I have had another rush of work this month and didn’t get time to study this subject in depth…so I think I’ll just pose a question.

How affected by seasonal color are you?

I find that I’m greatly affected, by the changing colors of leaves, but especially by the change of light and how that colors 😉 my perception of everything.

I love color. I’m sure you do too. I personally could never make a black and white piece of art. Some artists can, and do it well. I can’t. A friend asked me a couple of weeks ago how I would start work on the new pieces I need to do (quick deadline). I told her that I start with color.


I think about how I feel and then what kind of color I want to look at. Am I feeling bright and cheerful…reach for the lime. How about lazy and smooth…reach for the blue. You know, all of that psychology of color stuff that we all read but may not realize that we’re actively working with daily. Or at least I don’t realize I’m doing it until the piece is done and I look, really look at it.

It’s now past the middle of August. Technically it’s still summer and will be for another month. But I’ve noticed a definite change in the light in the past week (I live in TX, this may happen sooner further north). It’s glorious. Soft and warm, but still bright. I find myself going outside in the early afternoon to take it in. And by October I’ll be so in love with the light that I’ll try to get as much of it as possible, opening all the windows, driving around in the convertible with the top down, walking the dogs daily.

I also have to plan my work around the time of day. If I start a new piece of work, choosing fabrics from my cupboard, then it must be done before noon, when the light shifts. While the afternoon light is beautiful, I prefer the choices I make in the mid morning light. Is this just me?

Here’s a piece of Japanese kimono fabric I bought off of ebay this month.

kimono fabric

I looked and looked at this piece before bidding on it. I realized that how much I liked it depended on the time of day I was looking at it (my studio where my computer has lots of natural light). I didn’t like it at night under the overhead light, but I liked it in the morning and loved it in the afternoon light. The red is a very orange red, which I find very appealing in the afternoon. It’s hanging here now and under the overcast light from outside, it’s not too spectacular, but when I opened it the afternoon it came I squealed with delight. It’s hard to pick a project for that kind of fabric.

Of course, if I hang on to it until spring I may feel totally different about it. Spring light is so bright and crisp. I love it. Do other artists have a preference for the light of a season? Or the colors that are abundant in each particular season? I used to be a spring person, but now I’m in love with late summer and fall.

My fabric dyeing process is the only time I struggle with this passion for light that I have. I dye inside my laundry room, under a giant florescent light, which while bright and clear, lacks the feeling that I am inspired by. When the weather is cooler I try to do some dyeing out in the backyard, but when that’s not possible I try to spend some time just standing outside, making a mental list of what color and light I’m finding inspiration in, then I rush back inside and try to mix up the dyes before I lose that feeling.

Am I the only one who does this or feels this way? It’s starting to sound like I’m crazy!

Last week I came across a tv show about color and light and the early study of both, back in the 18th and 19th century. I couldn’t find a link to it online, but I did come across this site, which is really fascinating.

So next time you start a project, take a second before reaching for that perfect fabric to think about why it’s the perfect fabric right now. You might find that you have chosen yellow because of the drifting leaves outside your window!

11 Responses to “color”

  1. 1 sahara August 28, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Wow thanks for the suggestion of the book. I stumbled upon this site while looking for something else, and I will bookmark it.

    Here in New York City, you have to WORK at using color. In Manhattan, the landscape continues to be rapidly transformed by the overdevelopement of modern high rises, so all color is being wiped out.

    I am fortunate to live in the Bronx, where there is still a fair amount of land around me (don’t believe what the media says! We’re the borough of parks). More so than the seasons, are the times of the day, and the effect of the light upon objects. I also derive my color schemes from a cultural (I’m of African descent)perspective.

  2. 2 Clairan August 25, 2007 at 4:50 am

    Thanks for that suggestion Olga.

  3. 3 Olga August 25, 2007 at 3:20 am

    Oh, and I meant to say that Lois Swirnoff’s The Colour of Citites, an international perspective, light, perception, and environment in urban design, published by McGrawa-Hill Education is a fascinating book either to read cover to cover, or to dip into for thought-provoking inspiration about colour and light in our buildings.

  4. 4 Olga August 25, 2007 at 2:21 am

    Clairan I live in England, and I did not mean that there is absolutely no change in the light/colour in summer, but that during the bulk of the day it is much more even than at other times of the year. Indeed one of my favourite times is very early after dawn on a hot day when the heat is still imminent, and the dew is still around in the rapidly diminishing cool air. But it’s the feel of that rather than the light that I find attractive then.

    One of the interesting things about Global Warming is that with the weird weather we are experiencing changes in what we expect from the light. For instance in April we had heat waves but still Spring light patterns. And we have had extremely dull summer weather so that the tomatoes in my greenhouse have not flourished. Now I fully expect there to be an Indian Summer in Autumn which I love because there’s a duet between grey skies and sunny ones, and all the tree colours find different contrasts. All in all there is never a really dull dull day!

  5. 5 Clairan August 23, 2007 at 2:47 pm


    Where do you live? Here in Chicago we experience a great shift of light during the summer days.

    I musst look to see if the mornings are blue and the evenings yellow. We very often have coral sunrises and sunsets.

  6. 6 monrea August 23, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Wow! I’m so glad that this post got everyone thinking about their feelings for color and light. It makes such a huge impact on us as artists. I don’t know if the rest of the world in general takes note of the differences we see and enjoy.

  7. 7 Olga August 23, 2007 at 9:34 am

    Yeay colour! light! life! Summer is my least favourite season because the light is usually so even through the day – but even then …. I love the delight of finding so much colour in winter – so many bare twigs are so pink. I love finding so many shades, textures, and hues of other colours in greys.

    Mornings are blue, then increasingly as the air picks up debris and sun the evenings turn to yellow – making the morning a much better time for me to pick colours and take photos of my work.

  8. 8 Susie Monday August 23, 2007 at 5:28 am

    I, too, am affected by the seasons when I work. I think its almost biological.. In the spring the new greens come out, This time of year I love the reds and rusts and oranges. I’ve done pale lilac and frosty white on white in winter (though South Texas scarcely turns those colors!). I usually start a series of tablelinen art cloth pieces for a season and restrict myself consciously to a certain palette — one that has the season in it.

  9. 9 sandyw August 22, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Color makes my world go round. I live in the mountains in Northern California and have many greens, dirt colors, browns and clear blue skys but if I reach for color it is generally a jewel tone unless I have a specific idea in mind for a piece. I also dye fabric in the laundry room with un-natural light and can hardly wait for it to come out of the washer.

    In beads I find that I reach for the gold tones more often then not. I think that comes from wearing sutle clothing for so many years at work.

    I don’t think any of us are crazy for loving color or fondingly fabric. Such a VICE.


  10. 10 Kristin August 22, 2007 at 11:47 am

    If Clairan and Sandy are “colorsensitives” then I think I may be “colorbidextrous.” People often comment on my use of color, and yet I can think of nothing that I consciously do to combine colors. So much of what I make depends on the first two pieces of fabric I pick up. Everything else seems to be built on that relationship. Out of nowhere I just made two purple/yellow/turquoise pieces when the preceeding work was all about greens and browns.

    I do know that every October when I go to a stitchery show in the mountains I return with a bag of threads in glowing greens and gold to burgundy tones. I think it would be impossible to buy beachy blues and greys.

  11. 11 Clairan August 22, 2007 at 9:40 am

    You are definitely not crazy! Just another “colorsensitive” (my own, possibly crazy, term). I always start with color and am very, very attuned to subtle differences in color which seem to me to make a big emotional difference. Although I love the fall and the gorgeous autumn colors we have here in the midwest, I am very much a winter person — thus black and white appeals to me too. I particularly like the high intensity jewel colors. In January I traditionally work strictly with blues — indigo is particularly luscious. I have for years talked about the blue light of January (and, yes, people might well have thought I was crazy, because they clearly didn’t see it), but recently I read an article in an interior design magazine by a designed who was said to be a paint expert, and he talked about the red you could use in Chicago, because the light was so blue because of Lake Michigan. So perhaps there is a scientific basis to this? I think the snow reflects and intensifies the blueness I am also fascinated by how a grey, rainy day can make the greens of summer absolutely luminous.

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