with my mind in ways that I cannot comprehend. It’s like your singing the body electric. You a magic man – that what you are – slinging rainbows wherever you turn.

  4. zeladoniac says:

    Like I said, the camera caught it (and yes, also changed my fingers a little). But it does the presto-chango-thingy whether or not I use the camera- and the lighting here was the same, as was the pastel.

    Messes with my mind, too. Only too glad to share the weirdness.

  5. zeladoniac says:

    It looks like the background and the gradations have something to do with “altering” the color of the pastel. It’s a perceptual thing. I like the Kitaoka illusions.

  6. Becky says:

    It MIGHT be what Richard McKinley calls “simultaneous contrast.” He’s talked about it on his blog before and also has an article in the Pastel Journal (August 2009, page 19). His example used the same gray value on a square of blue and a square of orange.

  7. Kirk says:

    It could be a white balance thingy . If your camera is set to auto white balance, it can get fooled by some colors in some light conditions.
    At least it sounds good!

  8. Ken Januski says:

    >> I think there might be a rip in the fabric of the universe at my house.

    You know as I recall didn’t you have some weird turquoise goings on at your house sometime in the last year? Maybe it’s just a rip in the fabric of color of the universe……..

  9. zeladoniac says:

    Wow, Ken, you’re right. But I always thought the fabric of the universe was plaid…

    Thanks for the link, Becky!

  10. Kathiesbirds says:

    Well, I am not a scientist but I fool around with art once in awhile. I know that all pigment is affected by the colors around it. With pastels I suspect it could also be a chemical reaction thing. Regardless, it is all so fascinating! With birds we are often tricked by their colors as in an indigo buntings or a hummingbird. While their feathers appear to be colored, they are actually black and the color is the refracted light coming off them. I also know there is a flower called argeratum that appears blue to the human eyes but whenever it is photographed it appears pink. I think it is all magic and you are a magic maker as TR said!

  11. zeladoniac says:

    Kathiesbirds- I know the flower and yes, it’s kind of powder blue in certain light. Magic indeed. By the way, I nearly painted a cotinga into this picture, a glorious blue and purple bird from the tropics, and I’d always heard that cotingas makes a feather pigment called cotingen, but according to a recent study by Eric Dufresne and Richard Prum, it may be caused by something called spherical nanostructures. Go figure. To me it looks like the color of a blue vinyl booth at Denny’s Restaurant, circa 1973.

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