Does the visual world vary from culture to culture? by James Gurney

Last summer, Japanese publisher Born Digital ordered the fifth reprint of Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter. 

James: “I am always fascinated by the way ideas about the visual world vary from culture to culture. Given that Western and Japanese traditions are so different, I wondered what was involved in translating the ideas in my book for Japanese readers.” The translator of Color and Light, Sanae Hiraya, very generously offered to answer some questions.

What concepts in Color and Light were the most difficult to translate?
Sanae: “Is Moonlight Blue?” was the most difficult topic to translate. This topic explains a new and sensational fact. It is easily expected that this topic will draw readers’ attention. We paid extra attention to this scientific topic on both readability and accuracy.”

In Japan, do Western color names such as “red, blue, yellow, violet, and green” correspond to similar hues there?
Sanae: “In the Japanese education system, art education employs western style theory and method. So we have Japanese color names correspond to key color names such as red, blue, yellow, violet, and green. However, in the old days, there were only four color names in Japanese. They are red (AKA), black (KURO), blue (AO) and white (SHIRO). Green was included in the range of blue.

Are Japanese children raised to recognize the same set of primary colors as American kids?
Sanae: “Yes. Children are taught the Munsell color system in elementary school along with the concept of primary and secondary colors.”

Are there Japanese concepts of color and light that are completely foreign to most U.S. artists?
Sanae: “Traditionally, Japanese paint/draw subjects with lines (not with planes). It was 1876 that we started learning western style of art execution/theory. Until then, Japanese painters did not use light and shadow in their paintings nor express 3D forms in their artwork.”

By James Gurney and Sanae Hiraya ———

Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter is one of the most successful art instruction books in Amazon’s history, and was the #1 book on painting for over 150 weeks.

If you are interested in the series ‘Dinotopia’ by James Gurney, here is some information about the books. Click on the images below for more information.