in search of coral and turquoise: an art colourist’s mini-review

I’m working with Jill Herasme in a weekly creativity workshop for the month of June.  Jill’s helping me fully visualize what new directions my map art enterprises might take.  She’s coaching on creativity and color along a central exercise of creating a vision board within the context of understanding how color, cut, and silhouette applies to trending and fashion.  It’s all pretty complicated and very enjoyable for me as I have no textile or seamtress background, but a real interest in the compilation of seasonal colors for textile lines and how those colors advance along historical timelines.  Just today I learned the process for going from sketch concept to manufactured decorator fabrics….who knew?

So in these exercises, I’m working on a fairly large foam core board and trying to understand on one side the intersection of turquoise – is it blue or green or something in between, which for the fact that turquoise was the 2010 color of the year is proving pretty difficult to pin down.  On the other side of the board I am working on the color coral – is it red or orange or something in between. Now if I haven’t lost you, at the same time I’m trying to get the color right and trying to understand just what these colors are and why they feel important to me, I’m including elements and inspiration on the one side (coral) for my daughter (who is very warm and earthy) and on the other (turquoise) for my son (who is cool and watery).

Understanding what coral and turquoise are in today’s products is very different from the coral and turquoise of yesteryear.  Turquoise especially is challenging because I could line up five different blenders or mixers (especially from the Martha Stewart collection) and you’d call them all “turquoise”, but are they really?  Coral, on the other hand starts quickly blending into peach or pink or red – there’s a finer line for the color range but harder to detect with the eye.  I cut out several “coral” clothing items only to turn around and stick them on a pure white board to see they are actually “reds”!  Frustrating.

Today Jill shared with us two newer concepts – the psychology of color – how it makes us feel and what emotions it projects.  I am beginning to understand as I work on the boards.   Secondly, the relative wealth of color – coral in its manifest element form is more rare in the marketplace and more cosmopolitan internationally.  To be able to blend colors so expertly that the final art work looks much richer is a theme I’m after.  And understanding four-color process (often used by lines like Nautica or used in map art) is another goal.  The choices regarding color do often seem mystical, as we have nothing to base decisions on except “it looks right”.  And as I shared earlier with my Blind Chappelle piece, the worry that my own eyesight is rapidly diminishing makes me much less confident about those choices.  They say too, that we all “see” color differently – I’d like to understand that and how it impacts art works.

So now I’m in search of every free interior design magazine known to man (they generally have higher quality photographs and glossy paper) and I’m in search of every free National Geographic magazine ever published.  Jill thinks I’ve hit on a really international feel for my coral composition – now we’re searching out indigenous peoples and their costumes.  In the meantime, I wanted to copy down for you readers that color is described in three ways:  a) its name (which is ever-changing); b) the pureness or desaturation; and c) the value or lightness. With my coral, we know that that it is a variation of the color red/orange, identified by its own distinct hue and differentiated by its chroma, saturation, intensity, and value.  Coral, along with pink, crimson, and brick (for example) are all variations of the naturally occurring “red” family.   Here’s a red chandelier I snapped up while in a local boutique recently.

Okay.  This chandelier is a cool blue red, which I would normally place on the “cherry red” scale or even “blood red”.  Wonder what it looks like when the bulbs are illuminated?  So the chroma is how pure a hue is in relation to gray.  Saturation is the degree of purity of a hue. Intensity is the brightness or dullness of the hue, you can lower the intensity by adding white or black.  Luminance and Value is the measure of the amount of light reflected from a hue.  Hues with a high content of white have a higher luminance or value.  Shade and Tint are terms that refer to a variation of a hue (dark green, medium green, light green)  whereas shade is most often used to refer to a hue produced by the addition of black and tint is a hue produced by the addition of white.  I’ll show you my boards in about two weeks when they’re finished and you can decide if I have finally captured the big systems picture of coral and turquoise.

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