Happenings — Apr 17

Good morning — it’s still morning as I start this… and, apparently, still morning as I publish it.

Let me say up front that this post includes thumbnail summaries of five books on color. In a way this is risky: having said something about these books, I can delay putting them into the bibliography. Well, I’ll just have to aim you at this post when I mention these books in other posts.

I’ve done my usual stream of consciousness about mathematics this morning… and then my kid (my inner child) played with color.

The major applied mathematics in the evenings this week was: my taxes.

The minor applied mathematics, also in the evenings, was: color.

The bits and pieces last weekend were: projectile motion (in a vacuum and a flat earth)… color on my MacBook LCD monitor… answering a minor question I had about orbits… and I think I have a logic post at the beginning of stage IV — that is, I’m ready to write source for the blog. And, of course, I wrote and published the post about XYZ = color.

Last Saturday three books on color arrived… and the remaining two showed up Wednesday. I’ve looked through all five, for various values of “looked”.

I have to say — and you should not be surprised — that I can read books about color a whole lot faster than I can read books about mathematics. (Well, okay, I read mathematics pretty quickly if I already know it!)

The two that have grabbed most of my attention are:

  • Faber Birren’s “Creative Color”, ISBN 0-88740-096-5
  • Fairchild’s “Color Appearance Models”, ISBN 0-470-01216-1.

I got two other books by Faber Birren:

“Color Perception in Art” and “Principles of Color”. Both were cheaper (~$15) than “Creative Color” (~20) — but both of them are black and white texts with about 10 color plates at the back.

To summarize them very briefly….

“Color Perception in Art” (63 pages plus 9 color plates) has a very short history of art, introduction to perception, and achieving such effects as iridescence and luminance with paint.

“Principles of Color” (96 pages, including 8 color plates) describes the history of color circles, color harmony, and focuses on tint-tone-shade.

“Creative Color” (128 pages) has two parts. Part one describes color circles, tint-tone-shade, and color harmony. Part two describes achieving iridescence and luminance with paint. Generally speaking, it has more specific information about color harmony than I have seen elsewhere.

In other words, the historical material in the two shorter books complements the more detailed color theory in the larger book, “Creative Color”; but the larger book probably contains everything about color per se that can be found in the two smaller books. While I do not regret buying the two smaller books — I know, that’s not informative, since I rarely regret buying a book… but it has been known to happen — I personally will be focusing on the larger book for Birren’s color theory.

Fairchild’s “Color Appearance Models” is everything I hoped it would be. That is to say, of course, that it has plenty of equations! (What is chroma? Well, choose your color model, and find the equation defining it!) If you’re curious, go take a look at its table of contents on Amazon.

I’ve already started playing with the models in Fairchild. Yummy.

The fifth book was: Kuehni & Schwarz’ “Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Order Systems from Antiquity to the Present”. It looks like a most excellent reference book.

No, it doesn’t have the complete equations for computing CIE La*b* — and there’s no real reason why it should, they are available in plenty of other sources… but it does, for example, have more information (than Birren) about (Ostwald’s) quantitative specification of tint-tone-shade. That, in fact, is probably something I will be playing with later today.

I have to admit that I would rather play with color right now than with “real” applied mathematics. Well, I get to do what I want.


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