Archive for December 3rd, 2011

Stage 4 – Colour moods and themes

This Stage goes beyond the objective recording of colour to consider the personal – intuitive responses, likes and dislikes, associated moods and feelings.

I’ve just finished reading Colors: what they mean and how to make them by Anne Varichon which is full of information on the symbolism and significance of colours across cultures and history. One theme throughout was the strong association between cost/rarity/difficulty to produce and symbolism. For example “For many years, green’s appreciation in the West was marked by the failure of green dyes, and as a result, it retained connotations of risk, transience, and instability” (p 207). Colour is easily available to us now and there is so much mixing of peoples that maybe such cultural sharing and knowledge of colour symbolism is lost. A lot of marketing effort and dollars suggest I’m wrong on that. On reflection, I’ve lived most of my life in temperate Sydney where most of the garden stays green all year round and snow never falls, yet I’m still very clear on “proper” colours to represent seasons – so yes, culturally shared symbolism of colour is alive and well. On the other hand, my instant reaction to a particular light and dark blue as “boring” is definitely personal and related to years of school uniform.  No conclusions here, so on to the exercises!

Exercise 1 asked for three pairs of opposite words and colours to express them – sad/happy etc. A quick half hour should do it.

I found this really hard and got totally stuck. At the top on the right is my first pair – ill and well (I’ve had a cold!). Not a good result – my “ill” could be someone else’s “muddy spring”, and “well” is rather feverish. Plus the expressive mark-making is all over the place. Figuring out the colours I wanted, mixing them and making meaningful marks was just too much to think about all at once.

I needed to manage complexity, so I split the task into separate steps:
1. identify colours needed using coloured papers
2. mix colours
3. focus on appropriate marks

The bottom section of the page shows sad and happy. I was feeling much more pleased with this, especially that it seemed natural for happy to expand and take up lots of room, when suddenly it looked very familiar.

Happy (excited); Happy (contented)

This is work from stage 2 of project 1. The “sad” from that time is pretty similar too – vertical lines and drab colours.

So why did I find it so hard, when presumably (one hopes) I’ve learned and progressed in the meantime?

Apart from obvious answers (ie lack of learning and progression!), I think I was trying to do too much. I wasn’t working intuitively. I was worrying about a “good” colour scheme, thinking about all the colour concepts in the course and my reading. I even started flipping through Itten and making a summary list of things to think about:
Colour Agent – the pigment, a physical thing
Colour Effect – the perceived colour, through comparison and contrast, a psychological and physical thing
Successive contrast – the afterimage in the complementary colour.
Simultaneous contrast – a colour shifting surrounding colours towards its complement
The seven colour contrasts – hue; light-dark; cold-warm; complementary contrast; simulataneous contrast; saturation; contrast of extension (harmonious areas yellow 3 : orange 4 : red : 6 : violet 9 : blue 8 : green 6).

Way Too Hard. I gave myself a bit of a shake and tried Agitated/Calm. “Calm” doesn’t quite ring true, but I think I nailed “Agitated”.

Exercise 2, identifying a colour mood or theme and making a “colour bag” really was the “quick and direct way of creating a bridge between source material and textile work” that the course notes suggest.

I already had a picture picked out, having put aside a few that caught my eye when I was sorting materials for collage a couple of weeks ago. The stepped approach worked well:
look carefully
describe what you see
select colours from collage papers (already sorted into colour envelopes)
select colours from fabrics and threads (already sorted into colour plastic tubs)

It was fast, fun, and effective. Definitely something to play with again.



Itten, J. (1973 english edition) The art of color: the subjective experience and objective rationale of color, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company

Varichon, A. (2006) Colors: what they mean and how to make them, Abrams


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December 2011

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