Colour is a fascinating, elementary aspect of our everyday life. We take it for granted, so much like sleep or water. It is essential, yet we disregard it most of the time. It’s whirring in the back of our minds, while we concentrate on more pressing matters...
I’m colourblind and I have just read out the beginning of my lector’s introduction to colour. Truly, I have no idea what this ethereal matter is. Red and blue are the most important colours of all to me. They follow love as well as death. They share the richness of the blood, yet have a fervent, silky feeling to them. They are as hot as lava, mesmerizing like fire. Other colours are just a dissatisfying, vague fog in front of my eyes, similar tonality, grey and not as striking and rich as the former ones. Green, blue, red, yellow - to me they serve like code names for something supernatural, a metaphysical essence that eludes my mind away from me, like a proton of light that never reaches the deep sea bottom.
However, it’s not all that bad. It’s a blessing, it’s a curse, as my parents used to say a long time ago. They taught me to look on every aspect of my life from an advantageous point of view; to find the good in the bad. I never understood this when I was a child, never appreciated their constant concerns and preachings. Oh, the preaching never ended. Day by day, I was brainwashed by my father - a straight-up fundamentalist who never doubted his beliefs, who always followed his principles - into doing the so-called ‘good’ in my future life, to become a man of honour. After all, he lived during the Soviet era and was greatly honed by it, the time when every man had a chance to give something back to their country.
Every time I came home, he would quietly, sternly state where I was to put my shoes, where to hang my coat and how to close the door behind me when I walked into the dining room. Of course, I knew all of this by heart, but, as you might expect, I never completely followed his advice and dictations during my turbulent, tenacious adolescent years that gripped my body and mind by the throat, transforming, moulding my character, never completely letting go until I grew of age. It was a time of change and I could not do much about it.
My mother, on the other hand, had a very different approach towards me, she knew how to control my difficult temperament and mitigate the upcoming pandemoniums and scandals that happened almost every fortnight between me and my father; her soothing, soft tone and the care that she diligently expressed towards me was highly comforting and worked wonders many times. Every time I came home after school, the dinner was waiting for me by the table, a big bowl of hot borscht and a loaf of bread beside it. Every time I came rushing home from an evening spent with friends, food was on the table in the kitchen, eagerly lying there, waiting for my return. Food was always on the table, yet I never questioned the reason why it was there at all. I took this for granted. It was something I grew up with and now I understand that it is over, I sorely miss such attention and care. It will never be the same.
Looking back, I realise that I had not a worry in the world, I did no chores around the house and was free from any kind of work. I guess it was because I was ‘unique’, after I was diagnosed with monochromacy at the age of eight; I couldn’t distinguish the difference between the red and blue test tubes during chemistry, which lead to rather unwanted results after I poured the wrong tube down a flask. You should have seen my disappointment when I realised that I was colourblind; to miss out on something so fundamental, so basic, something that everybody has and lives with is probably one of the most disturbingly scary, distressing feelings in the world.
Ironically, I kept myself busy with drawing. I constantly drew and, since the age of four, I knew that I wanted to become an artist more than anything else in the world. Only my mother appreciated my efforts, as I got the colours wrong all the time: “The duck is very red, why is its nose green?", or “It’s not blue, it’s pink!" - these types of replies were the most common when people looked at my drawings. One trait that most lacked when it came to the art of drawing was imagination and the determination to make it work. I was proactive and came up with strange, morbid, yet fascinating ideas that no-one would have thought of in the first place, as most presumed that it “wouldn’t work". I had developed my own style and the lack of appreciation of colours helped me in many ways to create work that was quite eccentric and unique.
Another aspect that always harmed my inner artist was the fact that the subject was not ‘academic’ enough for my father. After all, my parents were people who lived through generations of scientists and were used to the straight, down-to-earth, hard and narrow road of numbers, formulae and hypotheses. Or that’s how I see it; science is an art that I cannot understand just as much as I cannot understand colour, as I have never been good with numbers. But I’m an exception, I’ll define the new generation, being full of ideas that blurt out of me like goo that comes rushing out of a toothpaste tube when someone jumps upon it.
The road to the university was a burden, as seldom did I even get an interview, when the administration officers looked at my condition. I was just a cross on a piece of paper for them - like a faulty piece of furniture ticked off for recycling or incineration.
Eventually, I had my share of luck - I found a professor of arts during an open day at one of the universities. I was eager to show some of my work to him in my notebook that I carried with me all the time, and he liked it. He gave me the pass. I was to be an artist with a qualification, after all.
I’m carefully listening to the professor’s lecture, trying to get to grips with the technical terms. But that’s not what matters; colour is something that I can feel, not only see. To have the ability to feel is very important, as many who boast to have good eye vision would not be able to carefully relate one tone to another, to make them work, to cause the piece to be exciting and captivating, so a passer-by would take a moment to look at it and wonder, “how on earth did he make it work?".
$root - whoami curious colourblind
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