Donations are essential to keep Write Out Loud going    

Considering Colour

The types of radiation which make up

The electromagnetic spectrum are -

In ascending order of wavelengths short to long -

Gamma rays, x-rays, ultra violet rays,


Infra-red radiation and radio waves.


Only the Light Spectrum  is humanly visible.

It permits seven basic colours to our underdeveloped eyes -

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet –


Or the Pigment Spectrum.

Let us be clear here: Colour per se does not exist:

It is illusion –a visual sensation separated out of white light

By the particular ability of any given particle of matter

To absorb all the colour rays except one

Which is then reflected into our eyes

As a recognized Hue– with its endlessly varied

Tints, Shades and Blends.


Complete confusion about colour crops up constantly

Between the Light Spectrum of Science

And the Rainbow Wheel making the Pigment Spectrum.

Scientifically, the three Primary Colours are

Red, Green and Blue … True.

If a red, green and blue light focus on a white screen

The Venn overlap is WHITE! Right!

Simply amazing - the stuff of alchemy.

Red and Green mixed is Yellow,

Red and Blue is Magenta,

Blue and Green is Cyan.

Yellow, Magenta and Cyan are the Secondary Colours.

This is the world of your print cartridge.


But,  if you want to paint a picture

To express what you think you see –

Fruit, flowers, people, panoramas -

The Primary Colours come from the rainbow:

Red, Yellow and Blue. 

Messing around in childish glee,

Up to their elbows in finger paint,

Kids will soon sort out the Secondary Colours.

Yellow and Red make vibrant Orange;

Yellow and Blue bright Green;

Red and Blue a plummy Purple.

Besides smushing all the colours together

Into a thick, dark brownish glue,

Some curious ones may find the Colour Complements too.

These colours neutralize each other into Values of Grey

Eventually making almost Black,

But never quite getting there,

Because Black is the total absorption of light,

A state impossible to achieve with tempera.

(Tell THAT to a frazzled parent or lip-bit teacher

Supervising the first mucky handprint on a tea towel!)

This Complement-combining reduces the Intensity

So that your eyeballs don’t feel ‘brightness’ attacked.

The Basic Complements are Violet and Yellow,

Red and Green,  Orange and Blue.

Variations of  mixes are incalculable,

Never to be duplicated unless measured to the molecule.


So -  all colour in Nature is a kind of eye magic

And the illusion is  each person’s interpretation.

As we stand together, at the same time,

Viewing  the sky or the sea, a rose or a  rock,

Do you and I see the same colour?


To muddle the whole idea just a tad more,

The effect of hues on our moods and emotions,

Our actions and reactions, on our very self-esteem,

Is called The Science of Colour.

Preferences of colour are supposed to reveal our personalities,

Our deep inner conflicts with ‘mice and men’.

Big Business flogs this influence remorselessly,

And we, like sheep, are hooked and  corralled.


Like most good topics , this could branch out endlessly.

But here I do quit, swallowing back a thousand lines.

Seriously though, one final point:

Even after ‘considering colour’ so superficially,

I cannot fathom the notion that God and Science are contradictory.              


God and Science

◄ O Sweet Confusion

Glamorous Exercises ►


<Deleted User> (6315)

Thu 29th Sep 2011 18:37

I like the fact you have stayed true to your own colour Cynthia..I for one was captured :)

Profile image

David Cooke

Thu 8th Sep 2011 10:16

Just caught up with this one Cynthia. A fascinating read. I like poetry that is 'scientific' in tone and full of facts.

Profile image

Cynthia Buell Thomas

Sat 3rd Sep 2011 10:47

Harry, your comment on 'Considering Colour' is excellent, and I fully take your point. My aim was to steer completely clear of poetic 'values/imagery' and write something which bends the cold scientific terms into a versed/turned form full of cadence, out of the paragraph/caption genre into a more friendly eye-structure. Textbooks can be very intimidating. I'm still quite pleased with the effort; the facts might actually be remembered. THUS SPAKE CYNTHIA! Hahahaha.

Profile image

Harry O'Neill

Fri 2nd Sep 2011 22:25

Hello Cynth
Thanks for Twice Bless`d

Thinking on this:
Lots of the discoveries of science are marvellous (genes etc;) but we`ve all got so used to praising them in the terms the scientists use that they read dully. Alan Morrison in his poem `Aloneness` gives a description of `a hand` which approaches a wondering, poetic way of telling (and using)a scientific truth. Both poetry - and science - would benefit if we could do more of it.

Profile image

Cynthia Buell Thomas

Mon 29th Aug 2011 14:55

I thought I would be embarrassed by rereading this today; but - I'm NOT! It's actually very interesting, and I like it.

Philipos, I sent you a 'personal' reply. Thanks for reading.


Sun 28th Aug 2011 22:42

Hi Cynthia, this is quite an essay on colours were you motivated to write this in the light of a recent TV programme which focused on the topic?

Language was found to be an interesting starting point remembering that some tongues failed to identify certain colours though others could.

I seem to remember when studying aspects of colour in yesteryear that some African tribes had over a dozen descriptive words for different shades of brown.

Your poem certainly left few stones unturned. Well done.

Profile image

Cynthia Buell Thomas

Fri 26th Aug 2011 16:32

This bombed in Sale - my own bad judgment. But I can't let it go yet. Should I have got the message?

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message