This Is Not Orange – Sun and Nicholas Wilton – Ep 46
September 7, 2022
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
While on Day 3 of the Tour Du Mont Blanc (a 10-day hike around the largest mountain in Europe), I was struck with a question: How do you know orange is orange? What is color? How do we define it, and is it different for everyone? While pondering these big questions, I ran into a kind and gentle soul named Sun, a quantum physicist from Kolkata, India that studies lightwaves passed through diamonds. It quickly became clear that this providential meeting was a fantastic way to answer some of my questions. With miles to go and no one in sight, I thought I’d see if Sun could shed some light on the mystery of color. Join me now for an interview in the most unlikely of places!
Listen if you are interested in…
- Getting to know Sun and the subjectivity and science of color [3:36]
- Understanding color and why it’s up for interpretation [13:37]
- Orange thoughts from a friend and reflections after the hike [23:00]
- Why color has a life of its own [28:47]
Color is emotional
What are the odds I would run into a quantum physicist out in the middle of nowhere? Let alone on a day when I could use his expertise to definitely prove my shirt is orange. Except, that’s not quite what happened. Sun brilliantly explained a lot of things that are admittedly out of my depth, but I now understand that color is experienced when white light goes through a prism. Each color has a certain wavelength that absorbs part of the white spectrum light and reflects others. These wavelengths enter our eyes through the photoreceptors in our retina, and our brain creates the color for us through its own magical interpretation. The only objective part about color is the science. We decide what these wavelengths mean for us. Color is a personal experience that happens between our eyes and our brain. Our interpretation of color is also based on our individual experiences. Color is different for people depending on their gender, nationality, and previous interactions with color. It’s not just physics. There is an emotional component to color.
Color is subjective
Do you have a favorite color? It’s such a universal concept, and it makes me wonder why certain people are drawn to particular wavelengths of light. When I read the meanings usually attributed to my favorite color orange, it reads like a laundry list of personal characteristics and aspirations. My photos from the European hiking trip are filled with interesting orange textures leading me to ask the question: Did I choose orange, or did it choose me? Am I drawn to it out of preference or personality? Another fascinating facet of color is that MY orange isn’t necessarily your orange and even different hues of the same color convey different meanings. I gravitate towards oranges that have far more yellows and reds in them than your typical construction cone. But I’m sure there are those out there with the exact opposite view, and to them, my orange isn’t orange.
Color is wild
Colors have a life of their own. Everyone walks around believing that their interpretation of color is the correct one. Yet, even common perceptions of colors change with culture. In the late 19th century, pink was viewed as a masculine color because of its association with red, and blue was considered more feminine. Then in the 1940s, blue was suddenly marketed to men and pink to women. This is arbitrary, of course, but it goes to show how cultural our understanding of color can be. The reality is that colors don’t belong to us. Color is wild and untamed. We use them in our art, but we’re playing with stuff we know so little about. Maybe my shirt is not orange, but it’s orange enough for me. Listen to this episode to hear my interview with Sun and more insights on color!
Resources & People Mentioned
- Synesthesia (Article)
- The Day the Crayons Quit (Book)
- A Mango-Shaped Space (Book)
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With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.
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