Random Harvest 6: On Colour

This week colour has marched into my consciousness with a vengeance and it may be because I haven’t been doing much painting lately, so having been somewhat deprived of my colour mixing and working out colour relationships, the need for it has arisen. I adore colour. I need it around me. For me, colour is a form of nourishment, a feast for the eyes and the spirit.

This passion was first seriously sparked when I worked in a department store’s interior design section  – which happens to be the setting for my WIP ‘After Black’, novel number 2. I had rolls of fabric to measure out and swatches and samples of patterns and different colourways all around me. This led to me making my own soft furnishings, patchwork cushions, quilts and embroideries, as well as putting colour relationships into practice. I’d always had an interest in interiors but now I was able to really get stuck in at work and at home. When I became a painter later on, the interest and understanding of colour intensified. As other artists will understand and anyone who works with or loves colour, once you’ve developed an eye for it, it will never leave you. It adds to one’s joy in life and I seriously relish it every single day, both in my immediate environment and within the natural world too.

Before I tell you about my recent random harvest of colour this week, I want to pass on something I feel is key to understanding and appreciating colour, which after all these years still fascinates me and gives me so much pleasure in nature, in painting, in interior design, dare I say it, even fashion…and that is the visual science of complementary colour. Complementary colours enhance each other to maximum visual effect, so they essentially make each other look brighter. The simplest way to demonstrate this is to look at this colour wheel:

Complementary colours are those pairings of colours which are opposite each other on the wheel, in any shade intensity at all – from the palest pale to the darkest dark, as long as the two colours are approximately opposite each other they are complementary and they love each other. And that’s why once you see the basic pairings, you will recognise why they are often juxtaposed in interior design and why they are often used somewhere within a painting.

So keeping in mind the full range of possibilities, the three very basic pairings are:

Red and green (both pastels and darks)

Yellow and purple (both pastels and darks)

Blue and orange (both pastels and darks)

Here’s a little from the Tate Gallery on the topic:

 ‘Artists began to become particularly aware of the significance of complementary colours after the development of scientific colour theory in the nineteenth century. This theory played an important part in the development of  impressionism and post-impressionism as well as fauvism and much modern painting thereafter. The impressionists were the first to note that shadows are not neutral but are the complementary colour of the light that throws them.’

And did you know that Isaac Newton developed the first colour wheel back in 1666!

But back to what I was saying…so in interiors, you might well see some yellow or lime green juxtaposed with purple, or pale greens and pinks put together, or turquoises with terracotta (one of my favourites and used on the cover of On Turtle Beach). And these relationships can work in a room or a painting, in a big way or a more subtle way, with just a few elements used to bring a touch of complementary zing to a calming visual space. Their presence is sure to provide an aesthetically pleasing result to enjoy.

Below is a ‘done for fun’ kaleidoscoped image of a mixed media painting of mine showing a powerful complementary pairing dominating, that being the oranges of both rich value in the middle and pale perimeter shades, against the deep turquoise. Yummy!

So this recent craving for colour seems to have resulted in my ordering a braided rug this week, and I can’t believe I’m doing this, but here is a link to the manufacturers. After pouncing on a small oval one in a garden centre a few weeks ago, I found myself looking at the company’s website and their sale offers, and I now have the ironically named ‘Harvest’ colourway as a bargain runner in my kitchen. I was also fascinated to see that the company does the traditional American braided rugs as made in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Now I’ve had a seriously long-term yearning for braided rugs stemming from American movies set in the 30s or the 40s, and I suspect the long-running TV series of  The Waltons may also have something to do with my craving – massive plaited oval delights in huge country kitchens made in all the colours of the rainbow with the sun slanting through the windows. What’s not to like?

The next visual ‘sweetie’ this week was staring at a selection of homemade cupcakes in the middle of a table at a group volunteer meeting. I managed to confine myself to eating just one of them, but the whipped up pale pink icing on some of them juxtaposed with green-blue icing on the others was truly compelling ;>)

And to finish off my harvest feast, today I indulged more colour passion by buying a couple of coloured bottles in a charity shop, which are now gracing my kitchen window sill, together with a gorgeous aqua green paperweight with a single large bubble right bang in the middle…

Looks like I’d better save some money and get on with some painting, doesn’t it?

Some quotes on colour to finish:

Colours are the smiles of nature (Leigh Hunt)

Nature always wears the colours of the spirit (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The whole point is to live life and be – to use all the colours in the crayon box (RuPaul)

I try to apply colours like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music (Joan Miro)

(top and middle pics – pixabay. Lowest one, Lynne)

Harvest Rug delivered from above company


About lynnefisher

Writer and visual artist living in Scotland, INFJ type Writer's blog: lynnefisher.wordpress.com Art: lynnehenderson.co.uk Twitter @writeartblog Writers page Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lynnefisherheadtoheadhearttoheart/ Artists page Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lynnehendersonartist/
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12 Responses to Random Harvest 6: On Colour

  1. Love the kaleidoscoped image and the rug. Beautiful colors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lynne, Having seen your new rug and bottles I’m pleased I read your blog and share in your enthusiasm. You know what I’m like though and come to colour mixing from the other direction. I don’t think too much about it, I just do it, (maybe I should think about it more! ) so it’s always interesting to read about a different approach. Your quote from the Tate reminded me of an exercise I had to do in college years ago which I assumed came from the Bauhaus and that was just to paint the colour seen in the shadows. I never understood that maybe that’s what they were wanting us to understand that ‘shadows are not neutral but are the complementary colour of the light that throws them. That’s something for me to think about, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Yes, I think you’ve got a point there too, Sylvia – about shadows being the complementary colour of the light that throws them. My mother has very sensitive eyes due to her glaucoma, and the other day, after she’d been out in the bright garden of predominantly green, she saw red in her visual field when she came back into the dark house. So there’s certainly some science behind this. Maybe you do use them, but not so consciously? I don’t know, but the colours in your compostions are always a delight!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rick Ellrod says:

    Good stuff! I like a strong color contrast, so I find myself using complementary shades now and again — as well as not-quite-contraries like red and blue, blue and gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thanks for sharing, Rick! This is good to hear. Yes, there are many variations to the complementaries that work and sometimes I can work out the colour mixing for it to make sense – I love blue and gold too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. galenpearl says:

    What a great story about color! My sister is an artist, and I’m going to share this with her. I loved your description of your interior design job and all the fun you had with color there. As you know, I’m playing with the idea of “water moves the color.” I’m going to focus more now on using complementary colors, something I was not aware of until reading your post. What fun!

    And I love the fact that color has led you to the American craft of braided rugs. My mother’s family were hill people in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. They made quilts and rugs from scraps of materials from worn out clothes, curtains, towels, etc. My mother would point to a quilt and say things like, “That is a piece of Uncle Kennard’s shirt,” or “Oh, that was my favorite blouse.”

    Is the picture at the top your new rug? It’s beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      So pleased you’re going to give the complementary colour a go, Galen! Just to be aware that if they end up mixing together too much in the wet they will create a browny tone, so better use wet on dry. And thanks for sharing the post with your sister. Cheers also for explaining a little more about the braided rugs. I have NEVER seen them over here. Our equivalent rag rugs are clippy mats and proggy mats, and my grandma used to make them. There are crafters who still make them today. I’ll put a pic of the braided rug that I ordered at the bottom of the post.


  5. Rachel says:

    I love the colour wheel you’ve chosen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as vibrant as that before.
    I too am always looking around my home to see where I can make a better use of colours. I have a few of those oversized brandy glasses that I place on windowsills here and there. Glass has a knack of producing stunning colours.
    I like the rugs too. I bet your counting down the days until yours arrives now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Hi Rachel, yes, the wheel is the most vibrant I’ve seen too. Plenty of punch to it, for sure. So glad to meet a kindred colour spirit, and I’m sure my artist friend Sylvia will have something to say too. The rug has arrived and is lovely, with a non-slip rubber runner under it which hubby insisted upon. And hey, he actually likes the two coloured bottles on the window sill!

      Liked by 1 person

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