The Color Yellow

Author: JORDAN CHAN Indian yellow painted swatch

For the past week, I’ve been craving McDonald’s famous fries. There’s just something about the golden yellow crisps of fluffy potatoes that never disappoints. It’s an experience none of us should be unfamiliar with. I’ve even heard of a time when they were better—unhealthier, but exponentially more divine.

I’ve also been craving the sweet, warm rays of the source of our planet’s vitality. The crepuscular rays cannot mature into full sunlight soon enough. The warm beams of sunshine never cease to ring in happiness, and believe me, Seattle could use every bit of it.

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh

The yellow pigment is an interesting color. Vincent Van Gogh, who was rumored to be colorblind, was known for his innovative use of colors, but more interestingly his yellows. They seemed to always be a little off, but still beautiful within the color palettes he used. His arsenal was dictated by his alleged protanopia, which renders an individual unable to see reds. Vision expert Kazunori Asad, Ph.D., has created an app called the Chromatic Vision Stimulator, which shows people who are not colorblind what colorblind people see. You can tell from the above images that one of the Sunflower paintings looks more natural and vibrant, while the other is more muted. Both equally beautiful, the image on the right is the one Van Gogh produced, while the image on the left is how an individual with protanopia sees Van Gogh’s painting.

British landscape painter Joseph Mallord William Turner was another notable yellow pigment enthusiast. Well, enthusiastic might be an understatement. He regularly used a color called Indian Yellow in his watercolor paintings, which was a very rich, royal yellow. As a landscape painter, it gave definition to and made sunsets and fires the focal point of his paintings.

Caernarvon Castle by J.M.W. Turner

If you felt a sense of familiarity when you saw this tone of yellow in Caernarvon Castle, you’re not wrong. That’s because this hue of water color comes from the urine of cows whose diet consisted of mango leaves and water. But this practice was banned in the beginning of the twentieth century because of how malnourished the cows were. And for all the artists, don’t worry; just because you don’t use animal urine to paint, that doesn’t make you are any less dedicated to your craft.

The joyful hues of the color yellow are a great mystery. How could such an ordinary color have such an effect? In design, yellow is often employed for its ability to extort happiness. It is also the most visible color on the spectrum. Fast food restaurants, especially, know this. You’ll notice most (successful) fast food restaurants use yellow in their branding. Food packaging is often yellow too, because you know what they say, happy customer happy life (I did not make that up). Coupled with red, it has even been called the Ketchup and Mustard theory. The psychological effects of red include comfort, warmth, and stimulation, which makes sense for a food-serving establishment.

Alas, in my search for happiness I’ve come across the color that could do it all. My only qualm, however, is that it has been found that babies cry most in yellow rooms. Some people are dog people, and some people are cat people. As a baby person, this does not sit right with me.  Moving on, hopefully I bring a bit of sunshine to Seattle with this article. Or at least remind you of and get you all ready for the spring days ahead that are going to be waaaay better. And if you can’t wait, paint a wall in your room yellow for the same results. Find your own happiness, am I right?


JORDAN CHAN | I am yellow but not yellow | KXSU Arts Reporter

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