Monday 8 October 2012

Immersed in Colour

I have always believed that life-long learning is important to personal and professional development. To that end, each year I try to take at least one course or workshop on a topic that interests me and has practical applications to my life as an artist. This year I was pleased to enrol in the Maiwa Colour Institute, a five-day immersion in the world of colour that's part of the Maiwa Textile Symposium. Maiwa is a company based on Granville Island in Vancouver and is a hub for all things textile, from supplies to garments and much more. Each fall they organize a symposium of workshops, lectures and other related events. The annual Colour Institute led by Michelle Whipplinger is always a sell-out, filling quickly once registration commences, and I had the good fortune to be quick to enrol (in past years I had missed out). I was delighted to share the experience with an enthusiastic group of participants from Canada, the US and as far away as England.

I'm no stranger to colour, given my work as both a visual artist and graphic designer. However my formal training is further in my past than I care to admit and I felt I could benefit from a week of immersion in the topic of colour. And thus for five days straight my life was devoted to better understanding that very thing that is fundamental to my work as an artist. After a couple of days, words like hue, value, chroma, shade, tone, intensity and saturation were swimming in my head, along with visions of colour charts, colour wheels and colour swatches. When I closed my eyes I saw a kaleidoscope of every hue of the proverbial rainbow. When I walked down the street, the bright autumn leaves took on new meaning, speaking the language of colour in a way I hadn't interpreted before.

Every evening after the workshop (and after my arduous commute home from the city) I worked to apply the things I learned to my own work. On my art table was a drawing I had commenced a week or so earlier - a nuthatch that I had observed and photographed outside my studio window last winter. These lively blue-grey and buff coloured birds present a delightful subject in terms of both form, habits and colouring. I continued working on the drawing, filling in the background with colours I would not previously have considered, working with hues of greens, blues, red-violet and burnt orange.

The nuthatch bathed in a lively compliment of colours.

The drawing then served as my inspiration for the final project of the week. In combination with colourful found objects such as autumn leaves and a magazine cover, I devised a pattern based on the shape and energy of the little bird, and then experimented with colour combinations to better understand their relationship and effect on one another.

My collection of items that served as inspiration for my final project.
My final project.

With the workshop a few days behind me, I now find myself analyzing nature's colour schemes in terms of how each colour relates to another, and the effect they have (or don't have) upon one another in their various combinations. It's as though way I perceive the world has been altered in a fundamental way. The fall timing of the workshop could not have been better as the brilliant fall colours we're experiencing at the moment offer exciting fodder for thoughts about colour.

I look forward to seeing where my invigorated perceptions of colour will lead me as I move ever-forward on my artistic journey.

1 comment:

  1. Knowledge of colour and the relationship of colours to one another is an area in which I'm sadly lacking! I'm very aware how certain colours affect me negatively and positively, but couldn't put together a colour palette for an outfit or a room or use colour to assess a scene for photography to save my life. You've inspired me to at least check the local library for books on the topic.
    Can't wait to see how your new knowledge integrates with your future art.