Issue: May 2013
BYPOINTS: Color Me Deficient

I am a big fan of watercolor art, notwithstanding that in many cases I probably don’t see it the way it’s meant to be seen. Because I am color-blind. Or, to put in more modern terms, I have CVD—color vision deficiency. I prefer that latter term, not because it’s politically correct but because it’s more accurate. I am not blind to color; I merely do not see the influence of red and green in colors as vividly as most people do. According to the famous Ishihara CVD test—that of the 38 circular clusters of colored dots, with numbers and squiggly lines (allegedly) embedded—I have moderate to strong red-green deficiency. 

And that is why watercolors are particularly challenging to me, because the colors tend to be faint—literally diluted by water. Differences between the colors tend to be subtle. And my eyes don’t see subtle, at least not red-and-green subtle. Yet, in a way that I struggle to fully explain, that is also part of the appeal of watercolors to me. There’s a visual mystery to them. They feel just out of reach, somehow, tantalizingly just beyond comprehension. They are what I always think of when I read or hear the word “ethereal.”

Needless to say, then, I was and still am a big fan of Richard C. (Dick) Goertemiller, the founder and publisher of this magazine, who, as you may recall from my column last month, passed away this winter at the age of 80. In this issue we offer a tribute to Dick [“Remembering Mr. Goertemiller,” p. 30] in the form of a six-page gallery of our favorite Goertemiller waterscapes. It was no easy task boiling that down to just 10 images. Dick hit the ground running in May of 1971; he contributed at least 10 illustrations to that premiere issue alone, and to one degree or another he kept at it for the next 41 years. Landscapes, townscapes and waterscapes, sailboats and powerboats, maps, charts and aerial views, you name it. It was a big job sorting through it all; but good heavens was it fun. Ethereal even.

I remember talking to Dick about color-blindness in one of our earliest conversations—and to this day I remember his astute take on the subject. He said he often wondered if he saw colors the way everyone else did. More to his point, he wondered how anyone knew what anyone else is actually seeing. Can anyone, he asked, really say what red is? No, not with mere words. One cannot, for instance, explain the difference between red and blue to a blind person. One cannot explain the difference between F and F-sharp to a deaf person. . . . And that was pretty much the end of conversation about color, because the subject had turned to music, and we quickly discovered that we both sang baritone in a barbershop chorus, and . . . well, once you discover that, it’s pretty much all you talk about from then on. We baritones stick together.

So, what were we talking about? Oh yes, watercolors. Specifically, the marvelous watercolors of Richard C. Goertemiller, rest his soul. I love those. Just don’t ask me what color they are.



 

Tim Sayles, Editor