Color Is Everything - Part 1
Color. Imagine a world without it. Everything in grey scale. We may love black and white photography, but imagine never again gasping at a glorious sunrise/sunset. Color is God. It is emotion, energy, mood, a reflection of refracted wavelengths, a phenomenon of light. Understanding color as artists allows us to use it with intention and we can revel in it’s infinite variations.
Color does not exist in a vacuum - it must be in constant dialogue with the world around it. Complementary colors, when juxtaposed, set off an optical dynamic dance. Tonal colors and neutral palettes can calm our jittery overstimulated nervous system. One wash of blue sweeps us away on a heaving ocean. A slash of red might activate our adrenals. A field of green conjures summer memories. Each color has personal associations that evoke emotion and recollections.
Inspiration is always around us. But we often neglect color in our daily lives, and it sometimes takes travel to awaken our visual senses. We become more receptive outside of our ordinary world. Take Iceland for example: there are many palettes present as you travel around the island, but the most dominant to me is exemplified by the name - Fire and Ice.
In Iceland, It’s all about temperature. There is a physical response to the icy blue lagoons and glaciers contrasted with the hot red magma churning just below the earth’s thin crust. We know that we are treading on ground that is a rupture away from blowing it’s top. The geological evidence is raw and honest and evident for all to see. This tension is part of the visceral thrill of being in a landscape that is ever ready to change. And that change is color bound.
Of course color is not just about the full spectrum of saturated hues. Another Icelandic palette could be a steampunk volcanic landscape of smoke and ash. In the color board below, the addition of an acid yellow accent color can lift an otherwise monochromatic palette to another level of depth and complexity. These colors even inspire a tactile reaction that might bring textures into the painting such as pumice and charcoal.
Some of you may know that through the years, to support my artist life, I have also been a part-time freelance clothing designer for various companies. Each season brings new color palettes/trends, and forecasters offer the “latest” greatest in color projections. Big money is made on predicting the hot new color trend.
One of my favorite jobs as a designer is to create mood boards for my clients, as seen in the images here, combining different elements, patterns, textures and colors in a cohesive way. These help to create focus and narrow the scope of color possibilities for each collection.
What is evident in reviewing my paintings over the years is my own personal color bias. And while fashion takes it’s own fickle color turns, my preferences tend to be evergreen. That’s ok. My motto is: love what you love. What can be more authentic than that? While in Turkey, my love for ethnic textiles became unavoidably present, and the collages below are evidence of that love.
A fun and engaging exercise is to create inspiration boards that can initiate a fresh burst of color excitement and activate a new series of paintings. Instead of staring blankly at a white canvas, why not gather your favorite references and create a collage of images you love just for fun? This focus of mood, texture and color can be the first step to creating a new body of work that is born directly out of this easy play.
So in these images, which came first - the mood board or the paintings? It doesn’t matter (the paintings did), the main thing is that I know deeply my color preferences and am willing to own it, play with it, rejoice in it. I love my biases and need never justify or even apologize for them. Color is my gift, my pleasure, my comfort, my thrill ride. Thank God for color in all it’s gorgeous diversity. Enjoy the miracle that it is!