Tag Archives: colour chemistry

Welcome to my blog

I am passionate about sharing my knowledge about colour to anyone who is prepared to listen. I work as a professor of colour science at the University of Leeds, in the School of Design, but I have held academic posts in departments of Chemistry, Physics, Neuroscience, and Engineering. Sounds like a mixed bag, but my interest was colour chemistry, colour physics, colour neuroscience, colour engineering and colour design. You see I have come to believe that colour is the perfect meta-discipline and that to understand colour you need to be able to understand (but not necessarily be an expert in) different fields of knowledge.

One way to use this blog is to just browse through it and dip in here or there. However, another way is to click on one of the categories (that interest you) such as culture, design, fun, and technology and see posts in that area. You can find the categories on the right-hand side of the page if you scroll down.

You can also comment on the blogs. I really like this, even if you disagree with me. Someone once said to me if you put ten colour physicists in a room and ask them a question (presumably about colour physics) you’ll get 10 different answers. Well, I guess not all of you reading this are colour physicists. Given our different interests and backgrounds, and given the complexity of colour, it’s not surprising that we will disagree from time to time. And that is rather the fun part.

If you have a technical question you’d love me to answer you can click on Ask Me and post it there. You can also email me at s.westland@leeds.ac.uk

The Incredible Grey Hulk

When I was young I used to read Marvel comics. My favourites were Spiderman and The Fantastic Four but I also liked the Hulk and Thor. When I was about 10 (in about 1972) I even had this idea of designing a wrist band that could shoot out web like spiderman. What I needed was a substance that would flow (as a liquid) when it was shot out but then quickly solidified to create the web. I noticed that polystyrene turned liquid under heat and I started to build a prototype. Sadly it never worked. But I often wonder if this incident sparked my interest in chemistry, an interest that led me to study Colour Chemistry at Leeds University in 1983 and finally to my lifelong passion for colour.

I just came across a story that the Hulk was not green in the original comic strip versions. He was grey!! Apparently, in The Hulk’s debut (May 1962, a few days after I was born) Lee chose grey for the Hulk because he wanted a colour that did not suggest any particular ethnic group. The chap in charge of the colour, Stan Goldberg, however, had problems with the grey; colour management was not what it is now and this resulted in several different shades of grey, and even green, in the first issue! Given the colour problems, Lee chose to change the skin colour to green. What a shocker! Next, I’ll probably find out that Spiderman was not real!!

The invention of colour

If I was not going to Sweden on Monday – where I have to examine a PhD in colour harmony – it would be nice to attend the lecture I just saw advertised in Bristol by Philip Ball. The lecture will trace the chemical history of the pigments in an artist’s palette. Painters once had to be chemically literate. The lecture is taking place next Tuesday – see http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2011/7503.html