Thursday, 20 September 2012

Colour Theory – a blast from the past!

Week 3  of the Surface Pattern Course was all about Colour.

Rachael Taylor, our tutor, reassured us that we would not be doing much formal Colour Theory, but she did show us a colour wheel with the primary and secondary colours and she mentioned, almost in passing, some of the terms used to describe commonly used colour combinations, such as Analogous, Triadic and Complementary.

Complementary simply means the colours that are opposite one another on a colour wheel, Analogous colours are the ones next to one another on the wheel; and this piece of work I did for the Rhodec International Interior Design correspondence course in 1985 shows a Triadic scheme - not that I could live with those colours on walls and ceilings even now!

These terms were all familiar to me from the three-months of Colour Theory that I studied in the mid-eighties as part of the Rhodec International course. But I had the feeling that one of them was missing from Rachael's list! Eventually I remembered what the missing one looked like – it was a colour scheme I liked a lot and used often in my course-work.

But I couldn’t remember what it was called!

And that really bugged me for a couple of days, especially as it had been my favourite. Busy as I was, there was only one thing for it – a foray into my big, deep attic cupboards, where most of my art-related folders and portfolios are stored.

There on a shelf was my ‘History of Design’ folder, full of 20-page  essays on fascinating subjects such as ‘The Development of the House in the Middle Ages’ . . . next to it, ‘Design Theory’ on one side and ‘Furniture and Fittings’ on the other. But no sign of the ‘Colour Theory’ which would hold the answer to my nagging question.

Down on the floor of the cupboard, underneath some patchwork cotquilts, was a small portfolio containing all my technical drawings and presentation paintings, too big for normal folders. And there, tucked in randomly amongst the large drawings, was all my Colour Theory work. I had obviously needed to use its folder for something else in the intervening years!

What a Treasure Trove that turned out to be!

I remember having great difficulty using Designers Gouache at first. Books I consulted (this was before computers and the internet!) told me that the paint should be the consistency of cream but they didn’t say whether it should be pouring cream, double cream or clotted cream! Eventually I found a friend of a friend who advised me on this and pointed me in the direction of some superb brushes that made life a lot easier - and then I had obviously spent a lot of time practising.

I appear to have done a lot of ‘taking a line for a walk’ exercises and then filled them in with colour. I could hardly believe my eyes as I discovered page after page of painted patterns like the geometric shapes one above, which, when scanned and tidied up digitally, could provide me with weeks of practice in making repeating patterns in Photoshop!

Here's the first one that I've worked on -

Oh, and I nearly forgot – I did discover the name of the colour scheme I was so drawn to. It’s called a ‘Split Complementary’ scheme because the only way in which it differs from a Complementary scheme is that it uses tints and shades of the colours on either side of the complementary.

And here's its cousin that I had forgotten all about - the Double Split complementary -

I don’t suppose you really needed to know that but you never know when it might come in handy!

4 comments: said...

I just love color and these colors are awesome. Looks like you are having a lot of fun!!! :-)

Judy Adamson said...

Yes - it's quite addictive sometimes!

Carole Barkett said...

Having this knowledge, do you plan out your colors before painting? I briefly read about this then decided even if I knew it I probably wouldn't use it but you can tint shadows etc.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Carole = thanks for your comments.

No, I wouldn't plan colours for a painting or a design nowadays, it's more or less instinctive. But it can be useful when planning an interior scheme - or even a painting, perhaps, - if instinct isn't working!