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.