Neil Young overcame a key disability to take up painting: ‘I chose my colors carefully’

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Neil Young is hardly the first famous musician to take up painting, but he has to be one of a select few who have done so with this particular vision deficiency. See, unlike Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Miles Davis, John Lennon or (most recently) Carl Palmer, Young has to contend with color blindness.

So how did he approach a new watercolor-filled book Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life and Cars?

“Being colorblind, I chose my colors carefully and consulted with friends to be sure I was on the right track,” Young tells Wired. “Now, I look on my colorblindness as an asset.”

As is so often the case with a disability, Young found that he overcompensated in other areas — and, along the way, he discovered an entirely new approach.

“I started seeing that shadings and highlights from the angle of light hitting a surface was my main area of interest,” he adds. “At that point, I began planning for them in advance — outlining them lightly as a guide and not painting them in, leaving them blank. Then I began blurring the colored areas with plain water on the brush or a damp Kleenex, to accentuate the highlights of sun or shadow hitting paint and chrome.”

Young is also set to issue yet another new album — his fourth since 2012. Storytone, which will arrive in both solo and orchestral configurations, is due in November via Reprise Records. The lo-fi A Letter Home arrived earlier this year.

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