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Thursday, April 19, 2018
Research and Reflection: Colour
This research was originally published on my Open College of The Arts blog on 25/01/17. It was carried out as part of the coursework for "A Textiles Vocabulary". I am transferring a few articles to this blog, before the other one is deleted.
In my feedback for Assignment 3, Cari gave me some suggestions of artists to research to feed into my current coursework for Part 4.
Sanne Schuurman is a Swedish designer, working from her studio in Eindhoven. Her interests lie in devising unusual and unexpected combinations of materials and colours that highlight the technique she is using and the “…essence of an object…” (by which I think she means, echoing the functionality and properties of an object, such as lightness or rigidity, transparency or opaqueness). Her playful explorations seem to be her way of finding out what works well, and for sparking new ideas: a great way of working as I am finding out on this course!
The designer has a section on her website about her use of and inspiration for colour palettes in her design work. Her work with plastic has been inspired by the animal kingdom. An example of a translation of colour and form is given below. In this example she has selected just three colours for her palette from the image. Her piece has a large proportion of the background colour (light brown), with black stripes and tiny highlights of the mint green. The sample has translated some of the mood of the original image in Sanne’s lines and spots of colour, which still have an insect-like feel about them.
She also has a colour magazine where inspirational images and resulting colour palettes are shown and some are translated into abstract objects/collections of materials, made from mixed media, drawings and exploratory samples, which may go on to be used in one of a number of applications (window treatments, lighting options, textiles, interior design features etc).
In the example above, Sanne has used Google Earth to focus in and out on regions of the Earth’s surface, and has picked specific areas to make her colour palettes from. I like this as an idea for finding colour inspiration, and I have begun to make colour palettes from specific localities (analysing photographs and observed colour on site).
What can I learn from this designer?
inspiration for colour palettes can come from anything and anywhere
one inspiration may provide a number of different possible colour palettes
use playful experimentation to inspire new colour and material combinations
associations can be made between the source material and intended end use (eg insects -> plastics)
Margrethe Odgaard is a Danish textile designer working in Copenhagen. Her main interest is in the colour, pattern, and feel of the created textiles.
Her process is described in images on her website, including collage, paint samples on ‘lolly sticks’, which can then be placed next to each other and interwoven to help with decision making about the final colour choices for the woven textiles. Small bundles of yarn in many hues, values and saturations are on hand for informing choices.
Margrethe toured Japan and observed and recorded manmade colour combinations from buildings and objects that interested her.
She made an artist’s book out of a selection of her colour palettes to use for future inspiration. The colours in the book were recorded on location. She chose three colours for each of the palettes to equate to the harmonious musical chord where three notes are heard at one time, however she also notes that some palettes have “dynamic asymmetries”.
Margrethe Odgaard, Artist book, 2016 (crayons, markers, cotton paper, cardboard)
I really love this idea, and the beautifully simple layout of the book. The placement of the colours on the page, so that they can all be seen next to each other is perfect. The designer has used both markers and pencil crayons, allowing her to translate something of the texture she is observing (smooth or grainy, for example), as well as the colour. It has inspired me to take some colours and a sketchbook in my bag with me to have a go at something similar. The brief descriptive labels showing whence the colour was derived are a nice feature, adding to the feeling that this is also a personal travel journal.
Margrethe muses on the question of cultural preferences and traditions in colour choices. Looking through her book, I can see palettes that I would think of as typically Japanese (browns, indigo blues, greys, teal and dark pinkish reds). There are other palettes where, for example, a dark burgundy and muted pink are enlivened by a coral. Some palettes are all dark or mid toned, others have a pale tone with two dark toned colours. Muted and pure hues jostle for attention. She plans to make similar ‘diaries’ for Brazil and Rwanda, and I’m sure that the palettes will be quite different in tone and saturation, with more bright, pure colours in both of those countries.
See this article on the Selvedge website about Margrethe Odgaard. As well as her solo designs, she also works with furniture designer Chris Halstrøm of Included Middle producing functional and beautifully designed furniture and interior decoration, such as hanging embroideries.
[Edited 03/04/17:- thanks to Inger for finding this link to Margrethe Odgaard talking about her colour palette gathering activity.]
What can I learn from this designer?
abstract colour palettes from your environment (manmade as well as natural)
keep an ‘on-the-spot’ record of observed colours with a notebook and coloured pencils/markers
keep presentation and labelling simple, yet descriptive
think about ways of subdividing the palettes (natural versus manmade, for example)
Raw Color is a design company, owned by Daniera ter Haar & Christoph Brach, based in The Netherlands. They take an experimental approach to their work, focusing on materials and colour, and take their influences from graphic design and photography.
The designers have made clocks with kinetic parts rather than moving hands. Sometimes a series of three faces, one each for hours, minutes and seconds; sometimes three moving, perforated parts that allow for patterns to form, interact and change as the timepiece moves. The designers have chosen very different colour palettes for each clock: one with black and white stripes on each of the three sections; another a series of three overlapping grid like forms with varying sizes of holes; a third has an analogous selection of turquoise/sea greens in layered rings. Each of these designs and colour palettes creates a different mood: fun, office-like, arty, sophisticated etc. The pattern can have meaning too: the dense pattern grids representing seconds; the medium density, minutes and the low density, hours. These clues allow the viewer to read the time without the need for numbers.
Raw Color, Mixology, created for Heimtextil Colour Trends 2015/2016
Heimtextil’s trend forecasting team commissioned Raw Colour to make four videos and some still images to illustrate their colour palette predictions for 2015/16. (Heimtextil is a trade fair for textiles.) They use the simple device of sheets of coloured paper and stop-motion animation to create interesting movement and interplay of colour.
The Mixology palette above contains clashing colours and muted shades, which I must admit to finding rather unpleasant. I don’t like muted colours such as the flesh tone pink near pure hues like the red and blue. However, having researched a number of designers’ use of colour, I see that it is common for them to include these seemingly disparate colour selections. I think it is because they create unexpected combinations that jar like dissonant musical chords, and perhaps grab more of the viewer’s attention than a harmonious, analogous palette.
What can I learn from these designers?
patterns can communicate information as well as looking decorative/interesting
movement allows layers of patterns to form new and changing interactions
experimentation and imagination can transform everyday objects into something original and engaging
The 1692 Colour Book is a hand painted and handwritten book called Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, although the text is in Dutch. It runs to c.800 pages. It was created by an artist called A Boogert in the year mentioned, and is thought to have been made as an educational resource, although only one copy is known to exist. It contains all the hues, (with different values), tones and tints that the maker could produce from the watercolour paint pigments available at that time, with notes on how to reproduce them. What a wonderful object! The online version of the book is not currently available, sadly. The modern versions are the Pantone colour guides.
A Boogert, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, 1692, currently owned by Bibliothèque Méjanes, Aix-en-Provence, France
the usefulness of building a library of colour inspiration to refer to
a simple, but beautiful method of presentation
David Adey is an American artist, who lives and works in San Diego. His artwork are formed by setting himself constraints, as a metaphor for human life. He uses deconstruction and reconstruction techniques. (These techniques are relevant to an exercise in an upcoming part of my coursework).
David Adey, Swarm, 2007 (skin coloured sections punched from magazines, pinned to a foam panel)
This beautiful artwork is made from the found palette of human skin colours (he now works with google images in a similar way). I find this a very interesting idea, as I like to use ‘found’ colours in my own artwork. This says something more in its deliberate use of one source of material, taken together with the title of the piece, it points to overpopulation, mixing of races, and perhaps the harmony that could be found if there were no racism. Therefore, the linking of the source materials to a narrative gives added impact to an artwork. (Incidentally, I found skin tones very useful when constructing my recent pixelated collage).
The aforementioned collage prompted my tutor, Cari, to recommend the following artwork, in particular, to me.
This artwork is formed from 1 inch square, urethane plastic cubes, coloured with pigment and glitter, and configured into partial blocks up to 5 inches square. The colour palette, viewed with the hollows and protrusions, and the translucent character of the materials have the visceral quality of human flesh, suggesting both internal and external body parts. I like this piece a lot, with its abstract quality, self-imposed constraints, and considered use of colour, texture and media. Something to bear in mind when I am selecting colour palettes and media for my own work. David has now embraced the new technology of 3-D printing in more recent artworks, such as Hide, in which his body was subjected to a 3-D imaging device, the resulting information was converted into triangulated 2-D pieces (like a macabre jigsaw puzzle). These sections were split in half and reformed into a diptych of 2-D artwork, like a split human hide. Although in this case the artist has chosen a single creamy white colour to represent the skin, perhaps to focus attention on the Rorschach test-like, non-human look to the piece.
Sophie Smallhorn is an artist and consultant working in London. She “… explores the relationships between colour, volume and proportion.” The ‘Making‘ section of her website, shows her process: working with small colour chips/sticks/dots and colour samples in different media (yarns, vinyl, paint, printing pigments etc), and exploring different colour combinations and proportions, before translating these into her chosen media (eg, screenprints, or sculptures, or architectural features such as a coloured glass roof in London Victoria Station).
Sophie Smallhorn, work for Galerie Wenger, Cube 64/5, 2014
In this series of work, the artist has constrained her medium to small cubes measuring approximately 36 mm cubed. These have been coloured, using different colour palettes in each sculpture. Sometimes the side is obscured, so you are left to wonder at what is hidden from view. The colours go from combinations of muted, analogous hues to bright contrasts. These mixtures of hues, values and saturation confuse the viewers’ eyes and minds, with the pure, saturated colours advancing and the muted, and darker value colours receding (compare the orange and dark blue-green in the example above, although placed next to each other, the orange leaps forward, while the darker hue recedes). These optical illusions are further enhanced by the fact that the cube is incomplete in places.
Sophie Smallhorn, collaboration with Sebastian Bergne, Colourware, 2011 (Corian, wood, bronze, felt)
The artist’s Colourware collection shows an interesting colour palette and use of pattern and surface qualities. The pale wood with its natural lines, knots and rings contrasts with the bright pops of colour from the felt and Corian. There are tiny injections of black and white marbled Corian; and shine from the smooth, reflective metal, creating an impression of cohesion with contrasts, in the repeated shapes (circles/rings/cylinders), and repeated and varied colour combinations.
What can I learn from this artist?
experiment with different colour palettes (actual colour chips) using different proportions, and materials with different surface qualities
consider repetition and variation in art and design work
saturation, value and hue can appear to change, depending on the placement of colours next to each other
a small injection of colour can enliven an otherwise ‘quiet’ and harmonious palette
To put my new knowledge into practice, I have begun to take photographs when I am out and about, such as the ones below of a walk at Talkin Tarn. I make collages of the colours that interest me and import them into Adobe Color CC software to highlight some possible colour palettes.
The three palettes shown at the top of this screenshot are derived from the photo collage above, focusing on different aspects of the images. The resulting palettes are certainly more subtle than my usual high contrast ones: lots of chromatic greys and muted pinks, purples and greens. These might have potential as inspiration for interior decor such as rugs, furnishing textiles, fashion accessories etc.
Here are two pages from my sketchbook showing the observed colours from two locations: a hospital waiting room and a lakeside walk. Using a limited selection of coloured pencils (I may start to include felt markers to give more contrast) means that I have to try my best to recreate the colour I’m seeing, with blends of colours optically mixing to produce an approximation of the correct colour. When I have enough samples to choose from, I will make a book like that of Margrethe Odgaard, shown earlier in this article. And to follow that artist’s example, I took some images of manmade colour palettes at IKEA today.
I have learnt:-
Colour palettes can be derived from numerous sources.
A variety of palettes (bright, muted, analogous etc) can be inspired by one source: by varying proportions, selections and combinations of hues, values and saturations.
Including jarring colours (such as muted values) in a palette can make a more exciting combination than gentle, analogous or purely contrasting, complementary combinations. However, selections will depend on the mood you wish to convey.
A technical record is a useful educational and inspirational resource for future work, and can be a beautiful object in its own right.
To link the narrative or meaning of an artwork to the media used, or to the source of the palette selections.