15 OCT 2020

Pigments that poison

We look at the history and science of colour

Our love of colour goes deep into the depths of prehistory to a time when humans weren’t exactly like they are today. Artists all over the world have sought out new pigments, new colours, to wow and amaze. But the processes in creating them have often been unusual and even deadly!


The story of colour combines those of science, culture and art. From the dawn of time people have used colour to express and as a tool of power.

It’s easy to understand why colours have been so important to us. Sight is our primary sense and the manufacture and control of pigments brought wealth and being seen wearing or using pigments was a sign of status.

The first colour wheel was created by Sir Isaac Newton and he combined each colour with a musical note in his treatise Opticks.

Further reading


From digging up earth for ancient Red Ochre, crushing insects for Cochineal red and mixing deadly mercury with sulfur Vermillion the bright intensity of red has long been sort by artists.

If you were to grind it every day even for twenty years it would keep getting better and more perfect.

Cennino Cennini, Italian Renaissance artist on Vermilion

Further reading


Many orange pigments came from plants such as turmeric and annatto from South America.


Brown pigments can be made of earth and clays, named of the regions where they were found such as Sienna and Umber. But you must head to the sea for Sepia which comes from the ink of Cuttlefish.

There’s no such thing as a “cuttleflish”!

The Curiosity of a Child


Critics said Turner’s paintings where ‘afflicted with jaundice’ due to his use of yellow - a yellow made from the urine of cows fed Mangoes. He wasn’t the first person to love the colour, the use yellow pigments predate Homo Sapiens, going back 400,000 years.


Was Napoleon killed by his wallpaper? Many green paints used arsenic including those used my Renoir when he visited Guernsey.

In 1775 Swedish Chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented Scheel's Green. It was bright green but deadly as it contained arsenic. But this didn't stop it becoming very popular in Victorian times.

Another green, Paris Green, was used by Renoir and was always poisonious.

It seems the love of colour was great than the love of life!


Worth more than gold and mined in the Afghan mountain Lapis Lazuli is a special pigment - Ultramarine.

Lapis Lazuli might be better known today as a block in Minecraft but this semi-precious stone has long been important and used in some masterpieces.

Artists, such as Vermeer, would go into debt such was their desire to use it and Michelangelo left the The Entombment unfinished as he couldn’t afford the pigment and no other would do.


Imagine a colour so valuable only emperors could wear it. Now try and imagine where it comes from, I guarantee you’re wrong!

Purple for dyes fetched their weight in silver at Colophon

Greek historian, Theopompus

Black & White

What do you get if you mix Cow manure, lead and vinegar? A white pigment that would gleam like no other.

The blackest black

Vantablack is made from carbon nanotubes and can absorb up to 99.965% of all visible light. After thousands of years the creation of new colours and pigments is still going strong.

Seeing colour

Do colours really exist? How do we see them? Do some people see more colours than others?

In English we have 11 basic colours: black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, pink, gray, brown, orange and purple.

It's thought our language effects the colours we can see, a tribe of hunter gathers from Papua New Guinea called the Berinmo have just 5 basic colours and are unable to pick out greens and blues as well as English speakers, but they do better with yellows

We would see them as being more similar because we call them by the same name. Our linguistic categories affect the way we perceive the world

Dr. Roberson

Further reading

From no colour to supercolour

Neil Harbisson can't see colour so he installed a camera in his skull that converts colours to sounds. He now dresses for how he sounds, not how he looks.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are tetrachromats, women with an extra cone in their eyes who may be able to see up to 100 times more colours than the average person.


This transcript is automatically generated so may contain errors.

Welcome to the curiosity of a child, first year anniversary. Yay for year old mate. Yeah do you think would make it this far?

Um well.

Yeah, probably.

And have you enjoyed it? Yeah, and me. We had a few moments, haven't we? Creative conflicts, but I think you're doing very very well. Yeah, and so do other people because we are actually going to feed our egos about and read some reviews, aren't we? Yep, you wanna read the first one.

No, no okay.

Persons from Ned's Donovan and he says what a podcast. Sometimes ideas hit the perfect connexion between intent and execution, and this is one of those a must listen.

Pretty good.

I've got another one here by James. Don't read this one.


This is a fantastic podcast. Ilove the relationship between father and son, the educational journeys that they take rarely do transport you back to when you are learning about castles or Egypt. I have also suggested that my partner, who is a teacher, recommends it to her primary school students.

That's right, we might actually be on the.

Curriculum in schools across all lands, yeah.

And we actually had a review from France Saturday, which I liked and this is from Aaron.

Wakes up the.

Curious child in you don't wait any. My French accent, Ella winks up the curious, said child in you.

That's not French.

Was the best I can do okay, okay, quite interesting facts. I like the way the storeys are brought to anyone can understand easily which is a plus for a non native English speaker.

So thank you very much for that one.

And we got one.

More do you want to trade in this one?

So this is from.

Who's gonna do?

Pretty girls and they sent a poop, emoji, space invader, emoji alien head emoji, I emoji and.

Brian Emoji and then said.


When you have nothing to listen to.

Yeah, thanks very much and that they still reached four out of five.

Yeah so good.

So how many hours of podcast you think we've created?

I think we've created over all about.

8 hours of broadcast.

More than that.

Up to 10 hours this episode.

An I reckon we've probably got about 22 trillion words.

That was taken using my amazing math skills journey from my Halloween episode Wow Halloween episode rather.


To think you've learnt lots.

Yeah, I've learned had the brain surgery.

I've learned that you're terrible at maths.

I've learned about more things.

Okay, without the waste we get on with this so.

Yeah, I'm with the show.

So you've been looking at painting pigments? We haven't you.

Yep, it's been our homework.

So what is colour?

Just light, isn't it?

That's right in 1784. So Isaac Newton published a book called Optics and it contained the first ever colour wheel.

And I've got painting from here and what's he holding?

He's holding a prism and the lights being.

Mean reflects into different wavelengths. Yeah, yeah.

And it's making it like a rainbow.

We got prism, haven't we? Yeah? And what do United about the colour that you get from a prism?

Colours are very like bold, strong colours.

Exactly that pure, they want me.

When is Isaac Newton made his first colour wheel and was looking at lights? It was actually during an outbreak of bubonic plague, so he was isolating at the time, yeah, so a bit like we or many people are right now isn't.

There were luckier in Guernsey that we don't need to.

Yeah, not too much anyway, so I wonder what other discoveries people are doing right now. Yeah, so there's this book there, which is called optics or treaties on the reflections and refraction. Ee's inflexions and colours of light.

Also, two treaties on species and magnitude of curvilinear figures.

We have a picture that initiates say would you like to see his colour wheel?

Yes, please, okay you ready. Be prepared to be amazed.

What's missing the colour? Yeah yeah. So so I think he's got away or had no colour but we know that colour isn't away or is it is a linear scale measuring the wavelength of light from red to Violet, but when the colours is missing, isn't it?



Yeah, in ways that.

Because pink isn't a colour.

Yeah, pink kind of doesn't exist in the way he's if light goes from red to Violet, there is no pink. Different colours come visible when the photon as a particle of light of justice the right wavelengths hit something okay.


Then the colour you see isn't actually within the object itself. What you're actually seeing as the light being reflected back and then the other wavelengths of colour would be absorbed. So like your top that got on at the moment is red. Yeah, that means that when lights hitting it.

The Reds wavelength light of being bounced back to our eyes and all the other colours always insulate, are being absorbed actually by the material.

So what I'm trying to say is my T shirt is any colour but red.

Possibly yeah, I kinda like. Think of it that way. I'd like to think that is absorbing the colour that is. So with pink, what you're actually saying is 2 wavelengths of light red and violets at the same time. Yeah, and then your eyes kinda making sense. And this is also why black things get hot in the sun because they absorb most of the light or the energy.

I'm not saying that it gets transformed into heat, is there not reflecting much back school?

So white things would would reflect better. Yeah, they're.

Reflecting all the different wavelengths, that's right.

Some chemicals are particularly good at absorbing different frequencies of light and reflecting others back, and they play pure colours, and many of these are uses pigments. Yeah, so that's what we're going to cover in a moment.

The history of colours and pigments gaze back thousands of years. People have developed more and more pigments and colours and with new discoveries in new pigments, actually transforming the arts that could be made an some pigments are worth their weight in gold. Yeah they might be reserved just for the elite people.

So the Storey of colour is a rich one.

Would you like to begin?

So we're going to start off with red. This is red ochre, it gets its colour from iron molecules so it's a bit like rust colour.

They are magnetic, so point North when dried and it lets you update artwork that hasn't been moved. So if you had like.

A cave painting where the Cos it dries, pointing wherever the magnetic North Pole was at that time, so you could tell when it was painted.

That's amazing, is that.

It's found all over the world and often used as a body paint and like I said in cave art.

So it's not really old ancient colour that's been kind of with humans almost as long as we've made art.

Now we move onto you Canal, read which we chatted about this before in the podcast. It's meat from little insects and used as food colouring and lipstick, as well As for paint. the British Redcoats used it to dye their uniforms too, so they have very very bright uniforms as missed if you or no.

And they used these bugs, yeah?

It also became the third most important import from the Americas after gold and silver.

Anything you think?

All the more practical materials you might bring from there or feed yet a colour pigments more important than them.

As I said, it was a much stronger read than others that had come before it, such as Carmine Lake, which was used by the Egyptians and was also made from crushed insects.

Rafael Rembrandt and Rubens or used cannot snow as it lays an they would layer the pigment on top of other website reads Luca to increase their intensity. Might be used quite sparingly just to enhance other Reds. And here's a picture of a British red cating and see when they get their name.

But I think the most brilliant red is Vermilion. It might be one of them is dangerous to really yeah. I mean, it doesn't spell any blood, probably.

Yeah, blood red I think face dangerous red yeah.

It's thought the Chinese were creating for million in the 4th century BCE, but it wasn't widely used in Europe until much later.

Yeah, that's right. So there's a Persian alchemist whose name I'm going to get wrong here. Jabeer in the Abhiyan. I apologise to him and he described how the million was made in his book and colour recipes and the seven hundreds and he said that Mercury and sulphur mixed together forming a black compound of Mercury sulphide is just then heated and vaporised and then re condensed in the top of a flask. Vermilion was then taken out and it was ground. At first it was almost black.

But as it is grounded became redder and redder.

So basically what they're trying to say is, if you crush anything, it turns red.

Yes, setting with the insects. Yeah, so this Italian Renaissance artist called Janine Ace Animi brilliant name. He rates. If you went to ground everyday for 20 years into keep on getting better and more perfect, the more you drowned at the rhetoric got.

It did have a couple problems though. One was that after a while it could return back to its black colour, so some old paintings they've lost that vibrant they would have had.

Like if they used on the red coat here would be a black coat and.

And as it was made for Mercury, it is toxic.

Until next colour.

Orange after red pigments. The orange ones seem a bit boring.

Many of them came from plants like turmeric.

The seeds of the annatto plant have long been used in central and Southern America for body paint and to colour fabric, and turmeric is used to dye Buddhist monks robes, which we covered an episode one.

We did our first ever episodes just over a year ago.

Anymore about the history of turmeric. Then go have a listen to our amateur first episode. Although I felt quite amateur at the start of this one.

Okay, so we move on to Brown.

There are lots of Brown and earthcolors mined from the ground or made of clays.

They were often named after the location where they were found, such as Seana and Amber from Siena and Cumbria in Italy.


now I'd imagine that some of these colours that they were producing back then.

They would have varied quite a lot when they were mind when they were made, so perhaps the purest, most consistent colours would have been even more expensive than the rest, because you could imagine an artist doing a painting and he's run out of his red, orange, Brown or something. I need to do some more, but he can't get an exact match. Yeah, because you just dug up from the earth or crossed a few insects to make it.

But where else can we get Brown from?


yes, come to fish.

I think about it. Miss typed that yeah.


console fish. Thank you. But there's no such thing as a fish.

I've never seen a cuttlefish.

I mean, I seem dead ones thing is.

Have you seen the whites? Kind of? Yeah there things that budgies like eating you find in the beach.

Yes, and what colour do we get from cuttlefish?

We get a sepia, a light Brown from their ink so they have a light Brown ink.

Looks different under the water and maybe with because water is Bluey ********* when it mixes with the Brown or the light.

Say from orange to Brown 2.


listen, please.

Permission granted thank.

You okay, this is amazing. Zambia. There's a cave near place called Twin Rivers and this is where they actually found the earliest ever pigment production. And it dates back about 350 to 400,000 years.

Wow, that's nearly as old as Granny.

That is actually older than Ronnie. Yeah, seriously, it is this.

Sorry granny.

And then the colours that they found ranged from everything from yellows to purples, and it's believed they would have been used for body art as the earliest man. Cave paintings, 2035 thousand years old only. But what's most amazing about this discovery is that actually predates modern humans, so it wasn't a mistake.

Is doing this?

It is incredible and it also hints it.

Was cave bears.

Maybe yeah, and also hints that maybe people or early sort of protein humans back then had maybe some form of language or symbols that they were using.

Yeah, this incredible, but that's not you or me writing. But in pictures, yeah?

Say drawing, I don't think you understand how amazing I'm finding this fact is incredible.

This is before humans.

Or modern humans.

Or maybe they showed it like.

Then almost level they might have had some societies and then they if you had yellow body paint you were.

Very powerful if you have Brown body paint you might have not been so powerful like a pauper.

Most of these pigments are very expensive, yeah?

So we move on to our next yellow pigments. Yeah, So what happens when you feed cows mango leaves?

You can create a pigment called India yellow. From there your Rhine whoopee.

Say babe, I know Ryan.

Now the British painter Turner. He loved this colour so much that some people who said his paintings for afflicted by jaundice just kind of your skin goes yellow. Yeah, narizon things, but there's actually some debate about how true the source of Indian yellow is. Also rather cruel practise. So not everybody thinks that was created this way, but there's some evidence to say it was a lot of the time. It seems the pigments for actually from other sources, yeah.

But wasn't it they made it by feeding cows mango leaves?

And then making them.

Go pee pee.

On like a special soil or sand.

Yeah, I guess.

Yeah, and this song could have been a bit like the pigment.

Yes, I think then they dried and crushed in Roundup. Yeah, and even imagine if.

So one thing that doesn't when you going grinder grinder.

Ground Bryant it yeah.

Something when you.

Doesn't matter now.

Okay, what's our next colour green? I like green.

It's obviously a very important colour if you want to paint landscapes, isn't it?

Yeah, you need to get the grass and green Penguin pigment.



yeah and green pigments have been some of the most poisonous. Okay, that's why. If you have like poisonous liquid in a scientific lab flask, I saw his reasoning. Yes, Chloe, yeah.

In 1775, Swedish chemist Carwyn Homescapes Rail scale scale invented watching skills. Green screen full screen.

Trio's read shrills

into these complex names.

Now is a bright green, but it was a deadly as it contained arsenic.

But I didn't stop it becoming very popular in Victorian times.

Yeah, everythings popular Victorian times.

Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte's wallpaper was that green and historians think this might have been what killed him, so he would have been breathing it in and everything not licking his wall safely, but.

Maybe he was to see disappointed at how it lost his his empire building. He was leaning into the world with his elbow. It is.

I see I like Napoleon. He's dancing that popular among the British, but I listen to the Napoleon podcast with Cam.

Not right Andy Mr Napoleon expert man and I've gained respect Napoleon a lot since then.


So another green is Paris green. This also contained arsenic and was used by Monet and Renoir.

And also as a rat poison.

Renoir might have used this colour when he visited Guernsey in 1883. We visited the sites of several of his landscape paintings and have a short recording. Now over to you, me.

So we're down at Moulin wet now. This is a lovely little Bay in Guernsey. You might be able to hear the C crashing against the rocks around us and coming up through the gullies. That's a lovely, lovely sunny day, isn't it? Yeah, and Renoir, she spent some time painting. He didn't even stick. Kenzie yeah.

In fact, he did. He made 15 paintings in only five weeks in the five weeks that he spent in Guernsey, so that's pretty impressive. But it was kind of his Impressionist style.

He was an Impressionist painter.

Yes, that allowed him to work more quickly than maybe some of the Renaissance Masters. Yeah, things like that with his paintings. And what did we just see jumping in the Bay as well?

We saw tuna. I think it was two or three and they all just jumped out. Almost like Dolphins. Yeah, because I was in the.

Wall Street yeah. Water gazelles, yeah, yeah, they actually let's clear up the worst in there, so that then the massive amazing that was really exciting to see.

So we're going to continue exploring, says actually dotted around the Bay are lots of picture frames which you can look through, and the view that you see is the same as some of the paintings that Renouard, isn't it? So we are exploring these at the moment, yeah?

Taking Francis in the fine autumn weather.

Yeah, back to the studio.

It's actually a lovely day, wasn't it? When we were recording then?

It's nice and sunny and I wasn't too slippery so I can climb a rock.

Yes you could. It was kind of perfect the way that the light was playing on the cliffs. I mean, I could imagine that's what drew him to that location.

I still can't believe we saw Tuna jumping out the water. Yeah yeah, that's a cool.

Yep, that big yeah.

Say what happens to copper statues as they age.

They turn.


So yeah, I think it's when is it oxidisation that's happening there? So yeah, this is our next. Pigments is blue green one called vidius, and it is made from the corrosion of copper and it was really cheap. So popular.

Yeah, it's quite a nice colour as.

Well, it is, yeah definitely.

Yes, this is a cheap colour so that made it very popular, but it did have one big problem.

After its painted onto a canvas, it will actually continue to eat away at destroy the painting.

No wonder it's cheap.

Yeah, so no idea it was.

Somebody fun found out they would have been like alright. So this for the pound.

Just imagine this amazing painting ever created is probably poisonous or created away to nothing.


So we've gone from Blue Dream, so let's go onto blue where we've got lappas lazuli.

So how I say it? Yep.

And this will be a familiar name to Minecraft player, so I'll let you do this one.

So the lap is Lizzie Lee I think or lapy slizzle I.

Ohh nice is that your special accent?

Yeah, my aunt, an accent.

It is also the source of one of the most amazing pigments called ultramarine.

Lappas lusuli is a semi precious stone and mined in Afghanistan and crushed into powder. It is very expensive to produce and is considered more precious than gold and in Minecraft it probably is cause then you can enchant your on gold pick axes and everything. Okay yeah too I'm breaking and then it won't break with the time.

That's why I'm breaking means, yeah.

Michelangelo couldn't afford it and left a painting called the Entombment unfinished. Vermeer got his family into debt using it.

Yeah so.

Sorry Fortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle couldn't finish his painting.

He couldn't nice face sad. Actually he wasn't even the blue one. Was he that Leonardo, yeah.

Yes, it's such an amazing colour that some artists they would kind of ruin the myself using it when a painting was being created using it. Maybe the person Commission painting they would pay for the pigment? Yes, that's fine, but it decided upon with the artists kind of what areas of the painting would be done in ultramarine so so precious that many, could you say much of it? Yeah, imagine if you're mixing it up and you know you spill it or something or.

Or you run out at half 8 three, I mean.

Like a really expensive ink or something, and then you spill the pot. Yeah, happy annoying. Only the ink only from.

Octopus ink sack.

Just find out amazing how bad with these pigments, van or so will the places they come from and how they are made and also kind of how they linked up the world. This come from Afghanistan into Europe along the spice raid so great. Thank you.

The spice, right?

Yeah, it sounds better I guess. Or maybe it's from the brilliant game Central Spice route.

So this is a big chunk of the rock here. See how blue it is, yeah?

I mean I've got lots of different shades, so I guess every paint wouldn't be exactly the same exact shade almost well. Same with all.

Of them probably, Yep.

But now you can get some more similar houses.

That form, naturally. They it's incredible.

Okay, so let's go onto our next colours.

Violet and purple.

Yeah, so to be born in the purple was in the idiom given to the children of Byzantium emperors, and it came from the fact that it was such a rare colour any of those deemed worthy the ruling family were allowed to wear it.

That must have come from somewhere pretty special.

Actually is made from the mucus of a carnivorous sees now.


It's difficult to make and has been used since at least 1200 BC.

Greek historian Theo pompous name. That's the first season game.

Rate in the 4th century BCE, that purple for dyes fetched their weight and silver at colourful.

They could actually milk these snails.

In Wikipedia about this, and I think exactly how they phrased it, something like by agitating a smell such as by poking it.

So this is quite funny.

But I remember doing my research for school.

And I came across this Storey where there was a dog who went down to the beach and they munched on a snow and then the dog, its owners leg and.

The owner was like was there purple in my leg.

Like I said, it much Donna sees now.

Maybe that's how we discovered it. I mean, how else would you find that?


Papa's became really popular in more recent times, too, when I said.

When I said.


Oh, I get it now, yeah.


Purple became really popular in more recent times. 2 one I said.

I finally discovered the true colour of the atmosphere. It is violent fresh air.

Is violence.

Although some critics of the day accused him of Violet, Romania is that real?

Well, it's a mania of Violet.

It should be a vital phobia.

Now he's not.

Scary, but there should be invited.

They probably is actually. Yeah, people scared of controversies mouse.

So a lot of these colours were made possible thanks to the invention of the cheaper paint and that was by a chap called John Guthrie land and he invented it in 1841.

And it allowed artists for the first time to take their fresh paint outside of the wherever they were going. So helped with Impressionism, doesn't it? Where you can do these quick paintings out? And you could also buy pre mixed colours as well. You can purchase them already to go.

That's good.

So we have travelled from red to Violet and pretty much covered all the visible light. Haven't we? Yeah, but still two more important pigments we need to mention, black and white. So first up black.

So how do you think it's made?

There are two similar pigments, bone black and ivory black. Both are made by burning bones or ivory until carbonised. It's then crushed up into a powder.

Did you know it's also used when they refined sugar?

No, yeah.

So next time you eat something sweets, just remember that.

So what happens is your teeth. They tempt Lane black or ivory black. If you have too many seats.

That's true, yeah, maybe that's what's happening.

You've cracked it.

So I've actually seen the name buying Black before those confused me, so I don't know what came from, but now I know.

Now, the pigments that we've talked bout so far they've been really old ones, haven't they?

There's an amazing new one called Vantablack, yeah, and it is the blackest black is more black than any black that's come before.

And actually created using.

Carbon nanotubes and said that absorbs up to 99.965% of all visible light, so it's nearly everything. And if you look at it, it's meant to be like you are looking at a bottomless pit. There's no lights coming back to your eyes. Yeah, it's been almost changed. Your perception of where you are in space.

And here, which I put this pitch in this show Nate is an artwork by Anish Kapoor and he's got the exclusive rights to use this in his artwork. So this is 2 busts. The left ones matter. What's the right OneNote like they?

That it looks like it's just been cut out of the picture. It's like it's.

Save shape, we can't see anything you can't even say things like in a nose or eyes on it. It's just black.

Yeah, it's just a solid black form is there is incredible. I really want to see it.

Okay, so I lost colour white.

So when I was at art college, I needed to make some guess, so it's kind of like a white paint or pigment which uses a primer on the canvas to prepare it for other paints.

Say, what do you think it was made of?

Not burnt bone no snow.



A plate.

No mate, it was made of rabbit skin. Yeah I remember we were having to mix it up and it's horrible is that I didn't say I'm particularly disgusted by things but when we made this kind of gooey sticky thing out of rabbit skin, it wasn't that nice.

But you never even worse white Stanier.

Yeah, led white poisonous lead right?

Artist said it would capture and reflect the gleam of light like no other white pigment. It was made in an odd way cow and horse manure was layered on top of lead and vinegar and left for months in um in a sealed room. It would make pure white flakes and then return to paint poisonous paint.

How did people discover these things?

But in Tudor times they used as like makeup to make them look paler.

He is very famous for that Elizabeth first.

Yeah, what it did best skin.

Bad things basically ate it, didn't it made it will pock Marks and horrible so must have put more and more on each time to cover it like the plastering a wall.

Anyway, I would you thank.

You see I don't know how people discovered all these pigments because we've got crushed in sex we've got.

Backbone and crushing.

Pain, Yep, we've got Rust, Mercury and acid or whatever it was so far. Yes, we've got cows waiting on things. We got snail mucus.

You've got Afghanistan stones.


Is incredible, so in pigments you're capturing kind of the progress of human civilisation technology in 2006 around 7.4 million tonnes of pigments were marketed worldwide, and in 2018 the pigment market was estimated to be worth about $15 billion. So it's still very valuable today.

And we try to make some for in oil painting. We so which team just pigments that we use?

So we used pastels.

Pastels, yeah or pasta was, as most people call them.

And yes, you are true artist. Yes and why not say pastels?

So how did we make our paints them?

So we kind of grated with some hostels into powder and then we added some Walnut oil. Just a few drops.

And then mixed it wood together and that made him the nice paint. But when we tried white it didn't work so well.

So really, the best Ortiz is linseed oil, but we couldn't get hold of any of that so will not. Oil was also used by artists when they used to make paint and the actual process is really time consuming. Isn't it? Bizarre paint took a few minutes to make.

But then there must have been some longer ones.

Yeah it could take hours and hours to mixer paint, which they would have to grind up the pigments, and then they'll be mixing with an oil and obviously for proper painting you wanted to be fully mixed and.

Plus the 10 years of training to mix it.

So an apprentice to a artist, he yeah, you might train for years before he even gets to do any painting.

Himself, he might just be told Okay, you can't mix pizza you can't paint.

Maybe yeah.

Or if you dropped that special way of ultramarine? Yeah, you're at the Academy, that's it has to be seen again, yeah?

Now before we finish, I want to have a quick look again at the colours we can see I mean, do colours really exist, do you think?

Do we will see them the same as what I see is red? This is what you see is red.

Maybe I mean this colour blind people. They might not see, right?


Yeah, I guess colours are real.

Yeah, well really, colour is just all in our heads because it's our brain interpreting light, isn't it? And signal is going to.

Rise, so if you had like these, they've got different colour vision.

Yeah, they concealed Violet.

Yes, but everything there's lots of different types of colour or like how you can see colour in the world.

We, I guess humans have.

I would say detailed.

An old lots of different types of light, but if you had ultraviolet lights like a bee or something, you would not have so many colours in your spectrum.

Now there's a really great talk by this rather eccentric chap called Neil Harrison, and he quietly see colours so you just season black and white so he had a camera embedded into the top of his skull, and so it will film what he's looking at and it will turn the colours he's seeing into sounds. And he says now he doesn't dress for how he looks.

Dresses for how he sounds, yeah.

So what's actually happened is he can now see colour because his brain actually interpret sounds for him. Yeah, but what's most amazing is that he can actually now dream in colour. This is rain has adapted.

That's really cool.

And there's a video which I put machine 8 switches the Ted talk by him. It's really interesting.

English, we've got 11 basic colours and they are black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, pink, grey, Brown, orange and purple.

But not all cultures have this number, so there's a tribe of Hunter gatherers from probably our favourite island after gains in this podcast, pop in New Guinea, and this tribe called the Bear IMO, and they have just five basic colours in their language, and there's another nearby tribe may only have two basic colours, which I think is basically light and dark.

Yeah, so black point.

Yeah, now there's an idea in linguistics called the linguistic relativity hypothesis.

And the idea behind it is that we see the world more through our language than with our eyes, okay?

So if you have less words for colours, that means that you can actually distinguish or seedless colours in the real world.

Or maybe you actually see those colours differently.

Now they bear in May. They actually have two colours. What we would call yellow. They've got null and wow.

And so they actually see a division in yellow that we don't. So if you had a colour chart and you're asked to divide the colours up, we just say yellow, yellow, yellow and don't go. Don't know well. Well yeah when tested and asked to match colours, English speakers were much better at distinguishing between blue and green, but with yellows were much worse than the tribe. So it's just weird idea that you will see more colours if you understand them, so maybe that's why artists were so good and so passionate about these pigments because they were kind of trained and understanding colour, they could actually see more colours.

Paint is I.

Yeah exactly yeah they got the painters. It's good for putting it.

Doctor Robertson, who spent nine months with the tribe in the jungle, are getting to know them and understand their culture and study them. She said that the.

Original colour vision is the same as ours if they're asked to identify a single colour from a group of colours, they would do it the same way as your eye, but see have three colours and call two of them blue and one green. We would see them as being more similar because we call them or by the same name. Our linguistic categories affect the way we perceive the world.

So how many colours do you think we can see?

10 billion 120 two 1502.

Very precise.

How confident are you in that guess?

Not very.

Okay, you went a little bit too high there, so in our eyes we got three types of cones that pick up different colours.

And it said that each one of those can probably pick up about 100 different shades of that colour. So 100 * 100 * 100 is.


Yeah, so we can probably see 1,000,000 different colours.

See if you like them up. You think that's a lot, but there are some people in the world who might actually be able to see some more. And you mentioned colour blind people earlier. Some women who have a colour blind father actually have an extra 4th Kane in their eyes and this might allow them to see 100,000,000 colours.

To watch what might look like a white wall to them would look like.

Every different coloured panes of white will yeah.

That would be cool.

Yeah, but it's a world that most of us can't see so.

And then there would be like all can you call me what you see like draw, you see, you wouldn't even be able to see their colours. Yeah, imagine like AM.

Like a manager of a pen colouring manufacturer who's like a special person like this and then there would be like I want this colour and everybody else would think it's a completely different colour.

Yeah, could be really frustrating as well. We imagine somebody's clean something and to them it looks perfect.

Assistant Colohan tear it so yeah.

But some people have less unlike colour sensors.

Best colour blind people yeah yeah yeah yes they would have one of the malfunctioning so they only get two colours, so people with four functioning Keynes called tetrachromats texture, being four, whilst us mere mortals are tried formats. So try meaning 3. How do you think you say this person's name?

Jane, it's Boots, Knights, Knights, Knights.

Jane, it's a vision researcher at the University of Washington says that we might actually need to create special colours for these people to allow them to practise how to use their additional canes. So think of it like exercising a muscle and he says.

Most things we see as coloured are manufactured by people who are trying to make colours that work for tried for mats, it could be that our whole world is tuned to the world of the trichromat.

So in other words, the colours we create and use mean that the 4th Kane never gets a workout, yeah?

It will be interesting to see the art of a trained tetrachromat.


it has made art for themselves with their own kind of special colours and see if if you can just.

See if you can notice that this, like hey, I didn't recognise that right or?

Sure, yeah, or could be an exclusive exhibition for tetrachromats, when they can see things in the painters that nobody else can. Yeah it for spies, maybe as well with like hidden messages.

And stuff like yeah, then you could do a slightly different shade of white on another white for special.

Capture a match? Yeah please.

You're welcome. All of the organisations.