van gogh laws of color

Happy Birthday Day Van Gogh: The Laws of Color

Most people, and many artists, don’t know what Van Gogh meant when he said in a letter to his brother:

“I am completely absorbed in the laws of colour. If only they had taught us them in our youth.”

“For, that the laws of colour which Delacroix was the first to use, like Newton did for gravitation, and like Stephenson did for steam – that those laws of colours are a ray of light – is absolutely certain.”

Happy Birthday Van Gogh from Gabe Colors on Vimeo.

He is not referring to an abstract appreciation for color, but rather the hard facts of how we as humans see. The organic innate way optics work which, when understood, can be leveraged to create stunning visual effects. For example, the appearance of a color is always dependent on the context in which it appears.

Literally a grey solid will appear slightly magenta if surrounded by magenta’s complementary color green.

In this video example from Huedoku Pix, the four colors in the corner blend to create all of the color swatches. The single squares of color appear to take on a glow– at the edge, where one color borders another, it will appear to take on aspects of the surrounding color.

Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853.