I have been thinking about color, probably because the QuiltArt list has been talking about color. That discussion started when someone said they were having a hard time working with “bright” colors. Lots of advice has followed which has included, “don’t use bright colors if you don’t feel comfortable with them” to “here are some exercises to use to help in your desire to brighten your palette.” I have offered no advice, but have been thinking about what my advice would be. I tend to believe that the color palette we use evolves and in time becomes our own, regardless of efforts to adopt a particular way of working with color.
I found it particularly interesting that this person was striving for an ability to use brights. I think that most beginning artists, and maybe I am thinking more about painting, tend to start with a bright palette and work toward a more modulated, sophisticated, if you will, palette. On the other hand, perhaps this person comes from a traditional quilting background and was originally drawn to antique quilts and the modern fabrics that mimic the old, faded, earthy colors of the antique quilts, and that is where she is coming from.
One of the other threads that came out of the original question is the uses of the color wheel, especially using complementary colors to “brighten” each other. (I’m not going to go into the fallacies of that concept, just throwing it out as what’s been discussed).
So here are some questions for discussion:
1. Do you find that you use a consistent color palette in your work?
2. If you answered yes to #1, did you consciously choose that palette or did it evolve in an unconscious way?
3. Do you use a color wheel? (I’m talking about an actual chart or revolving wheel thingie) and if so, how do you use it—ie what answers does it provide for which questions?
4. Do you use an internalized knowledge of the color wheel and color relationships to help you make color decisions, and how does that internal dialogue go?
5. Do you choose color in a purely visceral, instinctive way?
I think I use a combination of 4 and 5, leaning most heavily toward 5, but having studied color it is probably in the back of my mind. I also know that when I can observe that a particular color is not working I tend to fall back to the known relationships to find a way to fix what is wrong. I also feel that a background in painting and mixing paint, in particular, is one of the most valuable tools I have when it comes to working with color in fabric work.
The photos are just for fun. The first is, of course, Mondrian, whose color palette is very distinctive and instantly recognizable to most people. The second is the same piece recolored. I think the new palette is a nice combination of colors but would never be recognized as the work of Mondrian. Color is very personal.