If you want luminosity – paint with light!

Remember the color wheel? With primary, secondary, tertiary colors? The complementary colors are the ones that are located opposite of each other. The most basic complementary colors are red vs. green, orange vs. blue, and yellow vs. purple. If you mix one color with its complementary color, you will be left with a murky, brownish or grayish color that is difficult to define. Daylight, of course, contains all the colors of the spectrum, and our human eyes can differentiate between an estimated 10 million colors. Although we may not usually give this much thought, the fact that we’re surrounded by millions of colors is what gives any outdoors experience the uplifting, luminous quality that is so difficult to duplicate indoors. Humans thrive on natural light, in fact, it is well documented that the absence of it affects our health adversely. In France, it is reportedly illegal to force people to work away from a source of daylight – it is that important! Americans should only be so lucky… Then again, since we treat health care a business opportunity here (as opposed to a basic human right over there), I suppose we need to create a demand for their services – sigh… But – I digress…

“White” and “black” are not considered colors – rather black is the absence of light and, white light, as mentioned above, represents all colors. Painters often ban black pigment from their palettes altogether, as mixing in black or gray pigment effectively and visibly dulls the luminosity and clarity of the hues. Instead, they understand that they can modulate the brightness and saturation of any color by using its complement’s inherent ability to achieve a similar result – without killing its light. Pretty cool, huh?

So, where exactly am I going with this? Well, I visited the Powell Paint Center today, and learned about a new line of paints they are carrying – Donald Kaufman Color. Originally a painter, Donald Kaufman is the reigning Grand Master of architectural color. For the last 35 years, he and his wife and partner Taffy Dahl, have been working closely with the country’s best and most well known starchitectural talents in developing custom palettes to celebrate and enhance their works. A self-described “….middleman between architects and designers and paint color”, they have developed a line of paint colors that bring the painterly aspects of light to the rest of us. As I came home, I sat down in my favorite spot in front of a bright corner window with lots of natural light, to take a close look at this relatively modest collection of 104 amazingly beautiful colors. I compared the samples with those of another paint brand I like. Ever the skeptic, I found two (one from each brand) that were as close as possible, and laid them out to see if I could indeed tell the difference, or if I would experience a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. (It was difficult to truly see the purported virtue of these colors in the artificial illumination of the store.) I was very excited to find that the DKC brand had an unmistakably ephemeral luminosity to it that the other one lacked, even though in terms of “color” (i.e. hue, chroma and value) they were almost identical. I’m still trying to decide if my eyes could actually “see” the difference, or if it was a more of an optical vibration I could feel – a sensory perception of sorts. The DKC sample had more depth, and there was an intangible, subtle clarity to the color. Either way, this is hugely enticing, and I can’t wait to see its magic applied spatially!  I wonder how it will react as a backdrop to furnishings. My guess is that the greater range of pigments represented in the paint will enhance the objects featured within its space, and vice versa – the surfaces themselves will change to accommodate the objects. Kind of like an almost imperceptive sharpening of a focusing lens…

So, what’s the secret? The answer lies in the first couple of paragraphs. Most commercially mixed house paints have 4-5 pigments added to them, to create the desired color. The artist banes of black and gray are often used as well, to achieve the required tone. The DKC colors on the other hand, have at least a dozen – often more – pigments added to the base. And, no – you guessed it – black or gray are not part of the mix. The results are glowingly beautiful, and I highly recommend seeing it for yourself. I know the photo on the left does not do it justice… But, Portlanders – don’t waste your time going to other paint vendors…  Powell Paint Center is the sole distributor for this exclusive line in the Pacific Northwest. Soon, there will be a one-day showcase of these colors in a house here in Portland, which I will make a point to go see. I’m sure it will be spectacular! If you are interested in going, ask the kind people at Powell Paint to add you to their list, and they will give you a call when the house is ready for viewing. The price of this marvelous product, you ask? A whopping $90 bucks a gallon! And, as with most paints, you will need at least two applications to get the full depth of the effect. Maybe not realistic in every room, all at once, but you could always progress slowly and transform one room at a time.

Since it is a well known scientific fact that exposure to light works wonders for our health and well-being, the idea of imbuing your space with light that will benefit you physically, psychologically and neurologically, is a good one. Especially in northern climes where winters are long and dark. Believe me – as a Swede, I’m an authority on long winters. If you can convince yourself that the price can be justified as a  preventative medical measure and a long-lasting mental pick me-up, the choice is an easy one. If you’d like to hear more, I’d be happy to show you on March 8, 10 and 12, noon – 3 pm at the Powell Paint Center!


About annamadeit

Born and raised in Sweden, my aesthetics and outlook on life are strongly shaped by a culture rich in history and tradition. I care a great deal about environmental responsibility, and my aesthetic reflects the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia. I was trained as an architect at the University of Cincinnati and as a color specialist at the Scandinavian Colour Institute in Stockholm. I'm obsessed with plants and gardens, and aim to take my skill set a step further by designing gardens as well as interiors. As someone so aptly said: " Architecture is the skin that separates the exterior from the interior". So true - you can't successfully focus on one without incorporating the other. I'm also an avid cook, and I love to ski. In addition, I put time and efforts into trying to rectify things that I feel are wrong in my immediate community. As you will see, The Creative Flux will touch on all these things, and more. For sure, it's all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blog!
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One Response to If you want luminosity – paint with light!

  1. Brent Eggleston says:

    Just came across this today!! Good job and well done!!

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