Teaching Color and Discovering a Mystery

Beginning with the experiments of Sir Isaac Newton in 1665, we began to understand that color is in light. That is to say, white light is made up of color bands. We see these bands separate into their individual colors when the white light is forced through a prism. That is how a rainbow is formed.

I teach my middle school students to memorize two definitions for color:

a. Color is a gift of God. I say that because humans seem to be able to see a wider range of color than other animals, and, unlike the rest of the animal world, our ability to see color is not a necessary part of our life cycle; i.e., we don’t see color to identify our food source nor to avoid predators. God seems to just want to share the beauty of His creation with us.

b. Color is the result of light waves bouncing of objects, entering through our eyes, and making an impression on our brains. To elaborate, when light (with its color bands) shines on an object, some of the color bands are absorbed into the object, but some are not. Those color bands that are NOT absorbed bounce off and enter through our eye. So what we “see” is the color band that the object didn’t absorb.

I encourage my students to notice that the colors look differently when the light changes. Go into a closet with no light and you don’t see color. Look at the same scene on your way home and the colors of the landscape will look differently on a bright, sunshiny day than they do on a cloudy, overcast day. The color is in the light.

The next thing that I emphasize is that there are several different color theories. TV and lighting technicians use one theory. Printers use a different one. Artists that mix pigment use still another. The one that artists use to mix pigment is called the Prang Theory and was developed my Louis Prang in 1876. What I teach is the result of my own experiments and discoveries with the Prang Theory.

The Primary Colors: All of the color theories seem to start with three primary colors. In the Prang Theory those colors are red, yellow, and blue. They are called “primary” because, with the addition of white, they can make all the other colors and NOTHING CAN MAKE THEM.

Discovering a Mystery—Three-in-one: It hit me like a thunderbolt one day that the scriptures refer to God as light. Light is made up of three colors that cannot be made by mixing any other colors and those three colors make all other colors. What a picture of the triune Godhead!! Nothing can make the three persons of God, but they combine to create everything. Just a little more contemplation had me associating red with the blood of Christ, yellow with the gold of the Father’s throne, and blue with the peace of the Holy Spirit.

So Why Should We Be Surprised? In Genesis 9:12-19 God told Noah that when mankind saw the rainbow in the sky we should think of Him and remember His promises. That’s a pretty big hint that the rainbow with its refracted light has something to do with God, isn’t it? Do you suppose God was doing a wink, wink as He said that to Noah?

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