People and colour

“Every person has their own colour.” 
— Haruki Murakami, ‘Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage’

Consider the way we see colour: on a base level, we all share a certain consensus.

The sky is usually blue. Its clouds are sometimes white, sometimes grey. The setting sun blazes orange, and red, and yellow depending on its mood. The night sky is black, dotted with the silvery sheen of the stars and the moon.

But there is no way of knowing whether the way one person perceives colour is the same as the next.

The same scene could be painted and copied from a varied palette, some with rich hues and others pale imitations. One copy vivid, the next washed-out.


You’re standing in front of an ocean vista. The sand is golden white and vibrant, tiny specks of broken shells catch the sun like scattered jewels. Foaming water laps at the shoreline. The water is clear, but shades of turquoise dance across its surface. Blue. Green. Aquamarine. The colours swirl and contract with the ebb of the waves. Milky clouds fold into an ice blue sky.

They’re standing in front of an ocean vista. The sand is a light yellow, coarse and endless. Bright sand, they think, but sand nonetheless. Foaming water laps at the shoreline. The water is clear, a comforting blue, the usual blue of the ocean. The sky is also a comfort, a usual sky. The clouds are cloud-white, the sky is sky-blue.

“What incredible colours”, you say.

“Yeah, I like the blues”, they reply.


Every person has their own colour. But there is no way of knowing whether the way one person perceives someone’s colour is the same as the next.

This is the way I perceive people and colour.

Some are bold, brash, unwavering in tone. Fire engine-reds. Electric yellows. Their presence is a hurricane. They try to shine brightest. They are unmistakable, once you cross their path.

When it comes to their colour they are usually self-aware, and usually self-assured.

I usually don’t get on well with bold.

Some are subtle, with minute detail. Blended colours. Complimentary tones. Their presence isn’t always instantly noticeable. They try to shine as the brightest version of themselves. They are unmistakable, once you’re in tune with their subtleties.

When it comes to their colour they are sometimes self-aware, but usually mired in self-doubt.

I usually get on well with subtle.

Some are a gaudy mismatch of colours.

Some are faded and frayed, needing a new coat.

Some are transparent, longingly empty.

But to me, the ones who stand out are in the minority.

Most peoples colours muddy together. They have no lustre. Leave no lasting impressions.

It’s not as if they’re colourless. But our eyes are only calibrated to see certain colours, and certain people.

I’ve been thinking about the people who have been most present in my life lately.

This is the way I perceive their colour.


She’s a patchwork of watercolour pastels.

Light and warm. Rose. Peach. Lavender.

A floral fever dream, her colours bleed together.


He’s cracked obsidian, mottled with muted greens.

Forest tones. Juniper. Sage. Pine.

They’re hard to spot, but exist just under the surface.


She’s midnight swells of navy, burgundy and violet.

Veins of gold course through her, a translucent amber.

Like city streets viewed through evening skies.


He’s blocky swatches of earth, wood and clay.

Browns and greys.

Weathered and distressed.


She’s an intense alabaster.

Blinding.

Bold.


There is no way of knowing whether the way I perceive their colour is the same as anyone else.

To the next person, they might be indistinct.

Or their colours may warp and shift over time.

Growing more vivid.

Growing more dull.

Maybe they’re different altogether.

But it’s only a matter of perception, after all.


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