Part 2, project 3, exercise 2: Colour relationships – successive contrast

Updated on 27 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

16 May 2016. When writing my last post I came across an old but well-written website on colour relationships, and by coincidence found it would be a very good addition to this exercise as well (Perron, n.d.). If you go to that page, scroll right down to the bright yellow caution sign, stare at it for a while, then shift your gaze to the white area to the right of it, the violet complementary field will appear and stay for a while. What I also think I can see at the same time is another, though much weaker, yellow field above and in response to the violet, but this may be an optical illusion. The effect of such successive contrast on the perception of other colours can also be seen in an example (Miyapuram, 2008), where the staring at the red and green pair of discs will influence the perception of the identical yellow pait of discs below. For a while the yellow discs will appear as if their hues were different, because each is modulated by the respective complementary after-image of the pair above. The effect is transient, however, and will need to be “reloaded” after fading. Following instructions in the study guide I painted a square using my most vivid pigment, again primary yellow. After the brightness of the computer-generated examples of yellow this colour is much softer on the eye, but works just as well (Fig. 1):

1_Yellow_square_16052016
Figure 1. Investigating successive contrast. Complementary violet appears right of the yellow square on gaze shift.

I find it extremely hard to focus my gaze (getting distracted by all the things going on around the point of interest) and so most of my complementary colour experience is random, but by being attentive, the effect is noticeable in a great number of everyday situations. To me, a never-failing fascinating experience is the accidental looking into a bright light bulb. While the eye recovers from the shock, the complementary after-image appears with a visible filament.
Thinking about the effect successive contrast has in paintings I think it is necessary to carefully consider the relative positions of the colours influencing each other. The whole idea makes my head swim with images and after-images and I know that I need to learn stepwise by vigilance and spending a lot of time experimenting.

Resources:

  1. Perron, C. (n.d.) Colour Choices on Web Pages: Contrast vs Readability [online]. Carin Perron Colour Theory and Practice. Available at: http://www.writer2001.com/colwebcontrast.htm [Accessed 16 May 2016]
  2. Miyapuram, K.P. (2008) Successice contrast [online image]. K. P. Miyapuram. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrast_effect#/media/File:Successive_contrast.svg [Accessed 16 May 2016]
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