Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Importance of Colour

It's surprising how many choices we make solely based upon colour.  When we buy clothes, we look for the colours we really like first.  When I've asked people why they like a certain quilt - they often respond with a remark about the colour.   Much of the processed food we eat and the drinks we drink is coloured by the food industry because they know that colour sells!

I remember once when we were staying on a remote lake in Canada and drawing water from the lake we had to mix it with dilute Chlorine to kill of bacteria etc....oh how disappointed the kids were when their Koolaid became totally colorless in front of their eyes!! And they wouldn't drink it!

Try eating any American supermarket Cheddar with your eyes shut, and you'll quickly realize it's only the orange colour that makes it palatable!!

Many quilters start to make a quilt by choosing the color of the fabric they'll make it with first.  But colour alone does not a strong design make.  Instead, use shape and value  to decide the basic  underlying structure for your piece - then add colour for the emotional content.

We consistently think of certain colours as representing specific moods.  Yellow is warm but also light hearted - cheerful and gay.  Red also is warm - but it's  stronger heat.  It can convey passion - both positive and negative.  I made a series of red quilts when I was feeling a great deal of anger about a totally unnecessary turmoil where I worked!!  I stitched red pieces of cloth together with bold hard dominant stitches as I sat through interminable meetings trying not to lose my temper!   We talking about "seeing red" when we feel angry about something.  

 When we're feeling down, we might describe it as a blue mood.
Winston Churchill talked about the black dog of depression that used to visit him.   And we are currently all trying to be green (even though it's not easy being green!), because we feel that is a good natural earth friendly colour.  Notice how there's now a plethora of "green" products in the supermarket, and the color is used constantly in advertising.

Strangely enough, when toddlers were asked what colour they preferred for their disposable diapers, they didn't choose green!!! Wise kids!!  They all plumped for purple!! What can I say?!!

The colour we choose for our quilts can make our feelings about the subject of the quilt much more obvious.  Colour appeals strongly to both our emotions and our senses.  This makes it  an extremely effective way  for an artist to arouse an emotion in the viewers of her artwork.   The type of colour too can convey the feeling - a clear bright red will evoke a very different response from a dirty blood red.  A dingy sickly yellow is very different from a bright clear warm yellow - and, in its turn, that yellow feels so different from a tart acid yellow. A dull brown and a sour green - look good together and also convey some of the mixed feelings we have about attacks on our environment.

So think and plan clearly - what do you feel?  What do you want your viewers to feel?  What colours can you as the artist use to generate those emotions?  Be aware that in all advertising, packaging and merchandising your colour senses are being manipulated!   Use this phenomenon for good!  Make your art rich and focussed with your colour choices.

So,if you have been, thanks for reading!! and thank you in advance for all your comments - which I must admit I read avidly!!  They are all golden (except for that annoying spam of course).   Elizabeth


Bethany Garner said...

Hi Elizabeth... strong advise as always and spot on. Mood and the way we feel as we approach new work is an important and remarkable help/hinderance to the design process. I agree about the marketplace and use of colour to attract buyers. I have used the shopping experience (yes, even in my own stash)as a tool for developing new work and have learned to edit and choose carefully. BUT, that underlying angst and mindset when starting a new quilt is sometimes the harbinger of great art. Thanks for the post.

Jackie said...

Perfect message on a dyeing day!

Unknown said...

I do think that I have sometimes started out with the fabric in mind. This pointer is valuable… planning the message and then choosing the colors makes much better sense.