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Color blind artist anyone?

Back in 1999, I picked up a second-hand book on genetics which had a chapter on heredity. In it there were illustrations meant to exhibit basic color-blindness tests. I failed the red-green test and in a classic display of denial, thought the ink in the old book must have faded or something! Days passed with nagging doubts and it finally sunk in that I might actually be color blind, which was a shock as I had been painting almost daily all thought the Nineties. I literally could not paint another thing for five years after that and even today do not really trust myself with reds and greens and also colors that have reds and green in them (what am I really seeing?) It seems to be the dark shades and pale tints I miss out on the most. I know apples are red and grass is green and that sort of thing.
I remember the “War of Art” book was one of the things that got me back into painting and a friend who said “just paint whatever, don’t worry about it” . Yeah right.
Anyone else have this problem?

Hi Dave, Your post caught my attention because my son (39) is red/green colorblind and my son-in-law is fully colorblind. They are both very supportive of my painting and we have had some fascinating conversations about art and what they see. Jason’s complete colorblindness enables him to see patterns and value very clearly and he identifies paintings he enjoys that are often not my favorites. He sees something different, but something beautiful. In my opinion, painting is about the process more than the product and although I understand that you are trying to sell your work and accuracy is an issue, I think discovering that you are partially colorblind is just another step on the path and part of your personal development as an artist. If you haven’t already done so, a series of monochromatic paintings in both red and green might be very enlightening.

Looked up your work online, and you do some wonderful things with reds and greens! I can’t remember who, but someone once said if you have the values right, the color doesn’t matter anyway!


My father in law is color blind. He avoids all conversations about color, he’s 93.5 years old.

I find this topic quite interesting even tho I am able to see color. But doesn’t it make you wonder if everyone sees same or different colors/hues?

I also took the time to look at your work. Your color blind vision gives you a delightfully unique style and aren’t we all seeking a personal style?

I’m red/green colourblind too, and my wife frequently points out “problems” in my paintings that I just can’t see. As someone said above, getting the value right makes the hue less important.

If you want to produce extremely realistic paintings then it will probably get in your way and there’s no avoiding that, but if not then I’d say don’t worry about it.

As a side note, I recently discovered that there are glasses available that claim to correct colour vision, if you don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars - they’re at http://enchroma.com … I haven’t tried them and don’t plan to. Frankly their testimonial videos put me off, they struck me as really bad soap opera over(re)acting!

I recently had this conversation during a painting workshop. And we talked about seeing purples and blues in shadows and yellows and blues in highlights. It led us to discussing warm vs cool shadows and highlights and how our significant others (normally our most honest critics, it seems) see colors differently than we do. We talked about Faux paintings and Impressionism, values and intensity. What we came to realize is that hue is very subjective. Get the drawing right. Get the value right and get the intensity right and your painting will work. By the way, your paintings and drawings are very well done.

That question is something thats always intrigued me, we cant see through each others eyes so who is to say that the person sitting next to you sees everything in completely different colours to yourself, they might see the colour of the sky as green( as you know green) but will say its blue because that is the colour they have always called blue, and maybe they see the grass trees and bushes as blue or red(in your eyes) but again will call them green because that is what they were taught was green when they were children. The colours they would see would look completely normal to them because that is what they had always seen! Im sure we all do see the same colours ( apart from colourblind folks) but there is no way of proving it IMO.

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Thanks for all of the great comments. I went offline for a while as I am a caregiver to my dad and he was in and out of the hospital right after I made my original post and there were no email notifications of replies. A surprise to see so many!

I should have known a long time ago about my color blindness when people would ask if I liked the off-white wall paint with the red tint or the green tint and they literally looked exactly the same. I thought I was just being the typical guy who couldn’t care less. I do like painting with the vivid colors and bright studio light helps too. The point made about getting values right first is a good way to think about the problem. Thanks for that.

Hi there Dave,

I know your post was a long time ago, so not sure if you will even see this, but I happened to be listening to a podcast of an interview with artist Frank Lombardo this week. I remembered your thread and thought I’d post this here.

The colour blindness is mentioned right at the end of the interview more sort of incidentally.

His work is phenomenal. You can see examples of his work on the podcast page.

Check it out:

Thought this might be of interest to you.

Thanks for the link. I just listened to it and checked out his work as well. I like how he developed all kinds of systems to “see” the reds and greens, but finally just got assistants to help him with colors in the early stages of the work. I almost bought a green shirt the other day only to have someone who was with me say, “what green shirt?”. It was more of a brown I guess! Very frustrating, oh well. :slight_smile:

If this is any help Dave, until it was pointed out, it hadn’t occurred to me that Frank Lombardo was colour blind.
Once I heard it in the interview and went back, I could see it. It’s difficult to describe - The paintings are slightly monochrome / sepia with a strong blue in the fabric and in some of the backgrounds. They are very beautiful and lose nothing for leaning slightly more towards monochromatic than you would usually see. I see it as just being a signature style for that artist. The face paintings (Ariel, Becka, Kate, Mari) are all pretty much sepia and reminded me very much of Michaelangelo’s sepia drawings, some prints of which I have had on my wall for decades:

Michaelangelo Drawings


I am red green color blind partially and everyone’s deficiency will be different but for me it’s worked out to be a huge asset. I paint sports and other subjects like no one else. Two paintings of mine sold for 150k so never give in to any limitations. The cornerstone that is rejected becomes the foundation. AMDG

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