More Albers exercises


Still trying to learn all I can from Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color, and now mucking about with colours cut from magazines – as he recommends. If my organising of this spectrum looks wrong in places then it might be because of my Colour Vision Deficiency. Having CVD makes doing Albers’ exercises more difficult, but I still get a lot out of it.

Some of my favourite exercises in the book involve placing one colour in two different contexts to see how our perception of that colour changes (in the cover image below, the two small squares are the same colour).


I do the exercises to the best of my ability. My results look good to my eyes, and probably they look okay to other people with the same CVD as me. People with normal colour vision are likely to see inconsistencies in my treatment of relative hue and chroma. That’s fine and it’s part of the reason I’m looking into this carefully. Here are my results, click on the images for an explanation of the exercises.

In another exercise, two different colours are made to look the same (or more similar than they really are).

If you have normal colour vision, you might read some of these exercises and think: Well that’s obvious that those two colours are not the same, one is more red than the other, or one is more blue than the other. That’s probably a result of my colour vision deficiency. Doing these exercises has made me aware of how much difficulty I have with tertiary colours.


L-R: Primary colours; Secondary colours; Tertiary colours.

The diagram above shows, from left to right, the three primary colours, the three secondary colours, and the six tertiary colours. For me, the primary colours are clear, but of the secondary colours the green could be mistaken for brown. The tertiary colours are more problematic for me: the blue-violet could be mistaken for blue; the blue-green looks grey; the yellow-green and yellow-orange could both be mistaken for a dark yellow.

This makes me think it might be interesting to develop a colour system that suits my vision, maybe eliminating certain colour categories. For example, I have never seen a “lemon yellow” that looks greenish to me – it always looks yellow, so that’s not a useful term for me.

However, Albers’ interaction of colour is important here. If I’m unsure about a tertiary colour, I try juxtaposing it with a complimentary primary colour. For example, if I’m unsure about a yellow-green or a yellow-orange, I try putting it next to a red, to see if that makes it look more green, and then next to a blue, to see if that makes it look more orange. Sometimes this helps me to determine what I’m looking at.


7 thoughts on “More Albers exercises

  1. that is simply fascinating. For the first time I have better feel for the blockages you have. Your limitations are less impactive than i have remembered from earlier examples you posted. The Josef Albers exercises reveal a few of your challenges – but even more do they show the general relativity of colour as we perceive it. Your experimentation and nutting it all out systematically like this won’t merely be interesting – it will serve you well. Hopefully you won’t tend to second guess the viewer above following your own instinctive judgment.


    • I’m glad you find it fascinating! My colour blindness is hugely frustrating, but might be a helpful corrective to my tendency to favour what Duchamp would call “retinal” art. Using painting as a way of exploring colour blindness, or sight generally, is more akin to the “conceptual” or “meta” approach to contemporary painting which I find interesting but almost never write about on here: the stuff that Isabelle Graw and David Joselit sometimes write about, incl. Wade Guyton, Jutta Khoether, Michael Krebber, RH Quaytman, Josh Smith. etc.


      • Duchamp has something to say that everyone can latch on to and profit by – you’ve sent me on a little research. I’m no nerd, nor interested in information for its own sake – but I’ll nibble on this one.


      • I hope to see the day when you won’t think colour blindness is “hugely frustrating”. I don’t say this like a well intentioned adult might to an impatient youth (ouch, I didn’t think before writing that). I simply mean that on the one hand – you have a gift of painting you believe in and then you have a desire and focussed intent to acquire and understand the usual competencies needed to accomplish this at a high level. So, you have one hand tied behind your back, or, your glasses have cracked and can’t be replaced yadda yadda. You will get where you need or want or work to anyway. It might be frustrating for a while.


  2. Pingback: Colour collages | dailydaub

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