Killdeer at Illinois Beach State Park

Killdeer on Dune Trail, IBSP

The dress is white and gold.

Or at least, I was pretty sure of it.  Last night my son and I were bantering about the silly things we find online, and that dress was one of the things we were chuckling about.  He brought up the image, and it was clearly white and gold.  He looked at me oddly, and said, “blue and black.”  We looked warily at each other and then showed it to his dad and sister.  “White and gold” said my daughter.  “Blue and black” said their dad.  The four of us stared at the dress and each other, mystified.  In our house at least, it seems to come down to male vs. female eyes.  This morning I saw a photo of the dress and it was blue and black.  What goes on here?  To see for yourself, here is a link:

This is a triviality, except it made me question what I take for reality.  What any of us take for reality.  Then this morning when I was photographing this painting to share with you, there it was again.  The painting has a lot of purple in it.  My camera, however, insists that it is blue.  I tried taking the photograph in different rooms, different lighting, different settings, no matter.  Blue.  Also, the camera has sort of compressed the image so the proportions don’t look right. I am putting all of this down to the questionable magic of digital media.  Or perhaps I’ve lost my marbles…

In any event, here she is, fresh off the easel.  Last summer on a gorgeous warm day, she graciously took pity on me and my inadequate photographing skills and posed on the remains of a train trestle that whispers of past human activity there, in the dunes at Illinois Beach State Park.  The photograph I took in the field has lots of noise in it which I would ordinarily have translated on the canvas, depicting habitat.  This time I was after something more dramatic, pared down.  I haven’t done this before, but I think I like it.  Or maybe the dress is blue and black….

Published by melissabluefineart

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40 thoughts on “Killdeer at Illinois Beach State Park

  1. Such a lovely depiction of a kildeer. We have them in abundance, although I never had seen any of their babies until two years ago. Last year, I was lucky enough to see two others. They make me laugh, looking as they do like golf balls with legs. And run? Oh, they’re fast.

    And just so you know, the only hint of blue in the image I see is in the upper left. Otherwise? It’s filled with the most luscious lavender.

    1. Oh good! Maybe my lavender receptors are burned out…
      Thank you, I’m so glad you like it. We have a lot of them too and I’ll probably paint more, as I just love them. One year a female laid her eggs very close to the trail where I walked regularly. I feared for them but them came to no harm. My children and I watched anxiously, visit after visit, until out popped the fuzzy little golf balls on legs. What an apt description!

  2. Love how the killdeer seems to be balanced between two worlds — almost like on a diving board. My husband showed me the dress photo thinking it had to be a hoax since it was so clearly white to him. All he said was: What colour is this? I couldn’t really figure out what he meant so I said ‘periwinkle’ thinking he must have been wondering what the name of the blue was. His face looked incredulous. It is a funny thing.

    1. Hi Debra, thank you for commenting 🙂
      Yes, the balance between two world was just what attracted me too. My ex thought it looked like a surf board~ I liked that too. Surfing between two worlds!
      That dress thing really is odd.

      1. Surfing! Perfect. It really is a lovely image. The dress thing is odd for ordinary people but for people who work with colour for a living it is so much more. There is some kind of perception thing going on that we don’t understand. I’ve seen a few of the explanation and they don’t really explain it at all. Optical illusions fade after you point them out to people but this one doesn’t really do that — at least for most people.

      2. Exactly, Debra. You have expressed what was bothering me about this. I’ve read the explanations, I understand them, yet I’m still thinking, “What? What?”
        Your comments about my painting have made me feel really happy. Thank you!

  3. Killdeer are one of my favorites. A few years ago, one started a nest in a parking lot where I worked. Each lamp post was surrounded by an island with round gravel the size of big marbles up to 2″. People parked and walked by to the door at the building. The killdeer was quite flustered at first. It would fly off feigning an injured wing to distract the dangerous people. Then it settled down some and let people walk by.

    Melanie often complains of the way WordPress changes the color and qualities of some of her quilt pictures. She works hard to get them to be correct in color and proportion. The end results are not the same as what she uploaded.

    As to the color of the dress…it depends upon many things. 🙂

    1. Yes, that was odd, wasn’t it? I think the thing that threw me about it was the fact that two of my family saw it so differently, and could not see it the way I did, nor I the way they did. “But we are so close!” I thought. We know each other…it was like an unexpected wedge driven between us, and it reminded me that there are likely many things we don’t see eye-to-eye on. Taken a step further, isn’t this the root of human discord?

      1. Neither one of us were paying any attention when all the hub-bub took place. I looked at the story and wondered why all the fuss. It looked like a matter of very bad lighting and changes to pictures when they get copied from one computer to another.

        I downloaded the image and did a one step photoshop move to select what should be a black place to the left of the dress. Bingo…the dress turned into a definite blue and black. Nothing else was needed.

        The episode points out some interesting social and communication issues. As you said, ‘unexpected wedge’ issues that can drive us apart quickly.

  4. I see both purple and blue in the version of your painting that appears above, with the upper part appearing generally bluer and the lower purpler, though with some of each color throughout. I often see things as purple that others describe as blue (which I’ve pointed out in various posts over the past four years), so I guess my perception isn’t surprising here.

    As for the colors of the dress, here’s an article with some more information:

    Given the differences between digital sensors, color monitors, and our retinas and brains. I think it’s impossible that two people will ever see a digital image in the same way.

    And isn’t it interesting that killdeer don’t kill deer?

    1. Yes, isn’t it? In fact I thought of you as I typed it, and wondered what you would say. I suppose that some group of people from long ago had their superstitions, like believing that milk snakes were stealing their milk.

      1. The American Heritage Dictionary says that the name killdeer is probably imitative of the bird’s call. I’m not familiar with it: does the call sound to you like the word killdeer?

      2. Yes, I suppose it does. I’m largely non-verbal when I am absorbing impressions, so when I look at stars I don’t perceive patterns, and when I listen to birds I don’t hear words. But I think the killdeer does have a lilting two-note call.

  5. The colours are beautiful on my monitor. I see a lot of lavender and some deeper purples. The shade of blue in the background looks lovely with the golden grasses. The golden grasses are soooo dreamy! And I like the tenderness of the beige and white and peach . And the sun-kissed killdeer is so cute. Feels like a beautiful moment :-).

  6. What dress?

    The painting is purple. I don’t see any blue. Maybe my laptop screen is faulty. It is a lovely colour scheme and anything with a bird in it gets my vote. I am sure the compression creates all sorts of distortions on WP as it does on FB. Its a shame and sometimes if the effect is too bad I just delete the image. The pared down look is good.

    What dress? Am I missing something important here? I shall have to check the FT 🙂

  7. Oh Andrew, thank you! I’m really happy that you like it, and that it looks purple. No, you are not missing anything important at all. It was just a strange phenomena in which an image of a dress went viral. To some people it looked black and blue, and to others it looked white and gold.

  8. I saw the dress pass by on my Facebook newsfeed. Then I saw it on the local news followed shortly thereafter on the national news. The next morning it was in the newspaper which is maybe the worst possible place to discern color. My opinion…….
    My other opinion is that I wish people were as concerned with things that really matter. Why does something so meaningless get so much more attention than things that can actually affect our lives? Jim may have heard me utter that same question earlier. 🙂

    As far as your painting, I see blues and purples. It depends on how we have calibrated our displays, if they have been calibrated at all. And, as Jim mentioned regarding Melanie, WordPress is awful for color rendering. I have just about given up reprocessing my images two or three times to get WP to look as it should. And if I do, there is no way of telling without asking constantly whether others are seeing it as I did or if all my changes are for naught or worse.

    Hehe….I like the idea of the killdeer hanging six 🙂

  9. chuckle chuckle, yeah, me too 🙂
    I agree about the dress itself being trivial. I only mentioned it because to me, it signals a starting point of discord. When two people can look at the same image on the same screen and see two completely different things, there is a moment of decision. Do you let it divide you? Do you try to convince the other that your view is correct? Do you agree to disagree? For me it was a very concrete example of something that could cause two people or two nations to have a conflict that could end up being real. When I read about the ancient start to grudges between Arab nations, for example, it all sounds pretty trivial. (Your great great great grandpa wouldn’t let my great great great grandpa’s goat drink at the spring…) And it was, way back then, when people probably sorted it out with waved fists. But fast forward to today when those same people now have weapons and festering hate, and now that ancient disagreement matters. When I look at my dear son and hear him stoutly insist that I am seeing the dress wrong, I get a glimpse of the abyss. The fact came home to me that if there could be that dramatic a difference in how people perceive that, what else are we not seeing the same and not realizing it?

    1. I had heard that the disagreement started over the inflection of syllables during prayers. Either way, a ridiculous reason to hate for centuries.
      Agreeing to disagree amicably makes the most sense. Why is that so difficult?

  10. There’s no question that we see color differently, and I suppose, lots more. There are so many agreements we operate with that are unconscious. And I think you can drive yourself crazy wondering what others see if you try to connect it too much to what you’re trying to convey, right? Then more crazy in the case you bring up – attempting to get an accurate rendition of the painting’s colors on the camera, which depends so much on the room’s ambient light. (That’s why people who photograph art get big bucks!) For me anyway, that purple is striking and plays so well against the Killdeer’s plumage.

  11. Interesting about the white and gold dress!! Do not know what perceptions of wavelengths make it look otherwise to the same viewers at the same moment in time and on the same monitor. In general color space can be frustrating when you’ve worked hard to make something look just so and then you have to deal with viewing variances you have so little control over. Calibrated or otherwise.

    Your painting is delightful and my monitor shows it to lean way more to the purple than the blue and it has light and life to it. It looks wonderful to me! I am sure there is nothing like seeing your original though. I have been photographing the china plates my mother has painted to make some personal greeting cards of her art. Sometimes my photo is very close to her colors and sometimes a bit shifted. But, for the greeting cards I am letting the process inform itself. I worried Mom would be upset that the colors were not exactly as painted on the art paper cards I came up with, but she loves them.

    I know when I work on a photo, I want people to see exactly what I am seeing since that attracted me to it. So it makes you wonder as you have here in this post.

    1. Hi Judy,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Making cards from your mother’s painted china is a beautiful thing to do. Perceptions are oddly slippery, aren’t they? In the end I have decided to let go of the result and trust the process. That sounds a bit canned~I don’t know how else to express the release I feel from letting go but I suspect you will understand.

      1. Exactly!! I agonized over Adobe 1998 or sRGB, reflected light, transmitted light, monitor vs paper etc etc etc. But, I too have let go and let what is just be. Might be canned but maybe there is a reason for that…..its what we all come down do or go insane!! LOL!!

  12. That’s lovely! I see both blue and purples in the painting. The golden grass “pops”! I love Killdeer eyes; the color and how expressive they are suck me in.
    I’ve seen the babies, and juveniles a few times before. They’re so tiny and cute! I’ve not been successful getting a great image of them in flight though. One day I hope to.

    Oh yes…the dress. I see white and gold and so does He-Man. 🙂

    I hope things are still warming up your way.

  13. YES! 2 more for white and gold 🙂 Thank you for your kind comments about my painting. Aren’t killdeer lovely? I could watch them all afternoon.
    The snow is nearly gone, and the daffodils are poking up from the mud. Hurrah!

    I hope you get your killdeer in flight shot.

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