Sunday, March 3, 2013

what we talk about when we talk about color

I live and breathe color, in my work and in my life.  I have frequently spoken of it here.  I have a sophisticated eye, if I say so myself, close to perfect pitch in the visual sense.  I never took a color class, which is not to brag, but it has hurt me in that I have never, as a result, known how I would teach one!

For me color is about observation, but it is like scent: it runs a straight path past the right brain and goes straight into a nameless sense of joy (or pain) when it hits a nerve.  It is possible to analyze why this could happen, but to quantify it into a teachable lesson seems similar to teaching you how to choose your next lover based on a logical system.

I have biases: I like a certain amount of complementary challenge in my palettes.  I am bored by most monotones, prefer a triad of colors at the least.  I much prefer layered color rather than flat, and the yellow ink runs out in my printer at twice the rate of the other toners, meaningthat I prefer a warm palette.  I think ideally a palette should include, in some form, a variation of all 3 primaries.

When my daughter Rose used to pester me about what my favorite color might be, I would answer (poor girl!) that it was impossible to have a favorite color, much like it is impossible to have a favorite child.  Taken on their own, there are hues I like more and hues I like less, but color is never isolated, and a color I might love can become an eyesore used i n the wrong context.

design for a rug, (c) 2011 Laura Foster Nicholson
I think, were I to teach a color class, the first exercise I would conduct would be to have each student identify a color they loathed, and make them work with it, in palettes, until they found a perfect home for it.  A shadow? a complement?  although I have waxed emotional about color, it is profoundly a tool: one can't afford to have either favorites or avoid colors one tends to dislike.