Monday, 18 September 2017

Am I a Spring? Will I Ever Know?

In case anyone is wondering if I might be a True Spring, rather than a True Autumn, I have definitely wondered that myself but so far thinking probably not.  Although I am learning that I can wear brighter colours than I thought I could, now that I know they need to be quite warm, there is a difference between the  brightness of True Spring and that of True Autumn.  In a proper colour analysis, the colours are draped beneath the face and changes in appearance are detected, disappearing of fine lines, dark circles or strange colours.  Photos can't show that but they can point a little bit towards harmony and give some indication of what colours to play with and try out. 

 I think that I am learning I can wear brighter colours than I thought, but I'm not sure about True Spring brightness.  Depending on which system you look at you will be told one of two different things about the Spring category.  It is always warm, but in some systems it is described as light and warm, while in others it is described as clear, bright and warm.  The latter is more common, and the former seems to come from all of the celebrity examples of Spring being blonde or strawberry blonde and appearing light. 

This is pretty much me rolled right out of bed.  I'm wearing one of Jim's tee shirts and it might be the rich golden yellow of a True Autumn palette, if I can depend on my ability to eyeball that.  The photo accuracy is not great either, so this photo may not be worth much, but my point is that there are some intense colours in the True Autumn palette and that Spring gets even brighter, although it doesn't always look that way in online images of the Spring palette.

                     I once held the belief that yellow was the worst colour I could wear.

 I would love a proper analysis but it's not available to me right now.  Or at least not without the cost being close to a thousand dollars, which is another way of saying not available to me.

I think I am an Autumn, not a Spring, but I could be wrong.  As I play with the boundaries of how brightness works for me, perhaps I will dip into Spring a little.  Or perhaps I won't and think that I am. Perhaps I will change my mind and decide I am a Spring and not an Autumn. My understanding is that Spring is very bright and Autumn brighter than people realise.  Mostly I know warm is good for me.

Pictures and Swatches

 Here I am outside and inside in natural light, a Spring palette placed beneath me.  Does this tell me anything?  I don't know.  Does the hair distract?


Is there any noticeable difference when I put my photo next to the Autumn fan?  Even if there seems to be, accuracy of photos cannot be guaranteed.  I have seen photos of people being draped in True Spring colours and they are very bright. 


I suspect that the photo of the Spring fan doesn't represent how truly bright the actual Spring palette is.  Perhaps the best conclusion here is that colours as shown in the photo of the Spring fan would work.

What about this next one?  Does this work?  It seems possibly a bit too much, too solid, to saturated.  It seems to me almost but not quite right.  Could I wear those colours and not lose against them in a fight to be noticed?




Could I pull off these colours below?  I don't think so, but I am not always right.  I'm not sure I would feel right in them. What confuses me is that I look very brightly coloured and able to take bright colours in this photo but not in all photos.  Of course I should listen to are not very accurate and this is not how you do colour analysis.



There are online colour analysis sites that simplify the concept down to Spring is warm and light, Autumn is warm and dark.  Springs are blondes and bright redheads with blue or green eyes, Autumns are brunettes or auburn with hazel or brown eyes.  These systems are not Sci/Art which asserts that skin only is what matters, and any hair or eye colour can occur in any palette.  Some may be more typical, but a certain hair or eye colour is not a determiner or a deal breaker.  Celebrities shown as examples usually have dyed hair, and the few who are natural redheads or blondes have enhanced their colouring.  They aren't very helpful for comparing yourself, as tempting as it is.  In the end it is about how your face reacts to colour, not what colours you appear to be.

As much as I dislike the imprecision and misleading statements offered in the tonal system of personal colours, it may be that all I can do is assume I am in the Warm family and work with that.  I wouldn't wear every colour suggested here, nor would I put them all on Amy.


My objection to this system is that it is sloppy.  I believe it is inaccurate to state that some people need only concern themselves with one of the properties of colour, and thus choose a family of colours from palettes that are either Warm, Cool, Deep, Light, Bright or Muted.  This is presented as giving yourself more options but I think it is really just a poor substitute for good analysis.  However, having said that, I don't have access to proper analysis.

Somewhere on the website I've linked to above, there is also a link to a fun though not highly accurate method of determining your palette using a photo you upload.  I have done it many times and depending on the photo, Autumn, Spring and the Warm palette samples all look good.  It's all a bit subjective as photos don't really show your skin reacting to colour and it become more of an am I light or dark issue.  I look lighter in outdoor photos than I do in indoor photos.  Is that real or some trick of the lighting? I look cooler if the photographer hasn't got the white balance adjusted.  I look cooler if I am in the shade.  I look pale and grey in a photo if I am wearing too cool a colour.  I look yellow if I am under a light that has a yellow cast.  Photos are problematic.

Go here if you want to play with this tool.  You want clear photos in natural light and the tool gives you the ability to zoom in and eliminate most or all of the background.  It might be valuable to pull back your hair or crop it out of the photo.

Another method of testing is called lipstick draping. It means trying out the recommended lipsticks for a season to compare which are most flattering.  In the photos above I am wearing a lipstick recommended for True Autumn. I've also got one that I've seen recommended for Spring, and I get compliments when I wear it.  But makeup is a bit less precise than fabric drapes and more crossover in makeup colours as well as more compromise has to occur. 

Here is something you may not know.  An analysis is meant to be finicky, highly precise and end up in very definitive results because it is the foundation you work with.  Shopping, finding your best colours in the right clothing and makeup is much less precise, more difficult, compromise must happen.  The more you know about what you are looking for, the more you can get most of what you put on yourself as close to best as possible, the more it all comes together and works.

On my own, anyone trying to figure this out without professional and proper analysis is working with an approximate idea. 

Am I a Spring or an Autumn?  I don't really know.  Spring and Autumn are both the warmest palettes.  Autumn warmed by gold and Spring by yellow.  The former is more muted, a bit earthy, while the latter is clear and bright.  Just how bright, I am not certain as I don't own a palette fan. 

In general I simply like the warm earthy colours that are more likely Autumn, but I have learned preference doesn't lead everyone to their best colours to wear and knowing a colour flatters you can turn it into a favourite.

I suspect I may have Spring items in my wardrobe already, especially in the coral/peach range.  What I do know is that the True Autumn palette contains some colours brighter than one might expect if thinking it is all about earth tones, and that I might be more successful and comfortable wearing them then I'd once thought.

It frustrates me not to know which palette is best for me, as though the correct answer to a burning question is being withheld.   Perhaps for now, how to live with that not knowing is the lesson I need most.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Getting Bolder

The main aim of this post is to discuss the colour pink, but before I can settle into that I must moan a bit about the tortures of growing out hair.  I have been growing out a pixie cut for a year and it sure doesn't look like it.  When my hair is cut short there is a great deal of detail cut into it because I have a lot of hair, very fine and slipper.  Then there are the peculiarities of my head shape to take into account.  The end result is that as it grows it grows in strange shapes, thinner and thicker bits and the number of trims to reshape it into something reasonable as it grows are rather numerous.  I confess to doing them myself, in part because I am not going to pay for half a hair cut but also because I usually decided at an inconvenient time that something needs to be done about my hair immediately.

Anyhow, I am currently sporting a Soccer-Mom flippy do circa 2003.  If I actually wanted a flippy style I would not be satisfied by what I've currently got, but since I don't want one, this is what my hair wants to do on it's own with little encouragement.  The other option is a sort of turned under, bowl-mullet.  You can understand why I am going with the Soccer-Mom hair.  Periodically I decide I want to inject a little fun into my hair colour which, if you know me, means something really rather tame.  How does someone who likes the natural look do fun?  In most areas of my life, what I consider fun many others would not.  Reading is fun.  Painting is fun.  Going for a walk is fun.  So the few times I got crazy and dyed my hair purple it was a bit like going bungee jumping.  It seemed like a good idea but very quickly it became obvious that it was not for me. 

My idea of taking my hair colour one step or two beyond it's normal state is to put a bit of an auburn or coppery rinse in it.  The problem with that is that the makers of hair dye are not very good at natural looking reds and so many of them skew pink-burgundy.  I bought one with a picture on the box that was very much a light orange-copper, a bit lighter than my natural medium brown.  For those wanting to know, it was Clairol Natural Instincts and it was called Light Golden Red.   At the first look of my newly done hair I was a bit horrified as the colour had a burgundy look to it.  I gave it a vigorous shampooing after application, which is normally not recommended but I had panicked and was hoping to wash most of the colour out.  I am not sure if this extra shampooing worked or if I had just unnecessarily panicked and the shampooing didn't actually do anything.  In some lighting my hair looks medium, brown-auburn and in outdoor lighting it looks like this, more coppery.

 I've now decided that I love it so much I am worried I won't be able to replicate it.

               I tried to brush out the flips a little but not sure I improved on the style any.

As you can see, I think, I seem to be pulling off some richer colours than I might have once thought I could.  I am dabbling in colours a little bolder, though I still have a few things left over from when I thought I was a Soft Autumn ( like this tee shirt ).  Now I sometimes look at a photo such as this and think, hmm maybe there is enough brightness there for me to be a True Spring.  True Spring colours are clearer and brighter, though still warm.  But I think that actually what I am discovering is how far to reach within my True Autumn range.  Every individual will have a personal adjustment of how light, dark, bright, or even how warm or cool to go within an given palette for maximum flattery.  The colours of Sci/Art True Autumn are muted in comparison with other palettes except the Softs, but there is also some brightness available.

In the past my experiments with bright colours did not work out well because my understanding of what colour properties I needed was still undeveloped.  Bright and cool is probably one of the worst colour types I can wear.  Or rather, it wears me.  Anything with some mutedness begins to look right, but warm and bright can look quite wrong too.  These properties are all relative so when I explore brightness it's relative to my best palette and it's in harmony with my own colouring.  The question to explore is where can I push the boundaries? 

In makeup I tend to avoid brightness because it's an area where I really prefer a natural look.  But having said that, for some people, bright makeup colours do look natural.  When I use the word natural I mean it in the sense of natural for the individual as well as in the sense of personal taste.  In eye makeup, which I don't use a lot of, I aim for a me but better look and if I use eye shadow at all I use colours that would actually be in my skin, thus browns are my preference.  I can pull off a bit of metallic but wouldn't use it for day time.  Bronze is a really good colour for me.  Having found my best colours I rarely feel the need for foundation or cheek colour.  I don't own foundation any more and while I have some peachy cheek colour I rarely use it.  My skin tone can take light bronzer but a sculpted look really isn't me.  So when I use colour with a sense of fun I use it in lipstick and toe nail polish.

Even then, some would say my choices are not daring at all since I still aim for the pink/peach/orange/red range.   While I've spent much time looking for lipstick colours that are that coveted MLBB ( my lips but better ) I have found that knowing my colour palette and the properties of my colouring has helped me venture away a little from the really safe colours.

Strangely, some of the colours that read as very natural on me are more brown-orange than many people would dare to use or consider natural looking.  It's pinks and true-reds that look a bit odd on me.  When I dabbled in the Soft palettes I used brown-pinks and brown-mauves.  The softness of them was right and the certainly did disappear into my face more, making me feel safer.  But a bolder lip is more comfortable when the colour looks like it belongs on me.  That's why when I used pink I knew it couldn't be something that looked pure, clear, bright or too cool.  Pink became a bit problematic as I discovered that peach/salmon was my better version of pink and I've always had an aversion to the cool pinks, especially bright ones.

There is a colour I've always thought of as hot pink and yet it is actually very cool.  It's a magenta or fuchsia pink and it looks terrible on me.  When we were small and in primary school most of us were taught about warm and cool colours, usually with a colour wheel divided in half and the basic explanation that one side of it was cool, the blues, greens and purples, and the other side was warm, the yellows, oranges and reds.  If our teachers were particularly keen, we may have been shown, or we may have discovered for ourselves, that purple and green could have one foot on either side, and that a more yellow-green was warm and a more red-violet was was warm.    At some point in life we may eventually discover that all colours can have a warm version and a cool version, and that it is the addition of yellow/orange/red that makes a colour warmer in comparison, while the addition of blue makes it cooler.  I always thought of pink as a cool colour, and this is perhaps because pink is red with white added and white added to a colour does cool it.  If the red is an orange-red and white is added we get something we might call peach and peach is not pink.  Therefore pink is cool.

So pink, purple and blue are tricky colours for someone looking to wear warm colours and I have avoided pink for awhile.  Then I cam across a list of lipstick recommendations for True Autumns, swatched and confirmed by a trained colour analyst.  While most of the recommendations are in the brown-orange range, one was Revlon's Teak Rose and it looks very pink.  I read some reviews online, looked at images of it swatched or on the lips of various bloggers.  Often it was described as a warm pink, a bit browned, maybe leaning coral.  I looked at it in the store and it looked very definitely pink and somewhat bright.  I was afraid.

For good visuals comparing the warm and cool versions of colour, you can't beat Imogen Lamport.  Her images won't tell you how warm or how cool the colours are, but they are great as a starting point to get the main idea, that every colour can be made warmer or cooler and just how do they look in comparison with each other.  This one on pink shows the range from blush/nude to bright.

 Imogen's exceedingly informative and helpful blog is here  

Revlon's Super Lustrous Teak Rose reads as a bright pink on me, but warm without being obviously browned.  I'm wearing it in both photos in this post, indoors and outside, natural lighting for both.

 For those of you who wear really bright colours, it may seem funny that I am calling this bright.  But for me it is, and I am stretching myself in my comfort zone by wearing it.  While the oranges and browns I like completely harmonise with my natural colouring, pinks and reds are colours that are most believable on lips.  This might be a coral-red-pink and the more I wear it the more I am beginning to think it could turn into a favourite.              

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Colour Analyse Yourself, Maybe

I very nearly had the opportunity to try a professional colour analysis although I have to admit I balked at the price and would have difficulty justifying it to myself.  I have no need to improve my image for the sake of a career and it's too late for the post-divorce help me catch another man strategy.  Additionally, I really believe that after much trial and error, and admittedly money spent on the wrong clothing, I have found my way into the best palette.  Having a professional analysis done would mainly be to satisfy my curiosity about the process, to simply enjoy the examination of colour and perhaps I would like the ego boost of finding out that I am correct in my final conclusion.  I'd probably bet the farm on it, but the reason for my confidence is that I have actually spent the past year trying out most of the palettes as well as studying as best I can with the limitations of the internet, just which colours and their variations belong in which palettes.

Some professional analysts say nobody can find their own palette accurately, but I suspect that isn't actually true.  I think the truth is simply that for many it's not easy and often it's because there is actually too much internet 'help'.  Some people guess their way in with more ease than others and some are probably happily living with their second best palette or achieving a hit and miss combination of best colours and second bests.  Whatever makes you happy and confident is probably good enough, though I am less inclined to accept 'good enough' and tend to want the best answer or the correct answer if one exists and then I need to know why.  So, I am a good candidate for Personal Colour Analysis and I am probably also a good candidate for becoming an analyst.  However, while I cannot easily justify spending close to five hundred dollars on analysis (it would involve travel for me as well which increases the cost) I also cannot justify training to be an analyst as I seriously doubt there is a market for it where I live.  The money invested in training and setting up a business would not be recouped.

There are analysts online who offer various forms of help in self-analysis as well as their services for in person, skype or photo determination of your best colour palette.  I have studied them all in detail and have my opinions on their quality and effectiveness.  I have also examined the versions that create more categories than the 12 created by the Sci/Art originator, Kathryn Kalisz.    While some people favour simplification of the system others favour complicating it and I am in agreement with the practitioners of Sci/Art that 12 categories works well, more is splitting hairs and fewer is over-simplifying and thus only getting you into the ballpark.

The best I can offer as help for those who are on the journey of trying to figure out their own colouring and best palette, is to describe what I did, what worked and most especially the mistakes I made.  I tried every seasonal palette to some degree, though some were more obviously wrong than others.  I worked in a progression from cool to warm, finding as I went that warmth was good and each time being surprised at how if a little was good, more was better.  Certain biases got in my way, as did trying to analyse myself in photos.  Online quizzes and the multitude of descriptors that supposedly explain what a person of each seasonal category looks like were also no help.  This latter is a mistaken idea, because while there are people who fit the standard look for each season, many if not most people do not.

Sci/Art says that it is skin only that matters, hair and eye colours are irrelevant in figuring out your season because skin is what changes according to colours placed next to it.  Skin glows and looks healthy in the best colours and when skin glows and looks healthy our eyes and hair also look their best.  If you want to colour your hair, knowing your season and best colours can help you make better hair colour decisions but it is erroneous to believe that certain hair colours always mean certain seasons or even that to be a warm season hair and eyes must also be warm and the same for cool seasons.  Humans come in greater variety than that.

Experts or systems that assign skin tone, hair and eye colours to the seasons will invariably leave out some possible combinations.  If they are honest they will indicate that any skin type/season can have any eye or hair colour and thus make impossible any attempt to slot yourself into a category by that method.  This is the method that ends up assigning all women of colour to one of the two dark seasons and all blondes to Spring or Summer.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my eye colour is and is it warm or cool.  There are even sites that will show you eye patterns which supposedly relate to the different seasons.  They are fun perhaps, but not really helpful.

The method of knowing which colours are your best is to wear them and see.  You might do this painstakingly with individual colours, discovering which yellows, which greens, which reds suit you best, but the Sci/Art method has colours arranged into sets with the same properties so that they all work harmoniously together with you and with each other.

There are tonal systems, a little more vague, taking one colour property, such as warm or cool, bright or soft, light or dark, and offering you a larger set of these colours, essentially leaving the job of narrowing down your best from within them.  This method is taking the three properties of colour and applying only two to a person, identifying the dominant one and leaving it up to you to identify the second one through trial and error or to not identify it and to consider close enough to be all you need.  Perhaps it is. 

The variety of palettes shown online, and the fact that inconsistency in computer monitors will alter the colours we are perceiving, can add to the confusion.  Two different systems may use the same name for a palette but offer different colour selections.  I favour the Sci/Art system because I know how the colours are chosen and combined in palettes.  In the end it doesn't matter so much which system you choose, but you need to know that being determined a category in one system doesn't guarantee you are the same category in another system.

I have created Pinterest boards dedicated to collecting images of colours, usually represented in clothing, that fit various palettes.  The problem with doing this is that when we pin images found on Pinterest we are taking something that someone else has decided belongs in that category.  Just because someone else labelled a particular image Soft Summer does not mean they are correct.  I was mislead for some time because many images pinned as Soft Autumn are actually the softest, lightest colours of True Autumn in the Sci/Art system.  

There is a Sci/Art analyst in Vancouver but travelling to Vancouver is an expensive proposition for me and definitely not in my budget this year.  I spotted an announcement on Facebook that this analyst was considering a trip to Victoria and briefly I was excited.  However, she has changed her plans and I have reconsidered the expense of something I don't really need and have difficulty justifying.  It took me a long time and it did cost me money, but I figured out my own colouring and best colours to wear and I think anyone can. 

Figure out which is better, warmer or cooler by testing reds, ( blue-red and orange-red ) and silver and gold.  The harder it is to tell the more likely you are to be a neutral season.  Compare royal blue with teal if you think you are a darker season and peach with pink if you think you are a light season.  Make sure to do this in good, natural light. 

Test a variety of colours for your best saturation level and darkness level.  Don't believe those who say Bright season people look bright.  Some of them do but not all.  Some just look right in bright colours and clear chroma.

Trust your instincts but also be aware that your preferences might lead you astray.  I have a preference for soft and muted but the Soft Autumn palette is too muted for me and can look a bit drab. True Autumn is still muted but less so and fits with my own saturation level.  I didn't know this just looking at the colours but could see it when I wore them.  My need for some mutedness lead me to try Dark Winter colours too because they also have a muted quality.  So does True Summer.  Often there will be some palettes that are easy to rule out.  For me it was brights that were the worst, so Bright Winter and Bright Spring were never contenders for more than five minutes.  I recall briefly wondering if I could liven up my appearance with bright colours.  In general the effect is the opposite unless you are a bright season person.

Note:  You don't brighten someone up with bright colours or warm them up with warm hair dye and makeup although some people, including some beauty professionals think so. 

As much as I like to think my way through things, and I need to understand and intellectualise everything, you can't think your way into the best palette, you have to see it.  The thinking can come after when you try to understand WHY it is the best palette.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Dabbling In Abstract Flowers

                                         Watercolour and Gouache with Ink

Recent dabblings in my art journals are a sign of getting back to my typical routines, taking some comfort in familiar behaviours, and a good reminder how much I need to do this.  While the end result matters to me, this is very much about the process.  Painting is the best meditation I can manage.  It takes me out of the busy world of my own head and also allows me to shut out distractions from the outside world.  Painting in a journal allows me to relax and allow mistakes, or a less than satisfactory result, without feeling distressed about money spent on materials wasted.   Not that I don't still think that way at times, but a journal of paper is less expensive than a canvas.  Paint is expensive so I tell myself it's in lieu of cigarettes or cappuccinos. 

Summer has been  busy and consisted mainly of a change in my routines as Jim and I work out new ones together.  Initially it all felt like a holiday, but gradually we are settling into normal life without the need to pack in as many experiences as we can while the weather is good.  I suspect we are both more than a little exhausted from the great trip to Oregon in order to view the eclipse in totality, something which I haven't documented here.  September continues to bring pleasant weather with the odd reminder that autumn is coming thrown in.  Today is one of those grey, windy and drizzly days though days of sun are mainly in the forecast for the next couple of weeks.  As I write this, I have a chocolate cake in the oven and I am hoping for the best, since upon putting it in I realised I had halved the entire recipe except for the cup of cream.  The batter did not seem at all strange, and both Jim and my son are more than willing to eat chocolate cake that lacks a little something in appearance but otherwise tastes like chocolate.  It might be more of a pudding-cake which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Accidents can lead to new discoveries and the willingness to make mistakes is always appropriate.  As someone with perfectionist tendencies I have to chant such a mantra to myself often.  My default motto is that if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing well.  However there is a difference between making one's best effort and accepting one's errors or letting go in the learning process.  Sharing my art and writing on this blog has been an exercise for me in showing my efforts when they have not reached perfection, and knowing they may never do so.  I am more the sort of person who would only allow finished work, the best result to be seen, and even then I am so self-critical it's likely I wouldn't allow that either.  Most of us are inclined to dislike criticism and I am no exception, though I may well be my own worst critic as the saying goes.



Monday, 4 September 2017

Tossing out Tolerance

Have you ever noticed that the whole concept of tolerance is a bit tricky?  As someone who is more likely to identify as a liberal (that's with a small l in Canada because I do not declare loyalty to political parties) or a lefty, it is true that most of my friends and acquaintances are also left leaners.  People who are very conservative generally do not like me and while I think it's good to avoid living in a bubble, to have friends with varying ideas and values, how much of a friendship can we have with people who are very different from ourselves?  If you are against abortion always, want more religion in public institutions, don't support gay marriage and believe people of races other than your own are in some way inferior or undesirable then I can't respect your values so we are unlikely to be friends.  If you are so liberal minded you believe in things unsupported by science, I cannot respect your intelligence.  Tolerance of quackery is just as dangerous to humanity's well being as intolerance of other human beings unlike yourself.

Respect is a term I often hear tossed about and yet I seem to hold a slightly different definition of it than my peers do.  Many use the word respect as synonymous with accepting an individual's rights to live their life as they choose so long as they do not cause harm.  I call that tolerance, although deciding whether or not an individual's choices cause harm is never a simple thing.  Harm to whom?  You, me, the neighbour, someone's god, an institution?  Anyone familiar with the debate between left and right over whether or not homosexuality is harmful knows just what I mean.  This makes the concept of tolerance a bit of a farce.  As a lefty debating a righty,  I never throw the 'you are so intolerant' accusation in anyone's face.  It doesn't hold up because there are things I am intolerant of.  Child abuse is one.  But who is defining child abuse?  Is spanking child abuse?  Is religious indoctrination child abuse?  Is divorce child abuse?  Which, if any of these things are you tolerant of?

What most liberals mean when they speak of tolerance is acceptance of what they accept, because they are more likely than a conservative to accept newer things, things that stray from tradition.  Caution and adherence to tradition are what define a conservative.  There are times when it is quite prudent to be conservative, as long as it also comes with open enquiry.

Tolerance is a pointless term when applied to social issues and in politics and clearly a person can be too tolerant as well as not tolerant enough.

 If I am tossing out tolerance as a term that is any use, I am also inclined to have little use for the term respect.  To me, respect means esteem, admiration, holding someone as worthy of emulating.  Arguing that we must respect all individuals is really a condensed form of saying we must respect their basic human rights, which is a different matter.  This leads us into discussing mental illness and sanity, something no human is yet fully qualified to be certain of, though perhaps neuroscience will get us there one day.  It often seems to me that there is a line that can be drawn somewhere, and the law does attempt to do that when it attempts to determine if the actions were taken by someone who knew right from wrong or who had the ability to refrain from acting.  We don't have to be tolerant of actions that are harmful even if the perpetrator cannot be held fully responsible, but how we treat that perpetrator may differ if we can find the line of responsibility and thus how willing we are to remove some of that individual's rights will be dependent on that.

Although I sympathise more with the liberal agenda, I see so many difficulties with it.  How can you take billions of human beings and educate them, inform them, consider their backgrounds, upbringings, the value systems they have been taught, make discussion and informed debate possible and find any sort of consensus on what to tolerate or to what degree tolerate it?  How can you encourage all of these people to respect each other and which definition of respect should be used?

The majority of people will always be under-educated and many of them low in intelligence.  Huge numbers of people will always be poor and in this world where they can now see just how poor they are in comparison to others they will be rightfully angry.  Certain people will always seek power and dominance. In the end, we are all just hoping that we can persuade the majority of our point of view so as to succeed at the polls.

I am exhausted just trying to imagine how this can all be dealt with, but I believe it begins with widespread education and the end of religious fundamentalism.  I don't expect to see those things happen in my lifetime and I am sceptical that they ever can.  And yet I am compelled to hope for steps in that direction, compelled to strive for it, compelled to believe such striving is imperative to what it means to me to be alive and human.

Monday, 28 August 2017


Labels are useful and so I generally don't get upset by them.  Other people will apply labels to me and I will apply them to myself and others.  They help us understand, clarify who we are and what we intend.  Of course they can be misapplied, they can become inaccurate over time, categorising and labelling anything is rarely a fixed thing.  A label I have not been in any hurry to apply to myself is HSP, also known as Highly Sensitive Person.  I know I am very sensitive so adding the label didn't help me in any way.  Finding out that there are psychologists who have studied this concept, decided what it means and to whom it applies and that there are people who identify with it and have been helped by this identification was only ever of mild interest. For the most part, labels that mark us as different from the norm are helpful if they allow us to find out we are not alone when we worried that was the case, and to encourage those not like us to accept our differences.

For someone who identifies as an HSP it is helpful to be around others who understand, don't judge and can offer support.  It isn't easy to live in a way that is different from the norm, and many people do that in various ways putting them at greater risk of harm than being an HSP can cause.  Having carefully explained my disclaimer, I am aware that what I write here might seem to some as trivial whining at worst or at best incomprehensible.   I would imagine only those with any sympathy towards Highly Sensitive People would bother to continue reading.

I've included the INTJ label in this because there is much misinformation or embellishment on the internet about the MBTI types and many if not all of the types can end up being described in terms of caricatures,  the INTJ in particular is somewhat idealised (if the ultimate villain can be considered an ideal) as a cool, unflappable, arrogant, confident, not giving any fecks at all sort of person.  Reality is much more complicated than that, of course.  So an INTJ type personality can also be highly sensitive.

What is meant by 'sensitive'?  In the case of the Highly Sensitive Person it is meant that over-stimulation of the senses can occur, especially in situations that most other people are not overstimulated by.  If you have not followed the link in my first paragraph, note now that it goes to the website of Dr Elaine Aronson, a psychologist who studies sensitivity and is, as far as I know, the one who coined the term HSP.  

I have not done as much reading and researching on this subject as I often do on subjects that interest me because I am not yet certain how interested I am.  I already know that I have been sensitive to smells, noises and bright lights, even bright colours my entire life to a point that I know isn't typical and I startle easily.  My fight or flight response is triggered by things others seem almost oblivious to or seem to enjoy.  I feel invaded or attacked and since flight is often unsuccessful, I cannot escape the situation, anger is triggered and I have thoughts of a fighting nature.  I fantasize about punching the person causing the 'attack' as a form of retaliation.  I want to inflict the same trauma that is being inflicted on me. 

Normally I am not a violent person at all so feelings like this only add to the stress I am already under.  If I am under emotional or psychological stress I become even more sensitive and verbally lashing out or a tearful meltdown are likely.  Being someone who is not typically emotional, who doesn't display emotions readily and who prefers to be in control, to be calm and collected, to respond logically, finding myself in such a state is highly distressing.  Perhaps you can begin to see how this all snowballs.

If, like me, you have lived your life with this way of being, you probably have coping strategies.  If you have discussed it with people you have probably been given suggestions like meditation, calming music, marijuana or herbal tea. Perhaps you have rubbed lavender oil on your temples or sniffed rose-geranium essential oil from a small bottle.  As an INTJ I prefer hard science to back up claims of cure or easing of symptoms but I also know what it is like to be willing to try anything that seems to work.  Desperation does that which is why the charlatans who exploit desperate people are so despicable.  But amongst the charlatans there are those who just mean well and believe in the miracle of herbs or think that it's not going to hurt to try something.  It may hurt your bank account but a fool and her money are soon parted and that's that.  Spend your money as you see fit but if you can't feed your children because of all that you spend on homeopathy you won't get any sympathy from me, although your children will for both their hunger and their having been saddled with a stupid parent.

Oops, that was a bit of a digression...anyhow, while I am aware that there are various relaxation techniques available to people and that they have varying degrees of efficacy and success, I've not found one that works for me and I need to make it clear that being a Highly Sensitive Person is not about being an uptight person, it is not about needing to relax more or de-stress, although finding ways to do those things can help as much as they help anybody.

Psychology is not a hard science, and although I value hard science greatly I am also very drawn to psychology.  I want to know why people are the way they are although I accept that it might be unknowable and I am inclined to favour neuroscientific explanations although it's a science still in infancy.  HSPs are considered to have not only a hyper-sensitivity to external stimuli, but also a greater depth of cognitive processing (which I think must not be mistaken to mean they are better in any way) and high emotional reactivity.    I have also read that we must distinguish between the terms highly sensitive and hyper-sensitive, with the former being biological and the latter being a coping style that is learned.  See this article.  The two can go together but do not necessarily. 

I have seen high sensitivity referred to as a disorder and a gift  but there is speculation, confusion and uninformed opinion at work there.  Sensory processing disorder is a different thing which may initially sound similar.  It is a neurological disorder which causes senses to get confused.  Sensory processing sensitivity is about perceiving more, being bombarded with sensory information that needs processing and being overwhelmed by it.  It would have survival advantages at times and be a burden at others from an evolutionary perspective but those survival advantages could lead to its continued existence in what is estimated to be about 20% of the population.  As someone living with it I don't consider it a gift.  I don't know any differently but I also know that if I could de-sensitise myself I would.  Just for some peace.

I prefer to think of it as something that just is, neither good nor bad, better nor worse, however for the most part it is not easy to live with and does need to be managed because an HSP is living generally living amongst others who are not over-stimulated by their environment and their sensitivity may be perceived as a weakness, as whining and attention seeking or as a bad attitude.

Here is what the good weather typically brings me.

Where I live we are visited twice a year by the Snowbirds, a Canadian Forces Air Demonstration Squadron.  For most people it is an awesome treat to have these jets flying overhead for a few weeks each year.  For me it is like living in a war zone and I loathe them.  I consider them noise pollution and when they fly over my home with no warning I want to duck and cover, curl up in a ball and cry. I would do anything to stop the assault including shoot them out of the sky if I had the means.  If I express my dislike of the Snowbirds I am considered strange and even unpatriotic by most people I know.  

I also dislike cigarette smoke intensely and live with neighbours who smoke outside so as not to stink up their own homes.  The smoke floats upwards and into my windows.  Again, to me it is an assault, an invasion of my safe space and a gross act of inconsideration. 

The noise of power tools has increased in my lifetime and nobody does any yard-work without power assisted machinery.  Wash, cut, prune, paint, you can do it all with a massive noise and you can do it all day.  When you have finished someone else can start up.  Summer, the time of year when I want my windows open and the fresh air to come in is also the season of extra noise.

Pot smokers have become even more confident as Canada prepares to legalize marijuana use, and while I have no ethical objection to marijuana I do object to the stink of it.  Skunk, dog shit, burning rubber tires, essentially it smells like one or all three of those to me.

Recently staying in hotels while on vacation, the stomping of overhead footsteps and the slamming of doors seemed endless and barely tolerable.  I lay in bed alternately cringing and

I resist believing myself to be special or unique, in fact I loathe the idea.  While labels generally don't bother me I cringe when labels applied to me hint at being special.  I am inclined to believe nobody is special and really dislike the self-empowerment movement that encourages everyone to believe they are.  It's impossible.  Not everyone can be special because that negates the definition of special.  I was raised to value humility, to not believe I am special in any way.  I don't think I can do and even if I were tested and declared gifted or any other kind of special I would resist it.  Having said that, I do have to admit to being a creative, intelligent, highly sensitive worrier.   I don't know anyone who doesn't believe they are intelligent despite evidence to the contrary so take my self assessment for what it's worth.  It's worth very little.  I really don't want to belong to the community of internet users claiming special snowflake status... poor me I am an empath!  I really don't want to, but I might belong there.  You can't make me join though, and I rarely join anything so that reassures me.  Clubs?  Groups?  Ugh!

But what does an introverted, self-reliant, reasonably smart person who worries, gets anxious, is stressed often, highly sensitive and is a bit worried about high blood pressure do to try and sort this out?  She Googles, of course.  How far that will get me, I don't know.  I dislike the touchy-feely stuff, refuse to do guided imagery and am suspicious of anyone who looks like she would sniff a bottle of rose-geranium.  However, I am willing to read and when I read I do glean nuggets of useful information.  In many cases it's a reminder, something I already know but have forgotten and am neglecting.

For me it is important to keep my mind busy.  If it is not busy and stimulated it pursues its hobby of obsessive thinking by worrying about things.  A recent example might be how many different ways I could die on the back of a motorcycle travelling on the Interstate highway.  Of course, it is difficult to be intellectually stimulated while sitting on the back of a a motorcycle and that's a problem I've yet to solve.

As important as it is to keep my mind busy, it also needs rest and making it rest is very difficult.  Reading fiction helps.  So does painting and gardening once did.  I need to do these things as well, to let my mind sleep.

I also need to know that I will not be able to employ these strategies all of the time.  Shit is going to happen.  I am going to react.  A bit of self acceptance is helpful here and so is knowing that while I may be different from the norm, neither am I a freak.   I will dredge up two of my favourite pithy and meme-worthy statements. 

Life is a journey, not a destination and I am always a work in progress.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

It's Never Black and White

My obsession with colour has lead me to read as much as I can find on the subject when I am procrastinating with regards to other things.   I am quite intrigued with the concept of temperature in colour because it's more subject to language vagaries than descriptions of saturation and clarity are.  How colour is perceived and described differs depending on whether we are talking about light or pigment and the idea of colours being warm or cool has mainly to do with how much blue (perceived as cool) or yellow (perceived as warm) are in the pigment mix.  I wonder how consistent this warm/cool perception is across cultures though I believe every human on this planet would consider shade cool and fire hot and generally we associated blues/greys/purple with shade and red/yellow/orange with fire.

Somewhere in my internet wanderings I got into a discussion with someone in which I was trying to explain why black and white, although usually referred to as neutral, were not flattering on everyone and particularly people whose colouring leans warm.  If black and white are neutral, why are you claiming they are cool? The woman asked me.  I didn't have an answer for her that was satisfactory to me, I only know that most humans do agree that black and white seem cool as opposed to warm and that in terms of personal colouring they are not neutral/work for everyone options.

It frustrated me that I understood this intuitively but could not explain it so I have been on a mission to improve my ability to explain this.  I doubt I have fully succeeded but it's taking better shape in my mind now.

The concept of warm or cool colour has to do with blue being perceived as cool and yellow as warm and thus the more blue in a colour the cooler it seems and the more yellow the warmer it seems.  That in itself had me puzzled as I tried to understand why a purely warm coloured person could wear any blue at all or a purely cool coloured person could wear any yellow.  I came to understand that in terms of personal colour analysis and pigment mixing, the idea is that people who need a palette of colours we would call warm need a palette of colours where there is obvious yellow added.  Those who need cool colours need their colours to be obviously blue infused.  People who are slightly warm or slightly cool wear colours that are less warmed or cooled by yellow or blue.

I wrote a blog post in which I explored what warm blue is, explaining that it is blue with yellow added, it pushes the boundary of what we would call turquoise or teal.  Cool yellow has a bit of blue added so it begins to push at the boundary of green.  Yellow is also cooled by the addition of white. 

Adding white pigment makes what we call pastel colours and pastels are generally viewed as cooler than the original hue they are based on. 

Black is reminiscent of shade or night which are experienced as cooler and pure black has a bluish tint to it.  Artists often use a pigment called Payne's Gray instead of black and Payne's Gray is a very dark blue that appears black but isn't as flat looking as actual black paint.

In  colour theory  based on light waves black is the absence of all light (colour) and white is the presence of all light (colour) which makes black a non-colour and white a colour.

In colour theory based on pigment black is the combination of all colours and white is an absence of them because you can't mix anything to make white, thus black is the colour and white is the non-colour.

In real life, colour is something we see and we see black and white just as readily as we see blue or red or yellow.  For practical purposes black and white are colours.  But are they neutral?  What does neutral mean?  Can anybody wear them?

Neutral is a word used differently in different contexts. Sometimes black, white and the grey they combine to make are referred to as neutral, based on the idea that white and black are non-colours.  This leads some people to assume that it follows that black and white as non-colours are also non-temperature, that is to say neither warm nor cool.

 Fashion neutrals refer to colours that go well with all or nearly all other colours.  There are caveats involved there because fashion neutrals can lean warmer or cooler or be highly saturated or very muted and this will influence how well they work with other colours exhibiting various properties.

The idea of personal colour analysis is that the colours that work to flatter a person are in harmony with that person's natural colouring, and thus share the same properties.  When it comes to perceived warmth (yellowness) or coolness (blueness) there is a blueness and a distinct lack of yellowness in what we call pure white and black.  That is why they lean cool and suit people with cool colouring better than people with warm colouring. 

Black can be warmed up by using a colour we may perceive initially as black but is actually a very darkened brown.  White can be warmed up by turning it into ivory by adding a bit of yellow.  Whether or not a person is flattered by warm-black (brown-black) or ivory-white will depend on what their personal mix of cool and warm colouring is.  For people who are very or purely warm, brown-black and ivory-white are not warm enough. 

Black and white are also very strong colours and so they work best for people whose own colouring is strong.  If you suit bright, clear colours black and white probably work for you.  If you are predominantly cool toned, they also probably work.  If you are cool toned but lighter and softer, in a category often called Summer, you are probably better off with your black softened to charcoal or replaced with navy blue and your white just hinting at ivory, taking away the intensity that will look harsh on someone whose personal colouring doesn't match it.

I had to think all of this through, organise my thoughts coherently and then write it all down in order to be able to explain this and the lengthy explanation given here would not be appropriate for a response to someone in a YouTube comment section.  I doubt that woman who questioned me on why black and white don't work for everyone will ever see this but this is for her.  This is the complete reply I was unable to give at the time.  This is the consolidation of everything I intuitively understood but could not express. 

This is also for anyone else who has been mislead by the fashion industry into thinking black and white are always right.  Wear them if you want to, if you love them, if you just don't care what personal colour theory says, but if black or white can't find anything to connect with in your skin tone they won't be doing you any favours and perhaps you would like to know that.

There are bigger things in this world to be worrying about than whether or not you should wear black.  Sometimes I just need to avoid those topics.