Fun with colorblindness

Purple oceans

I am color blind. Throughout all my years of art classes, I shyed away from the use of color because I had a hard time identifying colors in the art supplies that were provided to me. I relied on labels and if there were none I ended up spending more time selecting colors than anything else.

After a few classes, my high school art teacher had enough. My art show was coming up and my portfolio was impressive; an extensive collection of pencil, charcoal and grayscale washes would consume one wall of the annual event. But my art teacher said I had to display something in color. So I set out to create my masterpiece, and that’s when the cityscape sunset was born.

I was very happy with the output (given that I had not really worked with water colors before and I had one afternoon to get familiar with them). Apparently the attendees of the show were even more impressed. I received tremendous compliments on the lone color project which surprised me…until I found out why.

“What made you create a purple ocean? What was your message?”

The message was the purple was next to the blue and I picked the wrong one. But hey, if they’re looking for a deeper message then I guess I’d have to come up with one. So if you really need to know, I selected purple to continue the red tones from the sky and sunset to convey nature’s warmth against the stark backdrop of a modern city.

I read the labels

On a side note, I have another humorous tale related to my color blindness. I found out that I was color blind when I was in Kindergarten. My mother and I would wait in the family Ford Country Squire Wagon for my sisters to finish up their day at pre-school. I would color while she read a magazine. One day I dropped my blue marker on the floor and I could not reach it. I turned to my mother and asked, “can you get me my purple marker.” The next week the eye doctor confirmed her suspicion; I was color blind.

From that day forward, the standing order from my mother was to go to each new teacher before the start of a school year and inform them that I was color blind. The encounter with my first grade teacher went smoothly and she was very understanding. I did not get marked down if I made a mistake with my colors.

Second grade was a different story. Mrs. Schmauder did not believe me. She was going to administer her own scientific test. Out came the box of Crayola 64s. One crayon after the next was thrust in front of me with Mrs. Schmauder intently watching me for signs of deception. One crayon, two, three, a dozen. We got about halfway through the box and she told me to go sit down.

After class finished, Mrs. Schmauder took my hand and walked with me to the parking lot where she confronted my mother. I didn’t need to stick around, so I bolted for the jungle gym. The conversation between my mother and Mrs. Schmauder went something like this:

Mrs. Schmauder, “Your son is not color blind.”

Mom, “We had him tested and I assure you he is.”

Mrs. Schmauder, “I gave him my own test and he got EVERY one right.”

Mom, “Jimmy, get over here!”

I reluctantly walked back to my Mom and Mrs. Schmauder. As I approached them, my mom continued the conversation:

“Did Mrs. Schmauder give you a test today?”

Me, “Yes.”

Mom, “And you got everything right?”

Me, “YES!” (I was really proud of my effort)

Mom, “Well how did you do it?”

Me, “I read the labels.”

So that was the last time someone questioned my color blindness. I receive random color tests from friends and new acquaintances, but none of those tests stuck with me like this one did. So the next time a 7 year old nails “aquamarine” and “turquoise blue” check to see if he is craning his neck to get a full view of the label.