One time I had the great fortune to have temporary job as an assistant Architectural spec. writer. While most people might poke out their eyes having to format endless technical specifications in a legal framework, I enjoyed the OCD nature of it. But mostly I enjoyed the company of my temporary boss, Miss Lotte Eskilsson, a sweet and bookish lady approaching her golden years.
On one particular day Miss Eskilsson got quite uncharacteristically fired up when I happened to mention primary colors. Excited and irritated, she took down a book from her shelves about Swedish color theory while railing on about how there are NOT three primary colors, but four! And then she went on a little rant about how limiting our non-Scandinavian color triad was…
Yesterday, while mixing colors for my first acrylic painting ever (which was worthy of the garbage can because painting with acrylics is like painting with GLUE and that pre-mixing the colors on the palette is better than blending on the canvas and that I’d do much better making thin glazes out of the stuff) that I remembered there were alternate color-mixing theories. While I can see the future merits of its fast-drying properties for texture and abstractions, right now I lack the confidence and skill, so I’m going to go get oils as soon as possible – only I saw canvas but no stretchers, or canvas boards, so until I figure that out I might have to paint on masonite (which is super-cheap here)
So the three primary colors of the system we’re used to is chromatic and based on the subtraction or addition of light, while the four primary colors in the Swedish Natural Color System (NCS) include green, and they are based on the way in which the cones in our eyes perceive hue, as opposing waves. It turns out that this system is not only scientifically calculable, easy to catalog, and creates a really pleasing palette of subtle hue relationships that can be relied upon for digital media and reproduction.
Nothing that a painter couldn’t approximate with the normal color wheel, but the theory of the NCS color wheel with its opposing wavelength complementary colors could be called upon when mixing shadows, etc. in a less haphazard and more precise fashion.
If you like geeking out on this kind of thing, you can read in-depth about it and more at this website called handprint. I need to read it several more times, as it’s pretty technical and I don’t really have a grasp of it.
Wish I had Lotte’s book! And a Daniel Smith art store…