Visual impairment work-arounds (Chuck Close)


More practice mixing colours, working from photos and using PhotoShop to make digital palettes like the one below to refer to when I’m mixing the real paints. I find this helpful, but it’s not a solution for my colour blindness. That would become obvious if I tried to paint anything with more subtle colouring.


Guide palette

Here’s something else on the subject of visual impairment and artistic work-arounds:


Chuck Close Self-Portrait 1 (2009) oil on canvas 182.9 x 152.4cm

Artist Chuck Close has a neurological condition called prosopagnosia, or face blindness. He can identify a face as a face, but can’t look at someone’s face and recognise that person. In Eric R. Kandel’s book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, Kandel describes how prosopagnosia has effected Close’s art work:

“To reconcile the problem of face blindness with his desire to paint portraits, Close developed a new, reductionist-synthetic form of portraiture that combines photography and painting; this style later became known as photorealism. Close first takes a large-format Polaroid photograph of his model. He then places a transparent sheet over the photograph and – in a step of radical reductionism – divides that transparent sheet into many small cubes, each of which he decorates in a distinctive way. Then – in a step of synthesis – he transfers the decorated cubes onto the canvas. Thus, Close achieves a paradoxical result in having a reductive process lead to a complex and richly detailed end result.” (p.172-173)

Kandel’s description of Close’s process reminds me of the “reductionism” and “synthesis” involved in my use of digital palettes, although my results are less interesting. But this encourages me to explore my colour blindness further, because in looking for a work-around I might arrive at a process that’s interesting in itself.

In the mean time, here are some of the colour studies from the last couple of days.


170426a Plums (2017) oil on canvas 17 x 17cm


170426b Oranges (2017) oil on canvas 15 x 16cm


170426e Red Pepper (2017) oil on canvas 16.5 x 16cm


170427c Blue Donut (2017) oil on canvas 25 x 25cm

And here are some doodles I made using paint left over from the studies.


170426d Oranges 3 (2017) oil on canvas 16 x 19cm


170427a Siamese Red Pepper (2017) oil on canvas 16.5 x 15cm


170427b Red Object (2017) oil on canvas 14.5 x 10cm


170427d Blue Blob (2017) oil on canvas 11 x 13cm


2 thoughts on “Visual impairment work-arounds (Chuck Close)

  1. Using photos and Photoshop digital palettes. Well, it clearly works for ME. More important, does it work for you? As you say, maybe something useful will come out of it. But if it can’t ever be organic to your painting process, it might inhibit your natural gifts.


    • I doubt it will become routine for me in the long term – it does feel like a rather stilted process. Regardless of colour-blindness, what’s useful about the exercise is familiarising myself with mixing colours, learning the difference between how the colours look as separate blobs on a palette to how they’ll work together on a canvas, especially when they’re rendering form, reflective surfaces, light, etc. It’s all very new to me, and this seems to be a useful way of getting into colour in a practical way.


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