I was recently interviewed for the Drawing Attention column on the Urban Sketchers Blog.

Overcoming Challenges

by Brenda Murray


When USk Instructor Fred Lynch, from Winchester, Massachusetts, was a junior in college he took a simple test and found out that he is color-blind. Of course this was a surprising turn of events especially for a young arts student studying illustration.

Fred says he still sees colors but he’s just less sensitive to colors—he misidentifies colors. For example, green traffic signals sometimes look off white. Khaki and tan are confusing.

Fred’s condition made painting difficult. It was very difficult to mix and match colors. Watercolor in the tin looked different than on the paper. Wet ink looks different than dry ink.

So Fred switched to drawing in black and white with a ball point pen. It made it easier to communicate what was in front of him. Then Fred picked up Winsor & Newton nut brown ink. In fact, sepia ink was used historically in the drawing of Rembrandt, Claude Lorrain and Corot for example, so he was referencing the masters.

“Deficiency in one area can become a strength in another area,” Fred explained. “For example, Django Reinhardt the great jazz musician who played guitar with a deformed hand. I once met an artist who had a hand-tremor. The result was the she had wonderful loose sketches. She made it into her strength”.

Fred’s strength is in looking at values, and light and dark. How does light hit things and bounce around?

“I learned to appreciate other things [like value] while others were appreciating color”.

But Fred’s commercial art is in full color—how does he manage that?

“I have the opportunity to create color as opposed to matching colors. My colors are always bright, bold and, to be self-critical, unsurprising,” he explained. “I can make things up. But I look at lights and darks more than anything else. I’m attuned to what I like as opposed to what others like”.

One in twelve men are color-blind while only one in two hundred women. Very few art students will admit that they’re color-blind.

“This is my struggle”, Fred admits. “We all have an issue. Accept it and move on. All of our work is a way of overcoming our issues and as a result you could end up with a much better piece”.