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Video Evening on Goethe’s Theory of Colours

  • 1 Sep 2022
  • 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM
  • Fisher House, 117 Kerwyn Avenue, East Tāmaki



Take a couple of hours at the end of the day to connect with others in the industry to  develop new relationships and hopefully learn something new. These evenings provide you with a unique opportunity to network with your peers in a comfortable and informal setting. 

Presenter:  Peter Walters, Fellow of the Technology of Surface Coatings, Surface Coatings Consultant and Honorary Life Member

Topic:  Video Evening on Goethe’s Theory of Colours

We are all familiar with Newton’s famous prism experiment, the results of which he published in his 1704 Treatise “Opticks”, in which he demonstrated that colourless or white light could be split into the component colours of the rainbow.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German Polymath, studied colour a century after Newton and concluded that Newton’s explanation of colour was too simplistic. Newton used a prism to split a light beam in a dark room and created the familiar Newton Spectrum.  Goethe used a prism to split a dark beam in a light room and obtained a spectrum of the complementary colours to those in The Newton Spectrum. This spectrum is now known as The Goethe Spectrum.


Newton Spectrum Goethe Spectrum

The Newton Spectrum is the additive colour spectrum. The three primary colours, Red Green and Blue, combine to form White. The Goethe Spectrum is the subtractive colour spectrum. The three primary colours, Magenta Cyan and Yellow, combine to form Black.


Additive Colour                            Subtractive Colour

While the theory of Newton and his successors was based on excluding the colour-seeing faculty of the eye, Goethe founded his theory on the eye's experience of colour.

Goethe pictures to himself that light and darkness relate to each other like the north and south pole of a magnet. The darkness can weaken the light in its working power. Conversely, the light can limit the energy of the darkness. In both cases colour arises.

White that becomes darkened or dimmed inclines to yellow; black, as it becomes lighter, inclines to blue. In other words: Yellow is a light which has been dampened by darkness; Blue is a darkness weakened by light.

One of the most challenging roles in our profession involves colour and colour matching. In screening the two Documentaries “Light Darkness and Colours - Goethe Theory of Colours” and “Goethe's Purple Ray - alias Monochromatic Rays of Shadow” I aim to provide an understanding of our perception of colour to aid us in meeting our customer’s demand for colour.

Peter Walters Bio:

I have been active in the Surface Coatings Industry since 1971.

To finance my way through University I worked as a part time salesman on Friday nights, Saturday mornings and over the University summer break for the Levene Paint and Wallpaper stores. I continued working in that role until 1978.

Following graduation from Auckland University with a Master of Science degree in Chemistry, I was employed by Dulux as a technical officer from early 1975 to mid 1976 working in the Technical Services lab at Panmure developing unsaturated polyester resins.

From 1976 to late 1978 I was the Chemist and Coatings Production Manager for Allied Products (Stresscrete) Ltd manufacturing decorative paints and dealing with surface coating related matters at Stresscrete.

In October 1978 I joined Wattyl as Chief Chemist and held various technical roles in that company till my resignation from the role of Technical Manager early in 2010. Wattyl was a dominant supplier of stains and finishes for furniture coatings. As the company grew organically and through acquisition, Architectural and Decorative coatings came to dominate their business. Light Industrial Metal finishes were also an important part of their business with some involvement in heavy duty finishes, high build and texture architectural coatings and automotive coatings. Wattyl were also manufacturers of the Polycell Brand of surface preparation products during the time I held senior technical roles there.

From 2010 to late 2019 I worked as the Technical Services Manager of Protective Paints. Their main coatings businesses are the manufacture of Light Industrial metal and timber finishes and Architectural and Decorative coatings.

I was a foundation student in the inaugural Diploma of Surface Coatings Technology course commencing at A.T.I. in 1980, and from 1982 to 2000 presented Lectures and conducted the Labs for the Non-Convertible Coatings and, from time to time, the Solvent section of this course as it was offered, first at A.T.I. then A.U.T. and finally Auckland University.

In 2007 I was admitted to the class of Fellow on the International Professional Grade Register administered by OCCA UK. This is the highest peer awarded recognition of contribution, achievement and competency in the Surface Coatings Industry.

I have given presentations at a number SCANZ Conventions, Seminars and Technical Meetings.

From 1982 to 1989 I was on the committee of OCCA, now SCANZ, serving as Secretary from 1986 to 1988 during the period that OCCA NZ become independent from OCCA UK. I re-joined the committee in 2009 as the Professional Gradings Convenor and subsequently served as President from 2013 to 2015. I resigned from active committee work in 2019.

Because of my contributions to the Association I was awarded Honorary Life Membership of SCANZ at the 2019 Convention held in Christchurch.

Because of my interest in the history of Surface Coatings I am the archivist and historian for SCANZ. Through my interest in Paint History I have written a regular “Painted Memories” contribution to the bimonthly SCANZ Publication, Brush Strokes since 2002, and to the Surface Coatings Association of Australia (SCAA) Journal since 2015. I have provided support to The Auckland Art Gallery and Te Papa in the interpretation of analysis and the nature and composition of coatings used in New Zealand artefacts and art, particularly the works of Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere, both of whom used commercially available surface coatings rather than specialist artists colours for their artwork.


Surface Coatings Association New Zealand

The professional body of individuals involved in the surface coatings industry


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Glen Eden, Auckland 0641
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