Wednesday, March 29, 2017

300+ Years of Color Theory: Interaction of Color

This book is included in a reading list on the history of Color Theory. Find the home-page for the series here.

Interaction of Color is probably one of the best known and most loved book about color theory, first published in 1963 and still in print today. Artist and educator Josef Albers taught at the infamous Bauhaus until the school closed in 1933. He then immigrated to the United States to teach at Black Mountain College. Albers left Black Mountain College in 1949 to serve as the chairman of the Design Department at Yale University, where he began work on the Homage to the Square series.

The concepts presented in this book are not new, revolutionary, or groundbreaking; they are the very same concepts and theories published by Chevreul 100 years earlier. What is revolutionary about Albers approach to explaining the contrast of colors is his method, which you might say was "backwards" from the standard approach.

Most color theory books pre-dating Albers seem to follow the same formula, presenting scientific research, theories, and color systems before attempting to let the reader in on color contrasts and harmonies. It’s as if you must first understand the physiology of human vision and the physics of light before you can understand how colors contrast or harmonize together.

Albers approach is totally different. He understands that just as you don’t need to know exactly how the human ear or soundwaves work to listen to music (or form musical likes and dislikes), you also don’t need to know exactly how the human eye or light works to see or appreciate colors.

Students are presented with color riddles and experiments to complete in the classroom using colored papers. For example, is it possible to make one color look like two different colors?

Can this be accomplished using various colored papers in more ways than one?

What did you discover from this exercise?

Only after completing these kinds of assignments based solely on perception does Albers introduce the science and theory behind the interaction of colors. His book is a synopsis of these practical exercises and theories presented in his classes.

If you are interested in color and don't already own this book, it's a must-read! I also recommend the Josef Albers Interaction of Color app from Yale University - it's free through iTunes and leads you through several of Albers' exercises in a very creative and entertaining way.

Albers work was a huge influence on many American abstract artists like Donald Judd, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. You can still see the influence of Albers work on contemporary modern quilters like Heather Jones, Jacquie Gering, Callie Works-Leary, and Eliza Kenan & Claire Oswalt. I'd say you can even see the influence of Albers in the recent works of artist LUKE Haynes in his series Log Cabins of Donald Judd. A very amazing legacy for a book half a century old!

If you sew or quilt, you can play around with some of Albers exercises using fabrics in my Contrasting Colors Patchwork Blocks post at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog.

And if you do make a bunch of contrasting color patchwork blocks, when you're finished playing around with your blocks follow this tutorial to turn them into a little square zip pouch!

Up next in the big Color Theory reading list is yet another book by our proliferous friend Faber Birren, Principles of Color. I don't know for sure how many books Birren published about color, but it's got to be over 30, the man was OBSESSED!

Until next time, keep your eyes open to the colors all around you!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Zipper Pouch Features Contrasting Colors

After playing around with contrasting fabric colors by making some contrasting color blocks, I started sewing them into these handy zipper pouches.

They finish at 6" x 6" square with a zipper closure, a small pocket inside, and a D ring to hold a pair of snips on a ribbon.

I love them! Find the Color Block Zipper Pouch tutorial posted at the BERNINA WeAllSew blog, and let me know if you stitch any up!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Make Your Own Color Wheel Pincushion

Good news, everyone! As part of my Color Wheel Series for the BERNINA WeAllSew Blog, I've designed this fun little paper pieced color wheel pincushion for you! Click over to WeAllSew to find the free pattern and tutorial. You can use the colors from your favorite color wheel, or you can create a new color wheel with your favorite hues. If you're already a paper piecing pro, you can probably whip one of these up in less than an hour. I made three in one evening!

Be sure to check out the other posts in the series as well. In the Color Wheel Basics post you can learn what a color wheel is and get a free downloadable set of Color Cards to learn basic color theory terms.

In the Color Harmony Basics post you can learn about color combinations on a color wheel and get a free downloadable set of Color Cards to remember 10 common color harmonies.

Thanks for visiting me at Miss Sews-it-all! Please let me know if you make one of the pincushions, and definitely share a pic or two—I would love to see your version of the color wheel.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How to Use Color Theory in Quilting

I am over the top excited this morning to announce a new series of posts about color theory for quilters (and sewists, too) that I've put together for BERNINA's blog, WeAllSew.

Pop over to the first post at WeAllSew, Color Wheel Basics to learn a bit about what a color wheel is and where they came from.

As a bonus, BERNINA has put together a set of free printable Color Wheel cards to download, cut out and use for reference! Scroll to the bottom of the post to find the download and instructions for putting the cards together.

The second post, Color Harmony Basics will show you exactly how to use any color wheel to find harmonious color combinations. Using a color wheel to find color harmonies is a GREAT way to look for new color combinations or coordinating colors for quilts and sewing projects. Find free printable cards with this post showing 10 of the most basic ways to combine colors on any color wheel.

You can use these Color Harmony cards to play around with colored fabrics to find combinations you like (and even make note of those that you really don't like) for future reference.

Visit this post about Simultaneous Contrast to learn how colors can play tricks with each other, and play tricks with your color perception. 

I hope you enjoy the series, and even feel confident enough to give color theory a try in your next quilt or colorful sewing project. I'd love to hear from you if you do!

Keep looking at the colors all around you!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

300+ Years of Color Theory: The Art of Color

This book is included in a reading list on the history of Color Theory. Find the home-page for the series here.

Johannes Itten was a painter, teacher, and part of the core Weimer Bauhaus school where he perfected his methods of teaching color theory.
The basics of Itten’s teachings on color for art students is presented in his book The Art of Color: The subjective experience and objective rationale of color, originally published in 1961.

This very book formed the basis from which I was taught color theory while studying Fine Arts in the early 1990’s. After reading so many other color theorists before him, it is clear that Itten has taken all the best from his predecessors, finding a balanced and orderly approach to presenting all the information in a clear way.

Itten includes lots of large, colorful illustrations to explain each important idea, from color contrasts of all kinds to harmonies and variations. After each major section in his book, Itten presents an important painting to illustrate each major idea as used successfully in art. And, icing on the cake, this book is incredibly well-written. No unnecessary flourishes in language, no extra scientific jargon, and no ill-intent to those color theorists that came before him.

Itten’s color system is presented for fine artists—specifically painters—using the subtractive system of Red/Yellow/Blue primaries. He gives students both a flat, two-dimensional wheel showing specifically how the three primaries mix to form the other colors in the wheel,

and a three-dimensional sphere to show how the hues of the color wheel mix with white (tints) and black (shades). In the sphere, the full hues exist around the equator, tints mix towards the north pole, and shades mix towards the south pole.

Flatten out the sphere, and you get Itten’s Color Star. The Color Star is a tool still available today (I’ve had mine since art school). The Color Star includes several masks with cutouts representing different major color harmonies around the wheel. Place the mask over the Color Star, and turn it to see different color harmonies. An instruction sheet in the portfolio explains each of the color harmonies in more detail.

I know many contemporary artists like to use a color wheel including Cyan and Magenta (CMY or RGB), these two colors are absent from Itten’s system (RYB). I don’t see this as a reason to totally discount Itten’s system, as you can still take most of his ideas about color harmonies presented in the RYB system and transfer them to a CMY or RGB color wheel.

26 years after first learning from The Art of Color I still think this is one of the best Color Theory books ever written. Especially after reading so many other books on the subject. HIGHLY recommended to anyone who uses color as inspiration!

It’s no longer in print (which is ridiculous, why doesn’t someone reprint this book!), but you can find an abbreviated version edited by our old friend Faber Birren titled The Elements of Color: A Treatise on the Color System of Johannes Itten as a free PDF file here, or through your favorite bookseller.