Friday, March 6, 2009

Elements and Principles:colour

One of the basic elements that we 2D folk get to play with is colour – when I start a workshop and everyone introduces themselves (briefly!), at least half of them say they love colour and that’s what really gets them enthusiastic about making work. But when I look at publications about art quilts, and catalogues from shows, what often strikes me is a rather over the top “cor blimey!” colour scheme in many pieces. I’m finding this out myself with learning to paint in watercolour. The paintings look much better if I just mix up 3 or 4 basic colours to begin with and add in no more than that. In my workshop at Arrowmont I ask people to bring only white fabric, and on the second day having given a brief talk on developing good colour schemes, we dye the fabric for the quilts using a limited palette – the results are gorgeous.

The basics of designing with colour are covered in a little paperback by Wucius Wong called Principles of Color Design (1987); most libraries would have a copy. There’s lots of complex stuff you can get into, but the basics are very straightforward. Colour varies in 3 ways: hue (what colour is it?), saturation (how strong is it?) and value (how light or dark is it?). Like people, when you put different colours together they have an affect upon each other! You’ll look paler when standing next to somebody brighter, greener when standing next to somebody redder and so on!!

I always advocate choosing a colour scheme at the outset…imagine being an interior decorator and turning upto someone’s house with a whole truckload of different colours and saying hmmm let’s have these 6 in here, and these four in here and…..!!!!!! nearly as bad as beige, beige, beige – and we’ve all seen that too of course!

There are a few different ways of choosing a scheme: Wong advocates picking a dominant colour and then going from there, you could also begin with choosing a format (monochromatic, analogous, complementary etc), or begin with a famous painting that you’ve always loved, or something gorgeous from She Almighty. I suggest people build color idea notebooks and then when you’ve chosen the Main Idea for your piece, you can go to the notebook and look through to see what scheme works best for your idea.

For myself I notice I go through phases with colour. At one point I was very much into a purple and amber look – this was all based on a photograph I took one late November afternoon in my hometown of York, ancient streets, dark purple sky, all the shop windows lighted. I’ve been through a red phase, and a grey one! Even a black and white one!
Currently I’m thinking a lot about very strong red and blue together!
please take a look at my website for all my phases! Some examples from all these phases are below……


Red Shift 4

City of Mists


Strange Beauty

So…how is your colour today?
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!


Clare Wassermann said...

Thank you for another interesting post. love your Shambles and love the real thing too!

carrie said...

What interesting articles you write. I will enjoy delving back through the archives. And your fibre art is equally thought provoking. Thank you!

Nina Marie said...

Hello - I'm Nina-Marie and I'm a color addict. Yes I admit it - I'm one of the quilters that think more is more when color is involved. Still, I'm learning to edit my color choices for most pieces and then if the piece is truly just for my own enjoyment (making and owning) - well then I fall off the wagon and use as many colors as I want. Thanks for the reminder to edit myself - I needed that. hmmm do you think I should find a good 12 step program?

Tangled Stitch said...

I love color. Live for it. Die with it. Sometimes the strangest colors just work together and sometimes you just put two colors that you think will lovingly coincide and they don't. Interesting topic.