I’ve known I was “colour blind”1 since I was tested as a child. Today I tried a few online tests to learn more about my colour vision deficiency, or CVD. There are several different types of test available. These are my results.
Ishihara 38 Plate test
Farnsworth – Munsell 100 Hue test
RGB Anomaloscope test
Apparently I have mild-to-moderate Deuteranopia. This means I have difficulty with red, green, and any colours that contain red or green. Given that red and green are opposite poles of the colour wheel, that means I could get confused with any colour at all: ie. what looks like blue might contain some red that I’m not seeing, or what looks like a yellow might contain some green. Even when I’m seeing colours the same as colour-sighted people, I can’t know that I’m seeing them the same. That’s a problem for painting, because every colour choice I make might be affected by my CVD. It feels strange to say, because I feel like I see colour very vividly, but I suppose people with full colour sight see it differently, clearer and with greater range.
I tried each test several times. Mostly my results were consistent, but in this colour sorting test (below) I improved significantly on my second and third attempts. The third time, I made the test image larger on my screen and really concentrated on placing each colour one by one. That result said I had no colour vision deficiency at all! That makes me think that, for my painting, there would be a benefit to working in the best possible light conditions, and consciously concentrating my attention on colour in order to see it with the best accuracy I can.
My first result on the D-15 Disk Arrangement test:
My second result on the D-15 Disk Arrangement test:
My third result on the D-15 Disk Arrangement test:
I also found several articles speculating that Vincent van Gogh might have had CVD.2 This seems to be based primarily on a post by Kazunori Asada, in which he describes viewing van Gogh’s paintings under filtered light to simulate how a person with CVD would see them, and how he subsequently used digital filters to simulate a CVD view of the paintings. Apparently the colours in the filtered versions appear more coherent, naturalistic, and with more conventional depth effects. I’m very curious about this. It’s notable that Van Gogh’s early works often use a very muted palette of browns (easy for a CVD person to work with) and his later works use heightened “expressionistic” colours (easier for a CVD person to see, and inaccuracies are indistinguishable from the “unnatural” style).
Examples of the filtering, below. My own colour vision is good enough to see van Gogh’s wheat field is orange in the original and more golden in the filtered version. However, the Starry Night looks exactly the same to me, with or without filter.
In the past I thought that my CVD made it pointless for me to attempt to paint in colour. Now I think it presents an interesting challenge, and potentially raises questions about the differing ways in which we all see, from the sense data received by the eye to the neurological processing of that data in the mind.
- The term “colour blind” refers to people who see no colour at all. That’s very rare. Colour Vision Deficiency, like mine, affects roughly one in twelve men and one in every two-hundred women. ↩
- The Day I Saw Van Gogh’s Genius in a New Light; Van Gogh – Altered Visionary; Was Vincent Van Gogh Color Blind? ↩