“...the teacher yelled at me for painting the sun green.”
September 5, 2019 5:36 AM   Subscribe

How A Colorblind Artist Makes Magic Cards & Video Games [Kotaku] “Paul Scott Canavan is one of the best artists working in entertainment today, with a list of clients and employers ranging from Wizards of the Coast to Valve to Games Workshop. He also used to be an art director at Axis Animation, a company responsible for cinematic video game trailers and intros. So if you’ve ever played Magic, or Destiny, or League of Legends, you’ll likely have seen something he’s worked on. Canavan is also colorblind, and shared the news of his condition recently on Twitter, to the shock and amazement of peers who had no idea. Which was kind of the point; he’d decided that it was time to show that, hey, despite whatever superficial hangups others might have about a colorblind person working as an artist, it actually wasn’t an obstacle to pursuing a successful career in the field.”

• A Colorblind Artist? Yes, With a Little Help From His Friends [The New York Times]
“Early in my career I kept it secret because I was worried that it would hurt my ability to get hired. If an art director or editor knew I was colorblind, would they want to work with me? I also just didn’t want to call attention to myself, when people have overcome far greater odds than mine. I think of it as an “obstacle” as opposed to a “disability.” I was 14 and I’d started having a hard time seeing the chalk board at school. My mom took me to the optometrist. He found a little bit of nearsightedness. But he also gave me something I’ve now learned is called the Ishihara color test. As we were leaving he said, “By the way, Mrs. Long, did you know your son is colorblind?””
• For One Artist, Colorblindness Opened Up A World Of Black And White [NPR]
“Marmor says that, like Milton, most artists who found out they were colorblind just switched to printmaking or sculpture. And Milton says his diagnosis kind of took a weight off his shoulders: "I don't miss color. It helps to have a disability — I use that word; it's a strong word — but it helps to have a disability, because when you can do anything, which of all the things you can do are you gonna choose? So something has to help you make the choice." Or, as Degas put it, "I am convinced that these differences in vision are of no importance. One sees as one wishes to see. It's false, and it is that falsity that constitutes art."”
• Confessions of a Color Blind Tattoo Artist [Inked Mag]
“After self-learning tattooing, from how to put the needle in the tube, to the difference between a round liner and a curved mag, he had eventually moved to Artisanal Tattoo in Somerville, New Jersey. However, it took a long time of faking his color vision before he got there. Even to his friends. “I kept my color blindness a secret for about a year after getting my foot in the door,” Springer said. “I knew that if I brought up that I was color blind, every shop owner would look at me and say, ‘ummm you can’t makes us money, get outta here.’” By killing every black and grey tattoo that came his way, Springer built the confidence he needed to break free of those color blind chains.”
posted by Fizz (10 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I teach a graphic design course, and one of my students is colourblind. He has been (very generously) sharing his working process with his fellow students, explaining how he compensates. I showed him this article and he said "that's exactly like me!" Apparently he used to have teachers reprimanded him because he could not see the lines on school exercise books.
posted by Zumbador at 6:02 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

No less a color personage than "Top Crayon Maker" for Crayola, Emerson Moser, is colorblind!

Sounds like it was relatively mild, but seriously. Crayola employee in charge of making crayons correctly.

Definitely doable to be in a visual job while colorblind. Doubly so if you can check colors with an eye-dropper tool in a graphics program. Heck, there's probably an app for that.

If you search "bought my friend colorblind glasses" (alternately: EnChroma glasses) on your favorite video site, you'll see a lot of heartwarming footage of people differentiating colors for the first time in their life. Those glasses are a whole post unto themselves!
posted by wires at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you've ever watched Star Trek: The Animated Series, you may have wondered why the tribbles in the episode "More Tribbles, More Troubles" are a uniform shade of pink, instead of the more naturalistic browns of their live-action appearance. This can be laid at the feet of the late Hal Sutherland, a director for Filmation, who was responsible for color selection despite being colorblind. Other Filmation staff usually caught his more egregious errors, but sometimes things slipped through the cracks, and by the time it was realized that the tribbles were not actually light brown, as Sutherland believed, it was too late.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:55 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am (very mildly) colorblind. My medium is photography, though I do it for fun, not to make money.

As a young booger, I always seemed to get muted colors wrong. Luckily, Photoshop had that eyedropper tool, so I could find out what the RGB values were on various things.

I am a big fan of Dan Margulis's Picture Postcard workflow, which uses the eyedropper extensively, to get the colors of various things within specific relationships to each other. Working in LAB color gives me a framework to play in: skintones should be in this range, plant greens should be this much green and this much yellow, etc.
posted by notsnot at 6:59 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Peter de Sève, too.
posted by the_blizz at 7:22 AM on September 5, 2019

I love that story, Faint of Butt. I'm surprised Hal didn't have the colors labeled by their Pantone matching system. I bet they did something like that after!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:19 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I can't access the article at work, but this seems like the kind of constraint that might actually be helpful for some artists, by encouraging them to focus more closely on line, proportion, etc.
posted by praemunire at 8:48 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is so interesting to me. I am color blind but wasn’t diagnosed until adult hood when I struggled in a microbiology class where I had to tell the difference between cells on a slide stained a subtle orange and cells stained a subtle purple (H and E stain). At my next doctor visit I had them do those Ishihara tests and I just couldn’t see *any* of the figures. Apparently, the pediatrician told my mother about this when I was very young but told her not to worry about it and it really never caused any problems, I could always pick the red crayon for the fire engine and the yellow one for the sun.

At the same time, I’ve always been very non-visually oriented. Can’t draw or sketch to save my life, visual art fails to move me. I can not navigate an iPad or smart phone by icon, I have to read the names of the apps.

I’ve always connected my brain’s apparent lack of interest in visual stimulus with my color blindness. Like maybe if the world were more vivid that part of my occipital lobe would have grown more or something.

That there can be successful colorblind visual artists is interesting to me. Maybe I actually have some kind of visual agnosia.

Brains are weird.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:54 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had to have heard about Arthur Heming here at Metafilter. He was a colorblind artist who painted in black, white and yellow, and his work is striking.
posted by acrasis at 4:23 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

My dad was a professional illustrator who worked for plenty of magazines, such as the New York Times, etc. When he was studying at Pratt Institute he was tested and found out he was color blind. He thought it was the end of his career. He didn't tell anyone, labeled his colors, and aside from the occasional embarrassing snafu it didn't impact his career. In fact, he was often complimented on his color choices. His color blindness is pretty bad. He would color someone's skin green without realizing it.

Later on he developed tremors. He re-invented his drawing style to incorporate them. I think his previous experience overcoming the hurdle of his color blindness helped him.

Actually, now that I think about it, his ability to draw sort came from illness. He came down with scarlet fever as a kid and learned to draw while in the hospital.

It was fun having a dad that was an illustrator. He would draw all the time. He drew the people on the subway across from us as I watched and laughed. When we watched T.V. he would draw the television set! He has a whole series of just television sets!
posted by xammerboy at 8:50 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

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