Selected Writing

Norman zammitt | Selected writings 

NORMAN ZAMMITT- About Making Color
Taken from His Writings, 1988


My paintings, abstract but akin to nature, consist of many progressions of calculated colors in measured rows or bands, creating a highly ordered fusion of light-emanating environmental space.  They are devoid of imagery other than the form of color and scale itself. My goal is to create intellectual works that bring about a highly emotional response.  

I was familiar with all the different theories of color and found them to be quite unrelated to nature. Nothing in the world of color theory could help me put colors into what I instinctively knew was their natural sequence. 

I pursued that sequence by mixing my own colors from my experience and ideasabout how one color can become another color can become another color, etc. until it rounded the whole spectrum, using just nine basic colors, making any infinite number or colors I wanted. 

Eventually it became impossible to continue by“eyeballing” colors into place soI began using logarithms and mathematical curves to graph progressions.  This provided a means of measuring, by weight on a gram scale, extremely complex mixtures of colors in variable amounts to bend from one color to another in a smooth unbroken sequence. 

The complexity led me to involve some people at Cal Tech to try to shed light on this process.  Theywere personally and professionally interested, as the study of progressions is considered to be the highest form of mathematics and therefore,  highly complex.  They identified in mathematical and scientific language what I was doing abstractly and very helpful with their computers in assisting me in my calculations.                          

Most important was their discovery that my color progression was related to the progressive growth rates of living organisms, more to this phenomenon than to anything else in mathematics, implying, perhaps, that life has something to do with color.

Eventually I programmed my own computer. It functioned as a kind of“electronic palette”  for pinpoint color relativity. It made complex logarithmic calculations to determine precise color transitions for truly clear and luminous compositions.  Not only could I mix colors I wanted but repeat the exact color again at some other time.

In preparing for a painting, many small trial studies are painted out, visually testing out the calculations with a few of the colors. Each color is measured on a gram scale in an individual container and thoroughly mixed in a paint shaker. Once the study is decided as perfect, the remainder of the colors are prepared.

At the easel, one at a time, each space, or band, is taped out and acrylic paint, the mixture for that space, is brushed on by hand.


Unlike “eyeballing” mixtures of colors into a transition, I have developed a computer program that will, for one thing, produce any number of transitional colors without flaw from one parent color to another. By “parent” color, I mean any color chosen for the purpose of mixing it together, by weight, with any other selected colors to create a transition of graded colors or “transitional” colors. While decisions in the selection and fine-tuning of parent colors may still be done subjectively, by eye or any other means imaginable, mixtures for the transitions of parent colors can be computed to achieve a perfect “blend.