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It’s Either Black or White

Black and white combined make gray. Any color mixed with another color also makes a gray, and right in the middle it’s called achromatic gray. On a spectrum between two colors it goes prismatic (pure) color (red, blue, etc.) then as you mix in some of the other color (gray it), it becomes a ‘muted’ color. Add more of the other color and you get a ‘chromatic gray,’ until you get to the midpoint (achromatic gray). I learned a lot about gray, recently (can you tell)... there are many shades of gray (many more than 50). Try googling ‘shades of gray’ and read the wiki article.... clearly, gray must be the most abundant color there is... it has numbers like (0, 0, 0) and goes like (220, 230, 225) in red, green, blue (RGB) world and the values go up to 255. If the numbers are close together it’s approaching achromatic (neutral) gray called ‘off gray’ and if they are far apart then it’s a more chromatic gray. They come in warm and cool, and in computer monitor world they all have names... Gainsborough and slategray. I have no idea what the numbers between 0 and 255 mean, although 0 means there is none.


Chroma is one of the between 3 or 4 defining aspects of a color (hue, chroma, value, etc.). I read somewhere there are like 11 aspects to color... temperature, for example, but some of them began to seem like repeats to me. Chroma is one of “those” words... chroma, brilliance, intensity, saturation. They all mean the same thing basically, how bright the color is, not how light or dark... how colorful. It’s much easier to show than tell some of these visual subjects.


It’s interesting, in passing, how technical it gets, but I’m not so much interested in that as I am in the big gray area in the middle. Some people are, so, black and white. I don’t know if you have noticed that. There is a line you can cross and go from ‘good’ to not good, bad, or even evil depending on how far you get away from the ‘good’ line. No gray area. There is probably a psychological term for it or a Myers-Briggs personality type. There are certainly some colorful words for it, like the monitor colors (although crayola only has like 3). There is a subreddit called r/idontworkhere (I think) where someone went from entitled bitch (EB) to thunderc*t (TC) in a heartbeat. They like to use abbreviations a lot in Reddit land.


Artists use abbreviations a lot when writing about pigment colors... ultramarine blue (UB)... yellow ochre (YO). The pigment industry uses abbreviations, too. Each pigment gets a number on the color index. Lead white becomes pigment white 1 (PW1). And there are a few ‘tube’ grays which, true to form, are mixes of black, blue, and sometimes brown (PBk6 or 7, PB29, PBr7). Those numbers are different than the RGB numbers, are different than the Hex Numbers, are different than the Pantone numbers... and so on. They (colors) probably all have Munsell numbers, too. He was the first one to catalog all that stuff back in the enlightenment Darwin era.


I always save my topic sentence for last. It must go back to high school where it was ‘assumed’ you were going to write an essay about why Holden Caulfield broke open his watch... I had felt elated I knew the answer to the test question about the book we had just read (Catcher in the Rye), and I answered it confidently, succinctly, in a single, grammatically correct, structured sentence. At the time, I wondered why everyone was taking so long scribbling in their whatever you call those exam booklets with the staples in the middle (shrug). I had never heard the word essay. Pink Floyd’s (our teacher’s nickname) red F was very colorful, though, no gray area there.


So, this is not the first time I have encountered gray in painting or life. In military school our uniforms were gray... a cool gray, the buildings were gray... a warm light beige gray, the asphalt was gray, the concrete was gray, I even recall the sky as gray... it was all just gray. I have words for all those grays now, but much more recently, like in 2000 or 2010 I was out painting cows and connected a dot.... desaturation.


Up to that point I had just painted very ‘alla prima’ right out of the tube. Even chrome oxide, as dull as it is, is too high a chroma for grass. Most everything in nature is dull,

very dull. It’s all mostly grays. Brown is a gray. Humans are brown, blue and yellow and red (orange and green and purple). Wow... I’ll have to try that gray out. I call those ‘tertiary’ colors (incorrectly) and mixing the ‘secondaries’ (orange, green, and purple) have names like Citroen, Russet, and Olive green (all grays, by the way). But, we (humans) are basically, all of us, are just different tints and shades, maybe even different tones, values, and temperatures of dull brown... the same color, red, green and blue... we are all gray, it’s all gray.


There is no black or white about it. This time around, I’m a little more excited about gray. It’s not my favorite color. It’s not really even a color, in the chromatic quagmire primary color sense, but I am very excited to take it out for spin and try it on. One of the aspects about being colorblind is I can paint people green, and not just some dull gray of a green, but bright chromatic green, so I can see it’s green. I guess my paintings will be getting grayer for a while. My gray period. Maybe not... my snow was purple.

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