Sunday, June 30 2013: The poppy is renowned both for its spectacular beauty as a flower, and for its vivid associations with remembrance for fallen soldiers, as well as its origin as a source for opium. Their colors can range widely through yellow, orange and red, and also purple and blue. In this particular case, we're going to look at the red-orange flowers from the garden of the Horse and Hound Inn in Franconia, NH. Figure 1: Munsell colors for June 2013 The first thing to notice is that these flowers are spectacularly chromatic, right at the edge of what's possible to reach in paint. In direct sunlight, it's hard to look at anything else if one is in view. The main hue of these samples is 10R, which is exactly halfway between the “central red” of 5R and “central orange” of 5YR in the Munsell space. The petals below – which had fallen from the plants,... + continue reading
Sunday, April 28 2013: This month, we’re heading back into the studio to take a look at tarnished metal. Figure 1: Munsell colors for April 2013 The word “silver”, when used as a color description, simply means “neutral”. Silver has no hue, value or chroma in and of itself. Consider this question: what color is a mirror? It’s the color of whatever it’s reflecting. Silver and similar metals behave the same way; they have no intrinsic color of their own, but they reflect the color of the light that hits them. Recall that the color of objects begins with the light that is NOT absorbed by the surface material; a red object is red because when it is hit by a wide spectrum of light frequencies (such as real or simulated daylight), it absorbs most of the visible wavelengths and leaves only red light to reflect to the viewer. Silver (and most metals) absorb almost... + continue reading
Sunday, March 31 2013: Let’s take a look at a lovely spring flower, the daffodil (also known as the Narcissus, its more proper biological name). Figure 1: Munsell colors for March 2013 Although enthusiasts and appreciators know that there is a wide range of colors and appearances in the daffodil family, we’ll concentrate on the familiar yellow daffodil. The first thing to notice is that daffodil petals have two distinctly different hues, to go with their distinct patterns. The inner petals are a more orange yellow, and the outer petals are greener. We see here that the inner petals (the corona) are 5Y 8/12. This is an extremely brilliant and chromatic yellow - it’s rare to find something more chromatic in nature, in fact, except for other very brilliant flowers, and some exotic birds and insects. In isolation, it is in the center of the Munsell Yellow hue (the 5-numbered hues are... + continue reading
Wednesday, February 20 2013: This month, we flee the endless winter and return to the warmth of the studio, with a decidedly warmer subject than snow: the yellow onion. Figure 1: Munsell colors for February 2013 A still-life staple, the onion offers a surprising amount of variety within a single hue. 7.5YR covers just about everything you see here. A green stem will push into GY (and we’ll see plenty of that in this spring’s articles), but the body of the onion, its skin and its base are mostly within the 7.5YR gamut. Main body The main body strikes a local color of about 7.5YR 5/6. This rich, mid-level reddish-brown is higher in chroma than the grasses and leaves we’ve looked at recently. Notice also that this is firmly a base color. As it turns into shadow and light, it loses chroma as it tends towards dark and white. The specular highlight of the onion’s skin approaches the... + continue reading
Thursday, January 17 2013: This month, we look at snow. Sounds simple enough - snow is white, right? Well... sometimes. And sometimes not. Figure 1: Munsell colors for January 2013 Before we begin to look at it, this does raise the very interesting question of what white IS to begin with. It’s not a spectral color, in the sense that it’s not a color in the rainbow. You may recall Sir Isaac Newton’s famous prism experiment, in which he proved that sunlight can be refracted into all of the colors of the rainbow, and that it can be re-combined into white light again. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) When we look at normal objects that don’t emit their own light, we see the light that’s reflected from their surface. Examining this slightly more deeply, we see whichever wavelengths come from the light source(s) that are not absorbed by the object itself. A red object, for... + continue reading
Sunday, December 16 2012: The Munsell Palette for December 2012 looks at fir trees. Figure 1: Munsell colors for December 2012 This month, while some of us wait for snow, we look at fir trees, emblematic of various winter holidays. The particular tree we're looking this time is a Blue Spruce, native to Colorado and cultivated widely for Christmas tree use. We will see that despite its name, it is actually a long way from blue! For the most part, when you are looking at a fir tree, you are looking at its needles, which we will focus on here. The needles have two distinct colors; the topside that faces the sky and sun, and the underside (seen from below) that faces the ground. Looking closely, there is also a yellowish color along the edges that can be seen in direct sunlight. Needle topsides (2.5GY 4/4) The average local color of the topsides of mature needles is 2.5GY 4/4. As with all colors... + continue reading
Tuesday, November 13 2012: The Munsell Palette for November 2012 looks at the forest floor. Figure 1: Munsell colors for November 2012 This month, winter looms (in the northern hemisphere!) and the leaves are down in the deciduous forests. Their chlorophyll spent, the fallen leaves and pine needles coat the woods with a familiar brown, while some green plants still peek through from below. It may seem surprising that all of this month's colors are chroma 4, but much of organic nature is right in this range, and little surpasses chroma 6, as we'll see in coming months. Furthermore, there's a relatively tight range of values, mostly between 4 and 5. Value 5 being the middle of the Munsell value scale, it represents not only what we consider the middle value between white and black, but also the approximate total average value of a typical outdoor scene. Oak leaves (5YR 6/4 & 5YR 5/4... + continue reading
Saturday, October 20 2012: The Munsell Palette for October 2012 is all about pumpkins! Figure 1: Munsell colors for October 2012 This month, with Halloween looming, we take a look at its representative gourd, the pumpkin. Pumpkins come in sizes ranging from tiny, decorative handfuls to immense, tractor-borne monstrosities, but the kind that are associated with the holiday and carved and are set in holiday arrangement tend to be around basketball-sized, and fall within a fairly narrow range of colors. In our examination, we found four average colors for pumpkins that were representative of typical local colors. The color of the skin of the ripe pumpkin ranges from 2.5YR 5/10 for larger, carvable ones, to a bit lighter and yellower at 5YR 6/12 for the smaller, more decorative ones. Pumpkins are quite chromatic in both examples, and around midrange values. As they get physically larger, they redden... + continue reading
Saturday, May 19 2012: The Munsell system is central to The Classical Lab's product and service portfolio. We teach with it, develop products for it, and use it ourselves for all matters relating to color. Although its uses are as broad as those of color itself, our focus is on its application in arts and design. This short document provides an overview of the Munsell system as we use and teach it. What is the Munsell system? The Munsell system (or just "Munsell" for short) is a color organization system created by artist and scientist Albert H. Munsell in the early 20th century. It is an organizing system for color, along with a language for describing color, that is extremely precise and simple. Every color can be described according to three attributes: hue (think of color names like red, blue, or green), value (lightness to darkness), and chroma (intensity or vividness). Colors are... + continue reading
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