Eventually I had to accept this non-intuitive truth: a color’s triplet of coordinates would nail it down. (I know now that there are several such systems, but I still prefer Ostwald’s.) What that signified to me, then, was almost miraculous: Each color has just three ingredients. According to Ostwald these were hue, white and black.
(Note: Color—anything that comes in a giant box of crayons, and more: white, gray, brown, bright blue, black. If you can see it, it is a color.
Hue—a color on the standard color wheel, or on Playskool blocks (do they still make those?). If a crayon says red, or yellow, that’s a hue.)
Since I had trained myself to distinguish the hue of any color, I decided I would begin the pursuit of a color mix with its hue, acquired by combining the paint-tube hues nearest the desired hue on the color wheel. For example if I wanted to match a brown whose hue I had discerned was red-orange, I mixed red and orange to attain the hue I saw in the brown.
In my work at Rowe, I had many opportunities to practice with colors. Our studio was in a little building on a hill above the plant. After choosing or matching a color I made a trip down the hill to the paint line or the silkscreen line, past great machines by which men cut and bent huge sheets of steel into shapes that other men then placed into large spot welders to make several attachments at once. The wrists of each worker were connected to his machine by cables, and every time the upper part of his machine came crashing down the cables yanked his hands out of the way. It was a loud place of pounding and sparks and the smell of oil and hot metal.
After approving or reconsidering the colors at the paint line I passed again among the shapers and assemblers to our quiet little studio. I found it very upsetting to think of those men tied to their behemoths all day.
Next installment: Color Harmonies