Interactive Color Seminar – Syllabus

Interactive Color Seminar – Exploring the science and art of color

San Francisco Art Institute: Fall 2012

Time, place: Tuesdays 7:30-10:15, SFAI Conference room

Instructors: Ulrika Andersson, Richard Brown

Reading: Vision and Art, the biology of Seeing by Margaret Livingstone

Additional readings as the class progresses.

This interdisciplinary course, co-taught by an artist and a scientist, will examine the central role of color in both science and art, and highlight the ways scientific and artistic experiments in color have complemented each other.  During the course of the class we will survey what color is, how our eyes and brains see color, cultural aspects of color, and the variety of ways artists use color in their work. The goals of this class are to enhance students’ literacy of color theory and technique, to develop their understanding of how both scientists and artists actively explore color, and to facilitate experimentation with color in students’ own work. Some time will also be devoted to technical demonstrations of methods and equipment such as lighting, optics, and simple electrical devices.

This class will meet 15 times, with 2 of these meetings offsite for field trips. Each class session will focus on one aspect of color and its meaning in science and art.  A typical class will include a lecture and demonstration, presentations of ways artists have used these phenomena in their work, and exploratory class exercises. At the end of each class a reading and a simple exercise will be distributed, and students are expected to have this completed by the start of the next class. Two or three larger assignments will also be part of the course. Grading will be based on assignments and class participation.

Attendance is crucial; students who do not attend class will not get a passing grade. If you will be late or cannot attend for a legit reason, email us and let us know.

Both instructors will be available for one-on-one meetings with students, just email us and we’ll set an appointment. 

Tentative outline of class topics:

Sept. 7thIntroduction and Overview - color is fundamental

  • Science and Art – two distinct ways to investigate color
  • Survey and discussion of students’ interests and goals.

Sept. 14th: Light and Color – the spectrum of color, complementary colors

  • Light Sources - sun, sky, varieties of artificial light
  • Sept. 21st Colored Matter- what gives things their colors
  • Colorants– pigments, dyes, glazes, fluorescence

Sept. 28th Color Systems and Spaces – ordering colors

Color and Language – Are there exactly 11 basic colors?

Oct. 5th Class moved to Friday Oct. 8th.

Field trip to Brian Gross Fine Art, 49 Geary St, 5th Floor. Meet us there at 12 noon. 

Oct. 12th Light and color in the eye – rods and cones

Rods and night vision – “At night, all cats are gray.”

Oct. 19th Color Vision – 3 types of cones provide our color vision

  • Color Vision Variations – colorblindness, animal color vision
  • Guest speaker TBA – Color science

Oct. 26th Context Effects – color contrast, assimilation, and constancy

  • Interaction of Colors – Chevreul, Albers,
  • Patterns of Colors – colored textures

Nov. 2nd Class moved to 12 noon.

  • Meet us at the entrance of the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon St.
  • Interactive exhibits on color.  

Nov. 9th Luminance – contrast, assimilation, and constancy

  • Shadows and Shading – Chevreul, Albers,
  • Black and White versus Color - to each its own
  • Guest speaker Nick Ackerman – Color choices in Art

Nov. 16th Surfaces and Illuminants – the yin and yang of color

  • Lighting Colors – achieving the desired effects
  • More kinds of color - luster, sparkle, gloss, etc.

Nov. 23rd Colors and Time – motion, flicker, afterimages

Color Illusions – the subjectivity of color.

Nov. 30th Color and Emotion – how do colors affect us?

  • Color and Culture – color meanings and fashions
  • (BAM trip for extra credit here??)

Dec. 7th Color reproduction – color processes and color gamuts

Digital Color – new color technologies

Dec.14th Last class: Movie and Popcorn Night.

We will watch and discuss snippets of film from directors who use color in important and distinctive ways, such as Greenaway, Argento, Jarman, and Bergman.