14 March 2006

Color Theory and Perception

Go to the Apple web site to see this interesting little video that explains some of the more basic aspects of color and perception theory. I guess most everyone is probably familiar with this stuff by now, but it never fails to fascinate me.

Incidentally, a more detailed—but equally accessible to the layman—discussion of these things can be found in this book by Harvard neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone, titled Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing. I came across this book half on accident the other day in the library while doing some research for my prof on a tangentially related subject and have been pretty absorbed by it ever since. It's really a useful book for just about anyone who is interested in art or design on some sort of practical level. I remembered that I heard an interview with her a couple of years ago on NPR discussing her ideas, which you can listen to here.

There are some problems with Livingstone's ideas. She is a neurobiologist afterall and not an artist or art historian, but still there are certain mechanisms of vision which relate to the visual arts, and which are about as close to being as objective about art as you can possibly be. For instance, her statement that artists are people with poor stereopsis (ability to perceive three dimenions) and this enables them to create convincing perspectives is really stupid, but then again, as someone who has never been able to "get" one of those Magic Eye pictures, there may be some truth to it.