How Can PCA Results Differ So?
Let’s talk about an issue that I’m e-mailed about over and over.
A woman has been analyzed by many systems. Could be North American or European. Could be recent or over 15 years. Could have been with a Sci\ART based analyst like me or not. In person and online.
Her colouring has been analyzed by eye, matching coloured cards and fabrics to form a colour booklet. She’s been draped in 20 minutes and in 2 hours, with fabrics pieces, large and small. One company matched her colouring to paint chips from which a computer generated a palette. Some considered skin alone, some hair and eye colour. All of this in 4 Seasons, 12, and 16.
Most of the time, drapes came out with one set of results, often fairly close (say, Light Spring, Light Summer, and Soft Summer), but not necessarily. Could be all over the map. Matching by eye and computer came out with quite different results (perhaps, Soft Autumn, Autumn/Spring blends, and a Bright Spring, or a mix of the 3), sometimes close, sometimes quite disparate.
She is confused enough that to sign up for one analysis after another and find less satisfaction and closure each time.
Before you read any further – though I haven’t studied the fundamental belief behind all these systems, it appears as if they agree that people look best when they wear the colours their bodies contain. If you disagree with that premise, you’re barking up a whole different image consultant tree that I can’t even advise about. The following applied to the folks who believe our body colours are our most flattering clothing/hair/cosmetic colours.
If You’re on The Draping Side
To follow me,
(which I say in that way NOT because I invented the system I use, I didn’t, Kathryn Kalisz did, probably modeled on previous systems in existence, but because I can’t guarantee that all Sci\ART-based analysts reading this would agree with me and I would not presume to speak for the group,)
you have to buy into some central beliefs about human colouring and its analysis.
First is that we have A hue, A value range, and A chroma setting. ONE of each H, V, and C. Every pigment governed by our personal genetic code respects these settings. They apply to every colour we contain, all the blues, greens, oranges, pinks, every one of the thousands of colours in us. They do not deviate very much from their setting. Each of the 12 HVC-based colour palettes holds to its particular settings and does not deviate very much either.
Second. I do not believe that human vision is well set up to understand colours just by looking. Certainly not static isolated colour. It’s just how we are. There’s no point arguing it, any more than disputing that we see cool, muted colour as distance and hear high notes as youth. Human eyes misjudge HVC in swatches let alone the complexity of a face.
What Lauren* said is so clever:
What you see when you look at me is not what makes me, Lauren.
I believe that we are especially limited in our colour perception when it comes to the colours of our body. With David Zyla’s Color Your Style: How To Wear Your True Colors, I could not figure out my finger or vein colour. Wore myself out, as one of my favorite women said. Some might get it but I didn’t know jade from teal, and were the veins slightly purple?
I could get it when I laid my swatch book alongside the body part. Then, it lit right up. Was that wrong or right? No idea. Couldn’t do the finger pinch test even with the swatches. I did love his application of the colours, his individualized usage, and his artistic imagination. I loved that he disbelieves so many of the crazy myths about PCA. I agreed with so many of his words and ideas.
Maybe I have to use drapes because I’m so poor at judging human colouring or they’re just what I’m used to. I can look at someone in whatever their hair, clothes, and makeup is and I can’t find their true colours. All I can usually tell is that something’s off. I could then start adjusting them in my mind. Darken the hair, brighten the lip. Darken the hair, leave the lip, warm up the shirt. Leave the hair, cool the foundation, cool the shirt, and lighten the mascara. It could go on for days, with no answer at the end. Being impatient, I pull out the drapes. Grant me the serenity to know what I can change.
What we are extremely adapted to understand are change and comparison. In bold pink because that’s how important they are.
Cognitive scientist Dr. Mark Changizi wrote a book that is literally changing my life (I can’t thank Sarah enough for pointing me in this direction.) In The Vision Revolution: How The Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew About Human Vision, he hypothesizes that we barely register ourselves as having a colour, a taste, or a smell. This baseline setting is vital because we are particularly tuned in to the slightest change in the baseline. Fevered skin feels very hot, yet it’s only 1-2 degrees above baseline. How fascinating that all human skin of any ethnicity is very close in its reflectance of light in wavelength. Still, we’re far better at registering change in skin colour of our own ethnicity, our zero setting – though we can certainly learn and improve our ability to see colour change in skin of different baseline than our own.
It’s as if our entire nervous system is set to zero where other humans are concerned. That way, we can be especially sensitive to deviation. He speculates that this evolution allowed us to read one another’s condition better by the slightest change in skin colour and that we’re highly sensitive to it. This adaptation in our colour vision allows us better survival as a tribal, social, cultural collective. In specific situations, for instance, survival of the young or assessing the strength of an opponent, extreme sensitivity in reading very slight change in skin colour was a successful evolutionary event.
And then, OMG, it gets better, and I’m only 40 pages into it. At veterinary school 23 years ago, in Principle of Surgery class, we were given an exam question : Explain at the cellular level the physiologic conditions which cause tissues to become white, yellow, green, blue, red, and purple. Dr. Changizi answers the question in terms of the quantity of blood under the skin and its oxygen concentration superimposed ON TOP OF A COLOUR WHEEL!!!! Could barely believe what I was seeing. Got all goose-bumpy. Heart extra-pumpy.
In the course manual for students training to become PCAs, I wrote more than I needed to (what else is new?) about the wavelength sensitivities of the cells in human retinas. It’s so fundamental though. I couldn’t leave it out. It explains the comparison basis of human vision. Why red, green, blue, and yellow have their positions around a colour wheel. Why they’re opposites in the first place. OK, listen to this: turns out that our retinal cells are stimulated by the very wavelength patterns that correspond exactly with how light is absorbed by hemoglobin under skin. Meaning our colour vision evolved exactly to see changes in blood under skin! Meaning that by knowing the stimulation patterns of retinal cells, you could determine the blood oxygen concentration of the person you’re looking at!!!!!!! On page 43, Dr. Changizi says, “That synergy turns out to be crucial to our empathic ability.” You just have to read this amazing book. The windows it will open…
I’m pretty sure the answer to undertone is in here. Bernice Kentner, a personal hero of mine, related it to blood velocity, which sounded a little iffy in the absence of numerical data, but that was 30 – 40 years ago. Maybe this is what she was getting at. Others have related undertone to differences in blood colour or hemoglobin – again, IDK. Could be I just haven’t seen the data. It’s possible. We all have different melanin.
But is it probable? Melanin has a different purpose. It doesn’t carry oxygen. We wouldn’t die if our melanin changed a little. We might die if our hemoglobin changed a little. Is Nature likely to allow all primates, and then all races within a group of primates, to have different hemoglobins? It seems as if blood colour would be more rigidly controlled than melanin, with fewer mutations tolerated, because of the life and death implications. Still, I’m open to anything. I think Changizi is on the right path. As often happens, science catches up with art.
Anyhow, sorry, undertone is still one of my BIG QUESTIONS in PCA, back on topic,
change is what we’re excellent at seeing.
And comparison. Think about this: As the zero setting ourselves, we serve as the Control group!!!! We compare our hand, which we register as zero, to the hot fevered face, only 1 degree warmer and we say, “You’re so hot! Into bed!” My heart races just writing it. Behold the miracle that is Nature.
The book is awesome. Not medical or doctor-y or science talk at all. Written like a story with huge mind-blowing ideas on every page. I owe you, Sarah.
Third, I do not believe that colour is well set up to be understood in the first place because of how much it’s influenced by whatever’s around it, which is why my drapes are a solid colour and a lot of it. Colours change one another. When energy fields come into contact, they change one another.
Even at a distance, they change one another. While a drape is swinging around the client’s head, before it has settled on their chest, the face is already being profoundly altered. A reminder that students have heard and heard and heard: DROP-THE-DRAPE. Drop it right out of eyesight when assessing a face. If your eyes can see it, your perception is altered by it. I might tattoo the words on the palm of my hand or have a really nifty sign made up.
Not All Drapings Are Equal
A person who’s been draped many times will have noticed big variation in drape sizes, colours, numbers, method of interpretation, order of use, colours within any Season or group, and particular name of the Seasons or groups.
Can draping be flawed? God, yes. Everything can.
Wouldn’t it be great if the all the above steps were standardized? God, yes. Or even within one company!
So we’re taking a hard look at it. We’re making drapes in controlled and consistent colours, set after set. We’re talking about alumnus refresher courses from Terry. Finding standardized ways of draping and teaching.
Inside our group, we’re dragging everything out under those brutal full spectrum lamps and taking a hard look at it. Truth matters to me. I don’t care how uncomfortable it is. The hardest part of fixing most problems is knowing what they are in the first place. Giving honest feedback is tough, something I recognize sincerely and feel a lot of gratitude when I receive it.
We’re getting over our fears about change, our embarrassment at having conflicting results, the projects we worked so hard on, what clients will think, and pulling it all apart. In my over-transparency, I’ll put my problems on the internet and let everyone weigh in. There are great ideas everywhere, very often outside the industry.
And everything is getting better.
The consumer’s role
I would like to see the clients take some responsibility here.
When they’re ill, they decide between consulting a naturopath and an M.D. Nobody expects the two to be especially similar. Disagreeing results are actually expected. We’d be surprised if they agreed. We allow them to be apples and oranges. Neither is foolproof. Does it mean that they do not improve our lives? Of course not. When it’s good, it can be transforming.
In choosing one, the client must decide what they believe. About having your colouring analyzed,
Do you believe that neutral gray surrounding matters to accurate colour measurement or do you not? Would you say that it is crucial? A deal-breaker?
That full spectrum lighting is the only way to render every wavelength (colour) evenly?
Do you believe that humans can have trouble judging colour by eye?
That computers and photographic equipment alter colours at each step of software translation?
(If you answered No, Maybe, or Sometimes to any of the above, seek analysis services from someone other than me. Before you see them, accept that the outcome will differ wildly from what I might say and that you’re going to be OK with that because you understand that eyes will think they see 5 colours if they see 1 colour in 5 different contexts.)
Ask the analyst if you’re not sure. Whether they call the groups Seasons or something else is the least of your problems. That barely matters. Before she signs up for one more PCA, the consumer needs to ask,
- what is the source of the colours you’re giving me?
- how do the groups of colours, whatever you call them, get eliminated or selected?
- what’s the basis for the groups? why are those colours part of that group?
You’re going to have to decide. I’m not here to put down anyone else. I explain the core beliefs of my practice. If other systems could do the same, I’ll link to it. I’ll post it on this site. We all have something to add.
I simply suggest that various methods can’t be dovetailed together. There is no point in wondering why they can’t find common ground. You might as well stop trying. We diverged way back at the beginning. You’re comparing the Big Bang Theory to Let There Be Light. It’s a square peg/round hole relationship. It ain’t gonna happen.
Maybe you’ll say, Well, how ‘m I supposed to know? I’m the consumer. It’s all you analysts out there who have studied colour theory. Why can’t you guys figure it out and tell us, once and for all?
Great answer. True answer.
The public has not the context, the theory, or the experience to make these decisions, though they love to hash it out online. Unless you’ve watched many drapings and followed the practitioners of the by-eye technique (which I have not), you don’t really get either one, let alone where they might come together. Sometimes different words are being used to describe the same thing, and even that is rightly confusing to the public.
Maybe an analyst who has studied all the systems could find an accurate way to merge them? After all, the systems are all looking for the original body colours. Should be simple.
I’d love to see what someone comes up with. It’s easy to learn all the theory there ever was and find every reason why no system has 100% final say. Sooner or later, to be a colour analyst, you’ll have to pick one for its strengths, learn how to compensate for its flaws, and crawl around down here with us sinners and losers who do our best to analyze human colouring every day.
A certain client, with a broad-minded approach to life, might see both naturopath and MD. She might look for what works for her in the advice of each. She might see them as an extension and expansion of the other, adding more layers of approach and interpretation that are fascinating in themselves. She would look for the strengths in each approach. The advice that didn’t jive, she just sets aside for now with a reminder in her calendar to take another look in 3 months.
Because it is based on what we’re good at seeing: change and comparison in a calibrated measuring system with no other colours present.
Draping takes a human weakness (our ability to see the colours of skin) and turns it into a strength (our ability to register the slightest changes in reactivity of skin when given comparison) by utilizing an ability that human colour vision is massively adapted to see and see well (skin colour alteration from baseline).
The purpose of draping is not to be a wrinkle eraser. It is do determine your baseline. The truth of you.
If you’ve never watched a calibrated draping or still believe there can be no blonde or red-headed Winters, I can’t give your opinion much weight. There’s so much more to it than people realize when it’s done correctly. Ask students who have taken the training. I think many were more than a little surprised. And these were mostly people who had studied all the books and websites.
None of the big names in PCA ever warned against draping, that I recall. Bernice maintained that draping always had the final say.
Online groups talk about hair and eye colour. Why? Because it’s what they see most prominently. As humans, they’re not programmed to see the skin colours of other humans (nevermind that cameras don’t sample colours the way human eyes do and therefore arrive at different results). If asked why all the talk about hair and eyes, they’d say, Because skin doesn’t really have much colour. It’s hard to talk about it. YEAH!!! That’s the whole point. It doesn’t. But when it changes, even slightly, we have seen it over thousands of years of evolution linked to our very survival. Cameras can’t do it but human vision is all over it.
Why draping? Because it’s the best way of compensating for the tricks our brain plays all day long as it adjusts what our eyes take in. You don’t believe that all we see are adaptations of reality? That what we see is highly inaccurate? Google ‘optical illusions’. Vision isn’t designed for accuracy. As Dr. Changizi points out, evolution doesn’t care about accuracy. Evolution cares about spreading genes around.
Hair and eye colour are relevant to PCA and human colouring determination, but not in the way folks think.
Hair is a body colour and contributes to overall harmony, no doubt. But hair is only melanin, a limited representation of our colouring that doesn’t change a whole lot with clothes. It’s made of many colours. Some analysts may be excellent at finding its true colours, but the public seldom is – either because they’ve altered it with their clothing (a Dark Winter wearing Soft colours) or don’t see it as others do (a Bright who thinks she has mousy hair because it’s medium beige brown). We’re not really good at seeing hair changes. Could be why hair is limited to so few body parts in humans.
Eyes? The lines can be informative, but they’re not tight data. Colour is somewhat useful, more its distribution patterns than the colour itself. Nobody ever talks about colour clarity. Why not? If we forgot about eye colour per se and approached it as HVC, we might get closer to the truth. Sorry, digression, anyhow, eyes are complex, multicoloured, multilayered entities full of mirrors and windows. Too much physics, optics, and reflection going on. Huge and gigantic importance if you know what to look for and are given comparisons.
A moderate approach
I have the deepest respect all the prophets and visionaries that laid the foundations for modern PCA. So often, a prophet’s words and how they got used differ widely. No seer who came back today would tolerate the labels that got put on him or her since their voice went quiet. Rules get hammered into place that the original thinker never intended so rigidly. The focus gets turned around, the dogma is over-defended and over-adhered to, while the creator would have a much more welcoming and tolerant viewpoint.
Decide to just enjoy the process. Consider that there is no person, system, colour collection, medicine, or anything else, that can utterly and finally explain us to ourselves. Enjoy the style, the artistry, the creative excellence of every approach, and the endlessly fascinating opportunity to see ourselves through the eyes of another.