Deciphering color shades

February 15, 2012

One thing that I learned as I grew older is that it is easier to admit your short comings. In my case, I’m not talking about some major flaw at all. I will readily admit that I have trouble with colors. No, I’m not color blind or anything like that but if it is beyond simple colors I am completely out of the loop.

Let’s see, I know red, yellow, blue, green, black, white, orange and purple. After that, it is confusing when people talk about various shades such as taupe or magenta. Frankly, I am totally lost. I really think my problem started in grade school when I didn’t pay attention to the teacher. Come to think of it, there were lots of times when I didn’t pay attention. Those of us who are a bit older remember that in grade school art was the final period of the day on Friday. The only thing I liked about art was when it was over, school was out and I usually looked forward to attending a Garnett High School football or basketball game that night.

In short, I never paid attention to colors other than those worn by various sports teams. I knew KU wore red and K-State wore purple. I tolerated black and gold because they were Ottawa University’s colors, not the much despised Missouri Tigers. Certainly I loved the red and white of Garnett.

If I did use crayons, I designed football or basketball uniforms. I really wasn’t much interested in cutting out paper bunnies and coloring within the lines never really challenged me.

Now I guess you could say that I have been haunted by this problem for years, For example, I see no difference between black and navy blue. I mean, after all, they are both dark. I enjoy orange and black together, possibly because they are Bonner’s colors. I have always though an orange sport jacket and black tie would look good together, but my wife disagrees.

The more I think about it, there are several confusing facts about color. Does anyone know why baby boys are dressed in blue and pink is the color for baby girls? Why is black the color for mourning? I have noted that orioles and I have something in common--we both are attracted to orange. Hummingbirds seem to be drawn toward red flowers.

I realize these aren’t earthshaking questions and I suppose with enough research I could find the answer. The thing is that all of us have favorite colors. I suppose that most people like colors such as blue, red, yellow or pink. In my case, I like orange, but as my grandsons continue sports careers at Lawrence Free State, green is returning as a favorite. In fact, I like any color that a sports team that I’m cheering for wears. I certainly like the Royals’ blue in the summer and Chiefs’ red in the fall. The more I think about it, my favorite colors have a lot to do with the sports season.

Actually, I blame the crayon companies for my being color challenged. In 1903, a box of crayons had just eight colors – black, brown, orange, violet (purple I guess) blue, green, red and yellow. Now, I can deal with just eight common colors.

Now the crayon box has grown to 120 colors including such unimaginable hues as sepia, chestnut, raw umber and a dozen or so hues that I can’t pronounce let alone recognize. I will admit the last time I looked into a crayon box I was totally lost. I read that over two billion crayons are sold annually around the world.

No, I have never been a great art fan. I got in trouble in college art appreciation class when I told the professor that I couldn’t see spending hours painting a landscape when I could take a color picture and have a perfect replica in seconds. By the way, my art ability doesn’t go much beyond stick men, although I have great appreciation for those who are talented artists.

I was surprised that the use of color goes back to pre-historic times. The ancient cave dwellers, used pigment and chalk to come up with colors to brighten their cave drawings. The modern crayon era started with the company of Smith and Barney in 1903. Certainly the crayon business has grown and seems to be surviving the computer age.

I guess I’ll just muddle along in my color confused world and continue depending on my wife’s good judgment to make sure that I don’t leave the house dressed in yellow pants with an orange shirt, white tennis shoes and black socks.

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