09 July, 2013

Colorists Coloring With Colors

What follows is a post first published in August of 2012.

This is the second post of an undetermined number of posts about the subject of color use.

There is some danger in this subject for both of us. For me, I risk either writing inanity, banality or nonsense. For you, probably the worst risk is that you will become convinced that these theories I write will impart some method. There will be no methodology about color use here. Just ideas, tips, and histories. That is about as good as it can get, because we enter this aware of the personal nature of one's color use, called color sense, and it is known by many who study color that people see and respond to color in a manner different each from the other. If there is any commiseration on color feelings, then these ideas are already widely known.

Some Thoughts:

  • Starting with a color idea involves, for me, either choosing one bright, pure color, or designing a color triad in my mind at the very first part of the process.
  • Reacting to the previous color involves intuitive choice, and/or some reference to known color properties, such as what compliments or what harmonizes the colors already laid down.
  • Keep looking at the work and making adjustments as you progress.
  • Respond to problems to create the harmony that you seek.

Fauvism is the first school or movement we think of when we are faced with funny color in artwork. The Fauvists were a crazy bunch of Frenchmen, mostly, who painted in the Modern era. Among their ranks were Vlamink, Rouault, Derain, and the King of the Fauves, Henri Matisse. The ideas they shared involved a reaction to earlier movements and the late  Impressionist school of thought. They wanted bright, pure colors versus enhanced local color and an explanation of light. Their work was also considered painterly in the use of bold brushstrokes.

There will be no methodology about color use here.

I don't seek color that is a response to local color, meaning that that I don't choose a color that is purposefully not the actual (local) color. I just choose the color I want, and usually for personal reasons. It may often be the local color, and that is perfectly okay with me, especially because I am now set to react to the color I just used. I am a terrible reactionary in the artistic sense!

This approach, I think, is better than aiming for the "wrong" color or the opposite of the local color, because these methods can be formulaic.  One is required to prejudice his choice when he will not choose the local color.


Donna T said...

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on color, Casey. I am trying to become more intuitive and will keep the harmony component in mind. As someone who is trying to break free from the obligation of using colors that are "right" your color usage is a huge inspiration!

Casey Klahn said...

Great to hear your comments, Donna.

Mitch said...

Hi Casey,
I've been wondering how you choose color, and this post helps explain that. But is your color choice entirely based on the initial idea for a harmony, a visual element that you then respond to? Or do your initial color choices deliberately relate to a deeper emotional content that you are trying to convey? One of my favorite books of all time is The Primary Colors by Alexander Theroux, published almost twenty years ago (perhaps you are familiar with it, but if not, you might enjoy it.) He investigates the history of our emotional attachments to colors, for example: "Blue...is the color of ambiguous depth, of the heavens and of the abyss at once..." I guess my question is about how much these cultural and emotional associations to a particular color play in your initial choice of a color scheme.
PS I'm happy that we can still follow your blog with no problems after the recent switch.

Casey Klahn said...

Hi, Mitch,

I don't go for analyzing color psychologically, although I admit it can be done. Kandinsky did that and I rejected that part of his inquiry.

My reason is I don't want to rationalize or prejudice my choices ahead of time.

If I want my colors to be expressionist(and I do), then I have to go forward blindly. Sometimes I invent a color idea right at the start; other times just begin randomly. These are tricks that the Abstract Expressionists used, and other Modernists as well. Picasso explored it with form. Automatism.

I'm not familiar with that book but I'll look it up, thanks!

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism