Article #1 by Debra Disman
As the Color Turns:
Considering the Color Wheel
As artists, decorative painters, artisans, craftspeople, and creators, color is one of the building blocks of what we do. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are making color decisions each and every time we paint, glaze, gild, plaster, and mix and match materials. Color can play a key role in texture, pattern, imagery, and sensibility, the tools of our trade. Consideration of the color wheel, whether it be before, during, or after we have designed, sampled and applied a treatment can yield revealing, surprising, and even fascinating findings about ourselves, our Clients, and the environments we are working in.
Primary Colors: Here’s to the red, yellow, and blue
The primary colors of red, yellow and blue, the components of all other hues, (excluding black and white), in the world of paint, are strong and dynamic when placed next to each other. Although the renditions of each may not be “pure” in the strict sense, this triad captures our attention, and draws us into a space that feels clearly defined and resolute in its own identity. As in the above, the blue may be sponged and stippled, the red a metallic copper paint, and the yellow a multicolor glaze, but the effect is still that of three independent and strongly defined hues working in dynamic harmony to set each other off. The result is that of layers of color visible to the eye room to room, a look the Clients knew they wanted.
Complementary Colors: The attraction of opposites
“Complementary colors subdue one another when mixed, and, conversely, intensify one another when juxtaposed.” says Christine Pittel, in “Color and Light Luminous Atmospheres for Painted Rooms” by Donald Kauffman and Taffy Dahl. (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. c. 1999) Like any system of opposites, the complementary duos of blue and orange, green and red, or purple and yellow, (opposite each other on the color wheel) will create vibrancy and drama, drawing attention to any space they clothe. Here several glazes in each of the two hues are manipulated over a lighter basecoat in the same color family. The combination of glazes lends depth and complexity to the surface, and the high contrast produces theatricality. Juxtaposing complements creates an instant color “pop”, which can be powerful, fun, and an instant focal point.
Analogous Colors: Hue on hue: energetic intensity
Blending analogous colors (those adjacent to each other on the color wheel) across a surface can produce an energetic, yet harmonious effect. The colors work well together because they are closely related, yet their combination creates interest because there is a shift of hue from one to the other. An added benefit to the decorative painter is the ability to integrate glazes more seamlessly together, as being already unified by color; they will be easier to blend. Keeping the basecoat and glaze colors analogous will cover up a multitude of glazing “sins” such as seams and joins created by drying glaze. The closer a basecoat color is in hue, intensity and value to the glazes being used over it, the easier it will be for the practitioner to control the effect he or she wishes to create.
Neutrals: Tone on tone: subtle harmony
“Tone on tone” neutrals create a sense of peace, calm, and soothing harmony. However, is any color really “neutral”? Creams, beiges, taupes, grays and ivories may actually have significant undertones of color which define them, and thus the effect they create in combination with other “neutrals”. Combining soft colors interrelated in hue and value (tone on tone) needn’t be monochromatic (based on just one hue). The subtle, harmonious effect can also be intricate and complex, and very satisfying, offering a sense of richness and comfort. When manipulating multiple glazes over a base coat, one way to ensure integration of all the colors is to make a glaze out of the basecoat color, and use it as part of the scheme. This will create an immediate tie-in of the base coat to the glaze colors, and make the glazes easier to blend over the surface.
Color is a powerful tool, and once we understand how the color wheel works, we can employ it to our advantage in designing and executing the finishes, applications and treatments that are part and parcel of our trade. In addition, our color knowledge can inform how we plan, mix and manipulate our materials enabling us greater mastery and control over our processes, and the effects we desire to create. As we enter more deeply into the resonant world of color, we can use its magic to enhance, beautify, communicate about and transform our world, one space at a time.
Debra Disman’s passion is to translate her Client’s inner vision into concrete visual form. She is principal of ArtiFactory Studio, a decorative painting company based in San Francisco, which provides custom decorative painting, murals, and color consultation to customers from all backgrounds and walks of life. She is a member of the International Association of Colour Consultants/Designers and serves as the Color Muze for blog talk radio’s “Artistically Speaking Radio” (www.blogtalkradio.com/artisticallyspeaking). To learn more please visit ArtiFactoryStudio.
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