Thursday, January 15, 2009

Colour Choices

I seem to have gone full circle in my color schemes. When I first began quilting in the US (early ‘80s), I was limited by what was available – like the artists of old! I had actually made patchwork many years before that – for clothing – and used all sorts of mixtures. But in coming to the US I was determined to follow the rules of the local culture which meant buying little calicos in either garish or insipid (there seemed to be nothing inbetween!) colours from the local fabric store. Further more the rules said “thou shalt only use 3 or 4 different fabrics!!” and actually specified yardage and everything – remember those days? How could I have ever been so meek?!!!

Eniow (this is a Yorkshire word you may not know..but it’s a great way to start a sentence because it links the before and after with a beautiful rough hewn word)…eniow, as a result, my first few quilts were: black and white, followed by blue and white, followed again by….blue and white! Well, at least I showed some consistency!

And then I discovered dye!!! …I began to buy white fabric by the 100 yard roll. No more standing in line for those useless fat quarters ( who wants fat ones anyway??? I always wanted loooooooooong skinny ones!). So then the next few quilts became saturated with multiple colours….let’s get them all in!!!

After a while I got the idea that it was helpful to have a theme!! A theme temperature (nearly all warm colours), or a theme colour – e.g. rust – and relate the other colours to it.
By this time I had worked out a simplified step by step foolproof (it was amazing how haphazard and vague the early dye classes I took were) way of dyeing for myself (no more meekness!), and I began to produce yards and yards of gradated colours, complementary colours, mixed colours.

So my colour schemes became more sophisticated. I usually begin a quilt with a Main Idea – the main thing that this quilt is going to be about…then do a value sketch, deciding whether the piece is better in mainly light (high key), or mainly dark (low key) values. Then I pick a colour scheme – choosing more abstractly from analogous, complementary etc or directly from nature.

I’ve often noticed that I get almost hungry for a certain colour…like pregnant women who need some mineral will crave it. For a time I just had to have purple/yellow/orange – nothing else tasted right!!! Then it had to be green! Everything else was stale. But trying to photograph green with Fuji Velvia film (a red saturated film) was so difficult…..

But recently my palate and my palette have desired simple fresh bold combinations! Not quite yet back to blue and white…but a strong urge for everything black and white led to 12 recent quilts using just that colour scheme.

I was joking to a friend last night that I’d love to win a prize for “Best Use of Color” for a black and white quilt!! Now wouldn’t that be refreshing?!!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading…

PS all my Art quilts are for sale, both on this blog and on my website.
I'm happy to answer any queries, listen to proposals (!)...just email me.


Michelle said...

I always thought that in order to choose good color, one must first "see" color. I remember back to my highschool art days when oil painting portraits. The tendancy is to want to reach for that "tube of shade", which isn't there of course. The teacher kept saying, "Look at the colors under the skin and in the shadows, It's color, not black" I never really understood then, but now I can see and feel cool dark blues and purples in the shadows and bright yellows and oranges in the sunsoaked surfaces. Seeing this has made all the difference in the choices I make. I always look forward to reading. Michelle

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

I LOVE color. I too worked with those fabrics available in the 70's and 80's and at the time thought - oh my goodness, these are so much better than what we had for the last 20 years.
I paurchased others hand dayes since I didn't want to do the work for years - still do occasionally. But there's nothing like making a quilt from fabric you created that was originally white.
For me creating a black and white quilt is perhaps the hardest thing to do.