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