Category: Colorblind Artist

Interviewing the Colorblind Artist

I was recently approached by a young artist by the name of Sarah who is drafting a paper on colorblindness. She asked if I would entertain her questions for her research paper. Honored, I replied with the following. Best of luck to you Sarah, and I hope you find your way back to the west coast.

1) How long did it take you [after you found out you were color blind] to accept it?
My acceptance came only a month after the acknowledgment of my colorblindness. I was participating at the Washington Boat Show in DC when everyone commented on the bright red carpet. I, however had no issues with the carpet as I saw it was a little more brown than red. A vendor at the show was selling sunglasses with a red tint to aid with colorblindness and I tried them on. I gazed with amazement at just how different my art appeared, let alone other things that I had trouble seeing. I was depressed for only about a month after the fact. My acceptance was based on the subjective nature of art. Who is to say my art is any better or worse than anyone else’s? Who is to say that what I see as beautiful is any more or less beautiful that what you see? It is all about the eye of the beholder, no?

2) When did you first feel okay/comfortable with it? (Do you?)
I absolutely feel comfortable with my colorblindness. As a matter of fact, I feel as if it is actually a blessing. It is easy for me to cope with my disability in my medium. Whenever you descend into the ocean, the first color to leave the light spectrum is red. So basically, what I see is what you would see if you were diving with me.

3) What did you first create or photograph with joy and pure creativity, regardless of your ‘disability’?
My all time favorite painting has to be Islamorada Setting. Not only do I have an emotional attachment to the piece, but everyone comments on how vivid the colors are. When I hear things like that I know that I have transcended my mild lack of color vision and created a more widely seen world.

4) You’ve obviously become a successful artist, especially for being color blind. What was it that wouldn’t allow you to quit, that kept you tied to your photography and art?
My overwhelming love of undersea life and creating something someone has never seen keeps me going.

5) What was the ‘worst’ experience you’ve had being color blind? The ‘best’?
Once when I was in elementary school the community was opening a new public pool. That summer my school had an art contest where we were invited to paint a picture of the pool and we could win season passes to the pool. My teacher hovered over me and sneered, “Pool water is blue, not purple. Can’t you tell the difference?” My answer was no, I am actually using a blue crayon, not purple. I rolled the crayon in my fingers to reveal the horrible truth. My masterpiece had been colored in PURPLE! Needless to say I didn’t win the passes, but I never gave my confusion of colors (purple and blue or green and yellow) a second thought until recently.

6) How do you feel about the color(s) you can’t see, or can’t see well?
At times, frustrated. It is very easy for me to create a piece of art or illustration that has some very offending colors. Oh yeah, and there was the time I purchased a purple truck, thinking it was royal blue. Man, was that royally embarrassing!

7) If – in a completely hypothetical universe, where everything is done right – there were somehow a cure for color blindness, or some treatment that would allow you to see red, would you take advantage of it or even be curious?
Absolutely not. This is who I am. This is what makes me. Sure I can’t fly an airplane or see some silly dots in a colorblind test, but my character is that much stronger because of it. I would hate to imagine a uniform universe where everyone sees the same thing.

The world though my eyes is my world and I never want to give that up. It will forever be mine.

Later in your scholastic endeavors, you will undoubtedly be asked by a professor to explain what your idea of reality is. He or she will ask if you think reality is based on matter, time, religion, happiness, science or even art. I don’t think the answer is that easy. Reality is a fourth dimension of perspective. While you best friend will base her reality on her strong religious beliefs, your other friend may base his on art. Yet another will stand firmly that reality is based on the tangible. However, I believe reality is based on all of those individual perspectives intersecting as a single understanding that there is no single understanding. What I see as art, as beauty, as ‘real’ is only once piece of the puzzle. And If my piece of the puzzle looks different than yours, thats cool. It still fits in that once particular spot on a greater level.

Colorblindness as an “In Joke”

I found an interesting t-shirt design from today that made me giggle. What I love about this shirt is that it spits in the face of colorblind artists like myself, taunting them that there is much more to see (even on a simple t-shirt website). Truth be told, I can’t read the shirt, but I am sure it says what it proclaims on the product page.

From a web design perspective, you may find it frustrating to compensate for a ‘disability’ (read about Mr.Lee’s unfortunate shopping experience at The frustration is that if you are not colorblind, you cannot tell what those folks can and cannot see. If you are a colorblind web designer you can’t tell that your color scheme clashes. Trust me, there have been plenty of times when I have placed two colors on the canvas that made non-colorblind people grasp their eyes in pain from the unnatural color combinations.

So the t-shirt is a great tool to help you cope with your ‘disability’. Wear it proudly. If someone asks you to take the inappropriate garment off, simply quip “I’m colorblind and see nothing wrong with this shirt”.

I say, f**k the colorblind! Myself inlocluded!

Colorblind Artist: What I See

I wanted to share some examples of what I see when I view my own art versus what a non-colorblind person might see. Since my eyes lack sufficient red cones, I do not see red or green very well. Being protanopic is something that I share with 10% of the male population and is considered a disability. However, I am still waiting on my handicap parking space. 😉

Read more about being a colorblind artist here.

Islamorada Setting





Tips for Colorblind Artists

Being a colorblind artist myself, I have arranged a series of tips that I find helpful when painting and dealing with my ‘disability’.

Embrace It

Yeah, get over it. The first instant that you find out that you are a colorblind artist, you might be angry or feel jaded. I know I did. I had always wondered why red lights at intersections were such a dull color. I actually confirmed that I was colorblind while at an art show. People were remarking on how beautiful the red and orange hues really popped out at them. I, however, didn’t see it that way. After that day I came to the conclusion that my art was a lie. My eyes were lying to me!

I tried to paint a little more red in my art to overcompensate, but that only netted very unrealistic results. Then I got over it. Colorblindness is who you are and how you see the world. Much like your artwork, it is how you ‘see’ the world.

The Trouble with Portraits

Portraits and colorblind artists do not usually mix. Especially if you cannot see red very well. Imagine painting a portrait for a customer only to hear them say “Grandma looks the way she did at her funeral. Why is she so pale?”

Not being able to see those cheery red cheeks in your customer’s photo of Grandma Jean doesn’t translate well when you control the color in a portrait. A good solution for this is to paint in black and white. It’s a classy twist that allows you to be a little more creative.

Make It Your Gimmick

When I show my art to a potential customer I explain to them that I am an ocean enthusiast. Protecting the ocean is one of my goals when I paint along with education, awareness, and helping other charities such as DAN and Breast Cancer Awareness funds. I also explain to them that everything I paint is how you would expect to see it underwater. Never will you find a creature out of its native ocean or breaking its behavior patter.

This statement pales in comparison to ‘oh yeah, I’m also colorblind’. Watching the amazement of a potential customer is always flattering and it is usually followed up with a statement on how I should call myself the Colorblind Artist. And yes, I have found some level of success with my disability. So in your artist statement or the next time you have an opportunity to talk to a customer about your art, throw them a curve and admit your colorblindness and educate them.

Lock, Load, and Label Your Pallet
If you are red-green colorblind like I am and you decide to paint blue and purple on the same canvas you will find it hard to discern the differences between the two colors. Fear not! The color’s name is printed on the tube!

Seriously though. If you cannot tell blue from purple or light green from yellow label your pallet. Use a Sharpie or pen to label the paint on your pallet so you know which paint is which. Eventually you will know exactly where that Cadmium Blue is and will allow you to avoid using Dioxazine Purple when you don’t mean to.

Educate Yourself and Others

Here is a quick run down of some colorblind triva.

  • Colorblindness is considered a disability.
  • Colorblind people should not fly airplanes as there is a colorblind test that can tell if you can see the red and green markers.
  • Not all colorblind people see just in black and white.
  • There are three types of colorblindness: Monochromacy, Dichromacy, and Anomalous trichromacy (which is split into three categories: protanopic, deuteranopic, tritanopic)
  • 10% of men are protanopic (red-green colorblind)
  • Colorblindness is hereditary, so blame your mom and dad.
  • While underwater the first hue to leave the spectrum is red. So when you are 20 meters underwater what a protanopic colorblind person would see is the exact same as what a non-colorblind person would see.

Top 10 Links for Colorblind Artists

10. Causes of Color
This site will explain the different types of colorblindness. It is a great starting point for people who have no idea how or why colorblindness occurs.

9. Color Vision Testing
Want to take a test to see if you are colorblind? Take a look! And beware of the crazy image in the upper right corner.

8. Color Helper Software
This is a fat client (installed on your PC) software app that will open a new window. Within that window you can select a color or color range and the software will help you identify those colors.

7. Sim Daltonism
Got a Mac? Sim Daltonism is a color blindness simulator for Mac OS X. It filters in real-time the area around the mouse pointer and displays the result — as seen by a color blind person — in a floating palette.

6. Design for the Colorblind
In keeping up with the W3C website accessibility standards, this site explains some things that you can do to ensure you site is colorblind friendly.

5. Interview with a Color Blind Artist – Royce Deans
This is a good read about a colorblind artist who overcame his ‘disability’ and actually hangs his art in McDonald’s restaurants. NSFW Warning: Nudes.

4. Colorblind Painting Experience Methodoly (.PDF)
This paper was authored by J. Giribet and talks about being a colorblind artist and techniques to ‘correct’ improper colorations in his art.

3. ColorBlindArtist @ Blogspot
This is a seldom updated blog, but has some quality posts about another colorblind artist. I encourage you to write the author and ask that they continue to contribute their knowledge.

2. Colblindor
Daniel Flück deserves big props for keeping people in the know about colorblindness. Not only does he blog about his disability, but also about technology and how it changes the colorblind topography.

This web filter is a great way to expose your audience to what they see vs. what you see. I have often launched my online shop with and without the filter to show people the difference.


Software That Helps Colorblind

Being a colorblind artist can be pretty frustrating. If you are an artist then you know how tough it is to paint the right color of flesh tone. Too much red and the person looks fake, too little red and the person looks like a stone cold corpse. Perhaps that is why I don’t paint people often, and when I do, I paint them in black and white.

Back when I first found I was colorblind I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that what I saw, what I painted, was not what most of the world saw. After several months of wearing my ‘rose colored glasses’ (my red-lens color correcting sunglasses) I started to resent the world I saw. Eventually I settled back into a sense of security in what I saw and accepted my sight as the truth to my minds eye. Forget everyone else. I’m happy with what I see. So there.

Enter eyePilot.

This software, available for both Mac and PC opens a window frame over your desktop and allows you to select certain colors onscreen and see like colors. For example, if you cannot see the difference between Dark Blue and Dark Purple then you could select either color and the software will show you the difference. This will not help you learn color, but may be helpful if you were viewing an intense color map from NOAA or a subway map of the Metro.

So how would you apply this to your art?

Well, to be honest, I haven’t found a way just yet. I suppose if I were painting a Mystery Wrasse or a Harlequin Tusk I could use the software to figure out if the colors I see are truly blue or purple.

Mystery Wrasse from Reef-Lilfe.comHarlequin Tusk from

Images curtsey of Travis Staut of

But to be honest, I really don’t give a damn to go though that much trouble. And to my amazement the people who appreciate my art don’t care either.

More on the Colorblind Artist

As most of you already know I found that I am a colorblind marine artist. I found this article on about colorblindness.

How do things look to colorblind people?
Color blindness is typically a genetic condition, and it is much more common in men than in women. Approximately one in 12 men has at least some color perception problems. Less common, acquired deficiencies stem from injury, disease, or the aging process. Also, although not called “color blindness,” when people age, their corneas typically turn yellowish, severely hampering their ability to see violet and blue colors.

How do things look?

Many people think anyone labeled as “colorblind” only sees black and white — like watching a black and white movie or television. This is a big misconception and not true. It is extremely rare to be totally color blind (monochromasy – complete absence of any color sensation). There are many different types and degrees of colorblindness – more correctly called color deficiencies.

People with normal cones and light sensitive pigment (trichromasy) are able to see all the different colors and subtle mixtures of them by using cones sensitive to one of three wavelength of light – red, green, and blue. A mild color deficiency is present when one or more of the three cones light sensitive pigments are not quite right and their peak sensitivity is shifted (anomalous trichromasy – includes protanomaly and deuteranomaly).

Read the full article here.

Colorblind Marine Artist?

Yes, you heard it right, I’m a colorblind marine artist. It came as a shock to me when I first found it out. I began wondering if the art I have created looks the same to everyone else as it does to me. Then I began contemplating whether to stop painting certain colors or not. I started looking at my art, and the world for that matter in a different light. Could it be that my eyes have been lying to me my entire life? I recall coloring a picture for a contest in grade school of the new community pool. The scene depicted an arial shot of the pool, full of kids splashing and having a great time. In fact, I actually drew wet footprints on the concrete of one kid who had to run to the bathroom! I thought it was pretty darn clever! My teacher, however, scoffed.
“You know, water isn’t purple!” she said.
Huh? Purple? You mean I spent all morning coloring my masterpiece, the one that was to win me and my friends season tickets to the new community pool, the COLOR PURPLE??!!
And so it begins. Both my love of the water and with art. For the next twenty years I couldn’t really tell the difference between blue and purple, or certain greens from brown, pink, grey, or yellow. I took an online colorblind test with my wife recently and found that I do infact see the world different from her.
If you are interested in seeing my art through my eyes, click here:
Colorblind Artist: What I See.