A Color Voyage Includes French Pastry & Oysters

“Even the pastries were intensely colorful,” says Prof. Jada Schumacher, “so were the window displays, stain glass lettering, cobblestones, oysters next to lemons and limes, the fabric and grosgrain ribbons, clothing in the Marais district, the flowers and leaf colors.”

They are just a few vibrant details from A Color Voyage study abroad class in Paris and the South of France, where students become immersed in color, its creative legacy, historical and contemporary applications.

Monet’s water lily gardens at Giverny.

“Students cross-pollinate and share ideas about color and light from different fields of study,”  says Communication Design Pathways professor Jada Schumacher who designed the course, which is open to students college-wide.

A visit to Monet’s water lily gardens at Giverny made for stunning vistas.

“Students love that they’ve seen these paintings so many times but hadn’t understood the cropping and scales. You see that it’s the only way possible to frame a painting in this space because it’s so full and lush and overgrown.”

Monet’s predilections make more sense. “He had the garden staff wipe off the leaves so that they reflected light well when he painted,” says Prof. Schumacher.

Touring the Gobelins Factory, the still functioning French national tapestry factory from 17th century.
Gobelins Factory

Students toured the Gobelins Factory, the still-functioning French national tapestry factory from 17th century.

“Michel Eugène Chevreul, a color theorist and chemist from the early 1800s worked at the Factory. He coined the term “simultaneous contrast,” a basic term in color theory. “It refers to how colors are perceived differently when they are next to each other, which create challenges for artists and designers, and merchandisers,” says Prof. Schumacher.

Students were “dazzled” inside the former limestone quarries, which are now light projection spaces at Carrières de Lumières (quarries of light).

Carrières de Lumières

“Motifs from 1960s pop and classical paintings provide a wrap-around experience to the space. Along with the power of music it provides an immersive experience,” says Prof. Schumacher.

The Museum at FIT has incorporated Prof. Schumacher’s students’ work into the current Museum’s current exhibition “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color.”

Analyzing colors in St. Tropez

“In France students used images and online resources in researching topics related to the exhibition. Then they explored the cities, going on pink photography expeditions to hunt and capture images that reveal interesting, intentional, and notable uses of the color pink,” says Prof. Schumacher.

“It was an incredible color adventure!” she says.

For more information about upcoming study abroad programs, please go to Study Abroad FIT 

Photos: Jada Schumacher

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2 Responses to A Color Voyage Includes French Pastry & Oysters

  1. Michelle says:

    Would the simultaneous contrast theory be the cause of that illusion a few years ago in 2015 where by people wear seeing different colors in the blue and gold dress?

  2. Rachel Ellner says:

    From Professor Jada Schmucher:

    “That is a great question. Simultaneous contrast will always affect perception of colors, so, yes, it plays a part in viewing colors in relation to each other. But, simultaneous contrast is not the main reason the viral dress image colors can be “seen” (in actuality “perceived”) differently.

    The differing interpretations of the viral dress image can be attributed to other phenomena associated with color: color constancy and metamerism. (In addition, a physical difference in individual eyes can also shift the color perception. For example, people with cataracts tend to see things with a more yellowish hue.)

    In reality, the brain sees color, not the eyes. The eyes are just a tool, like a ruler or a pair of pliers in a toolbox. When the brain receives color information, it processes this information based on evolutionarily-learned viewing of objects in different lighting conditions. For example, when you see a white boat on the water at dusk, you know the boat is white. But, if you were to really look at the perceived color at the time, the boat, from your view, will likely be comprised of blues and greys from the shadows and from the reflections of the water. Your eyes know the boat is a white-painted boat seen in dusk lighting, and, therefore, you would say that it is a white boat. This color judgment is a split-second decision made by the brain in processing color information sent to it from the eyes. This can be called color constancy – a white seems white (but does not currently look white in reality) because of the viewing context.

    Also at play on a more minor level is metamerism, the way colors can often not look the same in different lighting conditions. Two blues may match when in the showroom at a furniture store, but, upon arriving home, the consumer sees that the blues do not match in their sun-drenched loft space. This is because the showroom floor was not lit with natural light (but likely with halogen, incandescent, or fluorescent light).

    As previously mentioned, the brain processes the incoming color information from the eyes and comes to a judgment using the information provided. In the viral dress image, the brain is accounting for the change in color perception with the lighting condition and is taking the presumed lighting condition into account when making the color decision. It seems that this photograph captures a scene that can easily be processed by the brain to assume one of two different lighting conditions. Therefore, some people, with the brain assuming one lighting condition, come to the conclusion that the dress is blue and black while others assume a different lighting condition and come to the conclusion that the dress is white and gold. When viewed at the Scottish wedding, the viewers have the full 360 degree surround to understand the lighting conditions. It is likely that wedding guests with typically normal color vision thought that the color of the dress was blue and black (the actual, or “local,” colors). People looking at the photograph have a cropped, limited view of the lighting context, and their brains can come to different conclusions with the limited information.

    With these two phenomena at play – color constancy and metamerism, this wonderful viral dress image highlights an unusual (and fascinating) moment that illustrates how color is “seen” by the brain, not the eyes.

    For a description of the viral dress image described by a neuro-ophthalmologist and others, you can visit https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/science/blue-or-white-dress-why-we-see-colours-differently.aspx.

    Thanks for asking. As a color professor, it is always a delight when color (such as color perception or color litigation, for example) becomes the topic of a public debate!”

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