Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Red Dragon

In spring time the world fills with green budding sprouts, new leaves, and bright flowers. But here in San Francisco a popular tree is budding that breaks the mold. Commonly called the Red Dragon or Japanese Maple tree this fiery redhead is in a class all her own.

A beautiful upward shot of a glowing Red Dragon via CodePoet5150
 Actually from New Zealand, the Red Dragon has long been prized for its unique leaf coloration, and humans have taken it with them around the world. But the more we see them around San Francisco the more we have been wondering: why? We all learned in school that plants have a green pigment called chlorophyll which is integral to photosynthesis, turning sunlight into energy the plant can use. The Times sums it up nicely here:
"Green plants... in their own simple and mysterious way utilize the energy of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into food. Chief agent in this process of photosynthesis is chlorophyll, the green coloring-matter in leaves, which acts as a catalyst, speeding up the transformation, but undergoing no conversion itself."
This  trees bright red existence challenges our logic  - no green pigment equals  no photosynthesis right? How could that be?  They grow just like every other plant. So the chlorophyll must be hiding under a mix of other pigments in the leaves. And in fact with a bit of research this is what we find.

"The green colour of chlorophyll is simply being masked by one of a number of other pigments not involved in photosynthesis, including flavins and carotenoids, which are present in abundance in certain species of plant.
Carotenoids are yellow and orange (they give carrots their orange colour...) or orange/red in colour, so probably contribute to the red colour of leaves, but the richness of the red colour is provided by flavins. These are a group of photoreceptor chemicals which absorb blue wavelengths of light from the spectrum ... and emit all other wavelengths, making the pigment appear red."
A Red Dragon leaf shiny after a rain via car 67
With their challenged ability to directly expose their chlorophyll to sunlight the Japanese Maple has a much slower growth rate than their green siblings. In an unprotected natural setting, the trees would rarely thrive.   Horticulturists have carefully nurtured this beautiful species placing them in  settings where the competition for light is minimal as the inch their way toward maturity.

The colors around us reveal exciting questions if we just take a moment to see them!

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Shape of Color 2

Last week we delved in to the rich world of structural color. We saw how nature uses structures smaller than wavelengths of light to create beautiful iridescent colors. Drawing inspiration from nature an artist here in San Francisco is making structural color all her own.

Untitled (Commission for The Leonardo), silver nanoparticles on glass, 24" x 45".

Kate Nichols actually synthesizes her own nano particles to create the color in her artwork. She wanted to paint with the colors of butterfly wings, but as we now know that is not possible with pigments. She is now using the latest advances in the material sciences. 

Untitled. Silver nanoparticles on glass, 36" x 16", 2011.
From her website,
"In 2008, she joined the Alivisatos Lab at the University of California at Berkeley as the lab's first artist in residence. There, she synthesizes nanoparticles that exhibit structural color and creates macroscale art with them. Working as a painter, Kate became fascinated by the phenomenon of structural color–color that derives from a substance's geometric structure rather than its chemical composition. Such structures must be roughly on the scale of wavelengths of visible light and, as such, are measured in nanometers, manipulable with nanotechnology, and out-of-reach in a typical painting studio."

In this video from the Science on the Spot series from KQED Nichols talks about her transition from chemical to structural color.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Shape of Color

When we think about the science behind color, chemistry is our go to field: the chemistry of paints and dyes, the history of minerals and pigments.  But we rarely think about the shape of color. Structural color is an entire field of research that study's things like iridescent butterfly wings and nano scale silver particles.
Iridescent wings of the Morpho didius butterfly via Wikimedia

To start out we need a good explanation of  structural color . For that lets hear from Wikipedia: "Structural colors are colors caused by interference effects rather than by pigments. Color effects are produced when a material is scored with fine parallel lines, formed of one or more parallel thin layers, or otherwise composed of microstructures on the scale of the color's wavelength." So differences in surface structures can change the colors we see just by reorienting the light that hits them.

Scales on a butterfly wing via Wikipedia
Here is a great example. Above is an image of the scales of on butterfly wing, but when we look even closer we can see that each scale is a lattice work on the scale of wavelengths of light. When light hits this surface it gets reorganized, a process called interference. When this changed light is then seen the colors are the result of the surface architecture alone. 

Nanoscale Structure on a Butterfly wing scale via Wikipedia
Another beautiful example of structural color is the opal. The iridescence we see is the result of a particular kind of optical nanostructure called a  photonic crystal which effect motion of photons just as the butterflys lattice scales do, only with opals the hue changes as the angle if viewing changes. 

Opal via Wikimedia
Color is an ever present force in our world, perhaps sometimes so omnipresent as to be ignored. But when we see the amazing variety of solutions nature has found to produce color, it becomes new and interesting all over again.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring has Sprung

Via Apartment 34

Now that spring is upon us, the official season of rebirth and renewal,  we here at Colour Studio  are encouraging you to  think about bringing lush greens inside to chase away  winter blues.  As we scurry about with spring cleaning, going through the back of the closet and the mystery boxes in the garage, we can also be thinking about a fresh coat of paint or changing a few accents. And where better to start than a bit of spring green.

The Energy Hotel via Plastolux
In the Fung Shui tradition, green is the color of renewal. It gives our spaces lively energy and helps to nourish health. Green is strongly recommended for the bathroom as it provides a purification and new beginnings.  But if a major paint job in not what you are looking for there are great temporary seasonal changes in color  that can make your space feel new all over again.

These beautiful indoor plants via SaĆ­dos da Concha on Flickr
Plants are always a great thought for green in spring. We can scrub and sort all we want this spring cleaning but these lovelies enliven our space and clean our air! According to Laura Pottorff of Colorado State University plants such as English ivy and others remove common indoor pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Its amazing how dirty our indoor air can be, and how a few very easy changes really help clean it up. You can read more about her research here

Via Apartment Therapy
But plants are just the beginning. What about seasonal accents and artwork. Maybe switching out a rug and a painting is all you need to reawaken you home or office. Even if you don't want to shell out for a new rug you can make your own. There is a great tutorial for the rug below over at Craft.

Via Craft
Even the smallest decor, like a vase, candle holder or pillow is a great candidate for seasonal ration. With fresh spring greens subtlety can work better than over the top.

Via Hit Decor
Take the green wash in this mostly white teen bedroom or a French take on green living in the Kitchen.

Via Perene and Home Designing
There are a world of ways to expand the green highlights in your home. Make a big change or a little one, everyone deserves a new beginning this spring.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio