What Colour Is Your Sun?

Different cultures view the sun differently. Ask a Western child to draw the sun and they will draw it yellow. Ask a Japanese child to draw the sun and they will draw it red.

Our closest star is ‘actually’ white. I grew up in New Zealand and I drew it yellow. But when I lived as an exchange student in Japan, I noticed the sky really ‘is’ red. It’s fully red. American children also colour the sun yellow.

However, it doesn’t always look bright red in Japan, and it doesn’t always look bright yellow in my Western home countries, either. In photos it appears most often as white. Part of our understanding of ‘an object’s actual colour’ is acculturation. We grow up learning that the sun is a certain colour.

Part of learning to illustrate is learning to really see. Wherever you come from in the world, suns, skies, road surfaces, and of course human skins, come in all different colours.

A Sound Of Taiyoo Organ
A Sound Of Taiyoo Organ by Ryojii Arai

Taiyou Organ

The sun in A Sound of Taiyoo Organ is very similar to the sun as depicted in this Russian picture book.

Russian sun picturebook

This is a realistic depiction from Australia -- the final page of The Snow Dragon by Vivian French and Chris Fisher
This is a realistic depiction from Australia — the final page of The Snow Dragon by Vivian French and Chris Fisher
the-fox-and-the-hen
The Fox and the Hen by Eric Battut, who is French

It’s no coincidence really, since sunlight really does look different from there.

This is an Aboriginal tale from Australia, where the sun is most definitely yellow.
This is an Aboriginal tale from Australia, where the sun is most definitely yellow. It’s often orange, too, especially in fire season.
How Maui Slowed The Sun
This is a Maori legend from New Zealand, where the sun also seems yellow.
This picture book is about n Indian immigrant girl in New York City
This picture book is about an Indian immigrant girl in New York City
from The Very Hungry Caterpillar
from The Very Hungry Caterpillar
An orangish sun by Beatrice Alegmagna from Bologna, Italy.
An orangish hue chosen by Beatrice Alegmagna from Bologna, Italy.
And Into The Water They Fell
Mr Gumpy’s Outing by John Birmingham

MADELINE IN LONDON BY LUDWIG BEMELMANS

Bemelmans is an interesting case, having grown up in Europe then emigrating to America as a young man. It’s safe to assume Bemelmans saw the sun through a number of different hazes. Generally, Bemelmans depicts the sun as yellow. For him, yellow is the ‘unmarked’ version. But he does something interesting with the sun in his picturebook Madeline In London — after the horse tragically eats all the gardener’s flowers, the flower-loving gardener gets out of bed, opens the door and sees a yellow sun in the shape of a flower greeting him. But once he realises his flowerbed has been destroyed, Bemelmans paints the sun as red. In other words, Bemelmans uses red to signify a downward emotional turn.