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Looking at Red

February 14, 2017

Red is one of the most powerful colors when it is at its brightest. But Red has many moods and may be the most misunderstood color of all. For instance when red starts out as a very pale tint, it will be named pink. Pink conjures up very different images than a bright red or even a dark red. When red is at its brightest, it is sometimes associated with a so called true red. But which true red – one that is slanted towards purple (violet) or one that slants towards orange? or a red that swings on the pendulum somewhere between the 2 colors.  It is at this point that color students become irritated with red – when they are challenged with how they have perceived their lifelong idea of  red. It can be interesting to read about how different cultures perceive colors, as we do in our level 1 Color Course but there is no substitute for analyzing your own past and present color memory. Give red a chance in all its nuances. Notice the colors that are teamed with red in the blog. Thank you to our lovely students who are contributing to the Red blog. Have an enjoyable Valentines Day!     


Looking at Blue

February 4, 2017

 I asked my husband, Don if he liked the color blue and if so, what made it interesting to him? He answered me in a short sentence:  Blue is blue and I like it. I thought – what a finite response!  Well not everyone looks at color in the same way, especially if it doesn’t need to work for them. I had been placing blue pictures on this blog and was thinking about things such as: If you are trying to create an essence of peacefulness, which blue could you use: blue that leans towards violet, one that leans towards green or another that is somewhere in the middle? Blue is one of those colors that is so symbolic that we can’t easily shake away what happens in our human world of the blue water and sky.  Fish can float and swim in water as stars appear to be floating above in the sky. Artists make this a symbol that allow spiritual images to float in space, untied to the earth. A type of freedom! Dreamy celestial feelings can be realized with blue. Blue pairs so well with green, which is right next door on the color wheel. This is what we see in nature with green grass meeting the blue sky.  There is something to be said about blue – it doesn’t change its personality when it moves through the values of the palest tint to the darkest shade. it stays True Blue.  So many values in between the lightest and darkest. Thank you to our students for showing their blue artwork in this blog. If you click on each image, you will be able to see the complete image with credits. Gail Harker


Looking at Violet

January 28, 2017

Violet can be as dark as the night or as pale as pearls. Since it can be such a dark color in pigment, there are so many possibilities of tints using this magical color. There is a wide range of Violet (Purple) colors that are mixtures of colors anywhere between red and blue. Purple has been known as a color since ancient times and was named as such in the English language since 975 or thereabouts.  The name Violet was first recorded as a name in England in 1370. In the language of Color, both names could be used interchangeably.  A particular color, in past times was often associated with the object itself.  For example – the flowers violet and viola.  There is no need to be a purist about finding an exact color to match its name. People perceive color names differently.  Come April and May, you can look for yourself (if you live in the climate where violet (purple) flowers grow.  If you don’t, most of my violet/ purple photos are from this time period in Washington State.  Sometimes you can see the colors red violet, violet and blue violet in one flower.  Pair this flower with green leaves surrounding it and you have a terrific color scheme, or try its complement yellow to see what you get. You will see a number of other unlikely colors that are striking next to violet in the photos below. Thanks to our students for showing their paper and stitched fabric art on this blog. Gail Harker

To learn more about color consider Level 1 Color Studies or Level 1 Color Studies Online.

Looking at Orange

January 23, 2017
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I first discovered that color was a cultural phenomena, when we moved to Scotland and then England in the seventies from Canada.  I was swept into a darker world with granite buildings, overcast skies, neutralized soft greens and heathers and people dressed in dark colors. The subtlety of the colors escaped me until I learned to see and understand neutrals.  Once in England I made the mistake of wearing a bright orange dress to college.   My friend mentioned kindly to me that orange was over the top as a fashion color in England. Later in the nineties when we moved to America, I was awestruck by the mountains of orange pumpkins piled high in front of the grocery stores in October. Indeed there were bright colors of orange that met me at every turn. I had an aha moment about colors that surround  people in their every day environment and how it affects them.  Orange is still one of the raciest, lightest brightest colors – from pale to warm and then pulsatingly hot. Notice how the complementary blues or near complementary color in the photos reacts with the orange. Or how the analogous colors of yellow and red flow smoothly together with orange. Thanks to our students for some of the beautiful images. Click on each one to see full credits and the loveliness of each piece.  Gail Harker   

Looking at Yellow

January 17, 2017

Yellow is a bully . . . there is nothing meek about it, even in its palest tints. It is the lightest brightest color available next to white. Balancing light bright colors next to other mid range or dark value colors is always a challenging opportunity.  The game you play next is all about proportion. How much can be used in a composition before yellow takes over? Of course you can always begin with the idea that yellow will be the key color and the others will be subordinate or you can decide from the outset that yellow will be in smaller quantities. I am always surprised by newcomers to art who proclaim a dislike for yellow in general. They sometimes follow up with: I can’t wear that color or don’t want it to decorate my house.  When approaching art as an adult, I believe that it is advantageous to begin to look at  color closely once again, with new eyes. The lovely thing about working as an artist is that you have permission to rethink your old ideas and become flexible about endless possibilities of creating interesting color. The photos below, some from students (thank you) and myself have yellows that are in different proportions, and are interacting with other colors . Click on each photo to see what you think about the grey, green, orange, black and blue that are interacting with yellow.  Give Yellow a chance!  Gail Harker

Looking at Black and White

January 6, 2017

Black and white are the polar opposites. Such extreme contrast in value makes it necessary for both the positive and negative shapes to be interesting. How can a shape be interesting you ask? Have a look at some of these pictures individually to see if you can spot interesting darks and lights. The ironwork just below has only slightly different sizes of negative spaces. Some are similar in size.  The sizes of the shapes in Dorothea’s rock are very different in size and the lines that divide the rock are organic and contrasting as well. I drew a flower in white pen on a black paper as a warm up exercise and deliberated doodled to contrast the quantity of black versus white.  It makes you look at the lines of the shapes. Your attention bounces first to black and then white etc. –  a little like a jig saw puzzle. This jigsaw effect can make for a lively sense of movement. There are many gradient greys between black and white. Look at the slight difference of greys on the Oxford University to see how shadows also create dark against light. Our design students hunt for grey or black and white to take photos with interesting compositions. Click on the picture to maje them larger and see the captions.  Thank you to our students for some images of artwork featured.   Gail Harker

Looking at White

December 30, 2016

This is the first blog in a series about Looking and Thinking about Color

It is amazing to me how my own perception of color changes over time as must others. I find that the more I look at color, the more acutely I can see it and see small nuances of change within it.  Here is a short dialogue that I have with myself as I am looking: White is usually surrounded by other colors and rarely seen as a solid block of white. Other colors either shadow it, highlight it or surround it. Since white is the lightest of any color, it contrasts not only with the palest of colors but also with the darkest.  As you are looking through these photos of artwork, look for pink, yellow, blue, green, grey and black.  I have seen that people often remember good and bad experiences by a color and then retain that feeling of a color over a lifetime.  How do you remember color? How can you create new color memories to become a better artist?? Place your cursor over the photo to read the caption and click on a photo to make it larger.  Thanks to our students for use of some of their images of white.   Gail Harker



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