Thread Magic Studio Summer School 2013
Color Outside the Wheel Featuring Art by Ellen Anne Eddy Caryl Bryer Fallert and Kathy Weaver
By Ellen Anne Eddy
Copyright 2013 Color Outside the Wheel By Ellen Anne Eddy Thread Magic Studio Press 125 Franklin Street Porter, IN 46304 www.ellenanneeddy.com
Anyone who teaches art, teaches color theory. It's almost impossible not to. Students ask us to explain our color choices, to correct their color choices, and to offer other color options . They will always ask you why. The real answer is almost always, because I like it. But if we pin it down, past personal preference, we can analyze why. There are ways of seeing consistantly why we like certain combinations. Every so often I have someone come to me with a color wheel and say, "What do I do with this? " As an exercise, it sort of falls flat. Once we have a wheel painted or sewn we can say it's to help us mix colors. But that's only such a small part of it. So we're going to look at color. We'll look at the different forms of contrast that bring excitement and drama to everyone's work, traditional or contemporary, applique or pieced, restrained or unleased.
Leafing Ellen Anne Eddy
First off, color theory is a theory. Like all theories it describes how color works. Like all theories, it works as a theory until it doesn't. When it doesn't that means that we have some factors our theory is not accounting for. We'll look at those. Secondly, the wheel is simply a chart that explains color theory. It is, basically a family tree for color, showing how colors relateto each other . Like every chart, it's a good servant and a poor master. Thirdly, we'll look at the difference between color combinations, and color creation, two very different thing.
The Limits of Color Theory Color Theory has it‛s limits. It falls apart when the theory doesn‛t take that into account. • Part of our problem is that there is no perfect. Color theory doesn't work from time to time because it assumes a perfect set of primaries. Sorry. There is no perfect. So when you mix yellow with blue you may or may not get green. You may get a wierd greeny brown. There are ways we can adjust around that and we'll talk about them.
Warm yellow and cool blue make a very brown green.
• Color theory is verbal. Colors are not. The names are going to fail us every time. There are very few absolute color names. Paint comes in recognisable formulas, and you can dial in color numbers on Photoshop, but color names are largely useless. We need to remember that and be gentle with each other when I call your blue a grey. • We all see differently. People's eyes really aren't the same. Try picking out thread with a friend. Don't worry about that. You only need to be consistant to yourself
The Magic of Contrasts What all art creates is a series of contrasts, in some form or another. Color theory is one way of describing those colors. We joke about plain white art because it dosn't give us the excitement of contrast. The ability of art to change how we think, how we feel, how we live is the point of it all. Good art changes the world. But to do that it has to demand our attention. It does that by emphasising contrasts.
Fly in the Ointment Ellen Anne Eddy
We can build contrasts in a number of ways. Color is only one. We also have contrast in value, in saturation, in size, in color cast and temperature. All of those scales give us a way to separate the elements of our work. The most important separation is between field and ground. When we look at the color wheel we have the map of how colors (Hues) relate to each other. The closer they are to eachother the less tension there is between them. The further they are, the more tension and the more potential excitement a combination has.
Butterfly Garden Ellen Anne Eddy
What all art creates is a series of contrasts, in some form or another. Color theory is one way of describing those colors. We joke about plain white canvases being art because we know that even as an art joke thereâ€›s no drama there. The ability of art to change how we think, how we feel, how we live is the point of it all. Good art changes the world. But to do that it has to demand our attention. It does that by emphasising contrasts. We can build contrasts in a number of ways. Color is only one. We also have contrast in value, in saturation, in size, in color cast and temperature. All of those scales give us a way to separate the elements of our work. The most important separation is between field and ground. When we look at the color wheel we have the map of how colors (Hues) relate to each other. The closer they are to each other the less tension there is between them. The further they are, the more tension and the more potential excitement a combination has.The colors farthest away from each other are called complements. Theyâ€›re the electric voltage to most art.
Whole Wheel Combinations
Bradford Fantasy Caryl Bryer Fallert
Fantasy Flower 1 Caryl Bryer Fallert
Illusion 49 Caryl Bryer Fallert
Perhaps the finest quilt color master of our time, Caryl Bryer Fallert is a master dyer and quilter. She has a gift for astonishing color, that usually encompasses the whole color wheel. All those complements at once are electric. The tones and the saturation on these colors are relatively even. All of the drama is in the change of the hues, the colors themselves. And she's always dyed her own fabric. These pieces romp through the whole color wheel. Doing that they place all the complements against each other. This is a winning combination, visually and at shows because it always grabs attention.
Contrasts in Color: Complements Once we start picking and choosing colors off the wheel, the complements still s are the king combinations of these. Complementary pairs stand accross from eachother on the wheel creating the most amont of excitment in their contrasts.Theyâ€›re electirc. They amaze us because they offer on.us strong visual stimulation. These quilts of Carylâ€›s feature complementary combinations.
Red Orange Blue Green Complement
Feather Study 21 Caryl Bryer Fallert
Green and Red Complement
Yellow orange Blue Violet Complement
Feather Study 24 Caryl Bryer Fallert
Feather Study 14 Caryl Bryer Fallert
Analogous Color Arcs Along the Wheel
We can also take an arc of the color wheel and focus on that. Those are analogous colors. Here are some amazing pieces of Caryl's focused in the blue/green arc.
Feather Study 34 Caryl Bryer Fallert
Leptedopterans 3 Caryl Bryer Fallert
Contrasts in Tone Dark and Light Tone is the dark side of colors. In dye and paint a color can be darkened either by browns, blacks or by the complement of the color. Tint is the lightening of colors either with white or water. We somehow fear the dark. We sometimes forget the colors that dark or muddy. But diamonds show up best against a black cloth. Darks are our shadows, our depths, the underside, the forest glade and our art is sorely limited without them. Pastels offer us a pale world, a shadow delicate mist. I find it hard to go there. I want all my colors bright. But bright colors gleem against a pastel background. In both cases it is a contrast in tone that focuses us exactly onto the art and lights our excitement.
Cyborg Female- Complacent Nature Kathy Weaver
Kathy Weaver has created a quilted world of robots that have always astonished me. She's color master, part for her choices but largely for her painted imagery that jumpstarts her work. And she knows how to work contrast to make her images shine.
Analyzing Color Swatches
Robo Sapien Agent 5 Kathy Weaver
I‛m also going to introduce you to one of my favorite online tools. Big Huge Labs is a site that has all kinds of free and fabulous photo tools. This is their swatch generator. It‛s an easier way to look at the colors in a piece. You‛ll find this tool at http://bighugelabs.com/colors.php
Here is one of Kathy's works and a swatch list of the colors she used. Robo Sapien Agent 5 glows against the darkly toned background. When we look at the swatches we can see the contrast in tone, the light and the dark. In all cases, she chooses the difference in tone to accentuate the figure from the ground. The figure is our focus. But if it do the same as our background, our ground, the eye has to somehow figure out where it is. Making a visual obvious distinction between the figure and the ground pops it all into view.
Robo Sapien Agent 2 Kathy Weaver
Robo Sapien Agent 2 glows against the darkly toned background. When we look at the swatches we can see the contrast in tone, the light and the dark. In all cases, she chooses the difference in tone to accentuate the figure from the ground. The figure is our focus. But if it do the same as our background, our ground, the eye has to somehow figure out where it is. Making a visual obvious distinction between the figure and the ground pops it all into view. And making it with differences in contrast is a clean and clear way to that.
Fireslinger Kathy Weaver Cyborg Female 3 Amusing Disorder Kathy Weaver
It doesn‛t matter whether we choose a lighter or darker backg round. The difference itself, either way sets the figure fore and center in our perception. Cyyborg Femail has yellow arms that echo her background. But the difference in the tone pops her out against it. She glows against the background because there‛s a contrast. Fire Slinger glows against the dark because of the differences as well, although this time she‛s gone to the darker contrasts. It has both soft background and foreground, but she lets the edges darken enough to pop the contrast.
Contrasts in Temperature
Fall Koi Ellen Anne Eddy
Changes in color temperature make very dramatic contrasts. We talk about warm colors and cool colors on the color wheel. Traditionally the color wheel is divided into cool colors
Crescemt Sly Ellen Anne Eddy
Sunstruck Ellen Anne Eddy
Those colors used in an unbroken arc are analogous colors. They're smooth, lovely and very pretty. The warm colors speak of sun and fire, and sunsets.
Zentangled Web Ellen Anne Eddy
Allium and Butterfly Ellen Anne Eddy
There's not a lot of tension in analogous color. It's gentle soft color. But if we take cool colors against warm colors, we find ourself in a visual thermal shock. Cool color against warm pops images off the background every time.
Warm Cool Combinations
Full Moonrise Ellen Anne Eddy
Rose Red Ellen Anne Eddy
Piny Dragonfly Ellen Anne Eddy
All these quilts Use intense temperature differences to separate out figure/ground images. Bright or dark, they define the difference.
Contrasts in Color Cast
Twilight Time Susan Shie
Susan Shie is the master of the airbrush and the story. Most of her quilts have long and delightful stories written into the art itself. Make your'self some reading time and you'll feel like you sat for a day in her kitchen drinking tea and hearing all about the family. But she's a master colorist too. She knows how to accentuate her images against all of that swirling design and she does it with a change in color cast.
Color cast is one of the hardest things to talk about. We've defined cool and warm colors. But color cast can be warm or cool on any hue. Up until now, we have looked at the color through a hypothesis of color theory. It‛s a valuable tool, but it is just a theory. At a certain point it has to bend a bit to fit reality. We are assuming a perfection that doesn‛t exist except in theory. If we mix perfect primaries, it should give us clear colors. Experience tells us something different. You can mix yellow and blue and get brown. The colors are not perfect and can lean a little either to the sun or the shade. This is not about being a cool or warm color. It‛s a color cast. When you look at a color, ask yourself if it is most like the color to the right or the left of it on the color wheel. If the color is more like the one to the right it leans towards the sun. If it‛s more like the one to the left, it leans towards the shade. You can mix sun colors only or shade colors and be sure of clear hues. If you mix sun and shade, then you get earth. If the color has brown already in it, it‛s an earth color and anything you mix with it will create more earthy color, Susan uses color cast to identify her people in her work.
Rille, Queen of Wooden Spoons Susan Shie
Spot the Station: Six of Cups Susan Shie
Here's a color breakdown of how she does that. Iâ€›ve separated out her sun colors from her shade colors.The major images of faces and people in Spot the Station are in sun colors. Everything else is in shade colors. The thermal shock from these choices make her images glow off the background. Like everything else about Susan, itâ€›s simply brilliant and brilliantly simple.
Color cast defines all the facs in Susanâ€›s work, which is so about people and their stories.
Color Mixing vs. Color Picking
Even though we‛ve been looking at dyers and painters, we‛ve been exploring color combinations. We‛ve learned that the most exciting combinations offer us contrasts either in hue, tone, temperature or cast. Those contrasts help define our figure and separate it from the background. That separation gives the mind and the eye a wa composition, a way to make immediate visual sense of what is going onAll that falls to the ground when we start mixing colors.dye cupswI‛ve always let the dye houses mix my colors for me. They do a much better job, and I‛m constitutionally the right person to do it. It would assume j I could measure something.
But once you put one dye color on top of another color, youâ€›ve mixed them, planned or not. And that same excitement that happens with contrasts in color combinations is instantly blended into a brown of some sort. I know a lot of unhappy dyers. Unless you really like brown, this is a downer.Unless you are using perfect primaries, there will be some trace elements of other colors in a color. And they show. Always. Is there a way to cheat? But of course! When you go to a dye house like Pro Chemical and Dye, they'll offer combinations of either warm primaries or cool primaries. What they are talking about is color cast. If you mix warm with warm you'll get clear warm colors. If you mix cool with cool, you'll get clear cool colors. If you mix cool with warm you'll get mud.
The Refrigerator Galleries Rebecca Dorian Brown Dreaming Girl Highway Inner Vision Cards
Roberta Hoover Ranney
Lodgepole Pines Roberta Ranney
http://robertaranney.blogspot.com/ Sentinel Roberta Ranney
Sun Showers Monique Kleihans www.ladybugscabin.com
Our Color Masterists
Special Thanks to our color masterist who have let me show their work as examples of brilliant color off the wheel Caryl Bryer Fallert Bryer Patch Studio Caryl‛s astonishing work can be seen on her web site at http://www.bryerpatch. com, at her studio in Paducah, KY and in art collections and museums across the country. Make sure you see the amazing body of work she‛s continued to graced us with. Kathy Weaver Amazing painted and quilted robots that have been featured in several Quilt National collections.
Susan Shie Turtle Moon Studio Susan‛s amazing work can be seen on her site at Turtle Moon Studio.The images we used of hers today are from the minor arcana of her tarot deck.The Major arcana is currently available at Amazon.com.
This book is a documentation of the 2013 Thread Magic Summer School. We‛ve look at color theory, not just what colors make colors or what combinations are called, but at the core of what makes color work within your quilts and your art. Wou in your art? Inform you? Entertain you? Why would I do this? Because I want to remind you how very much all quilt teachers bring to your knowledge outside the basic class being offered. We teach a subject, a technique, a series of cool tricks. Those are all worth the price of admission. But past that, we bring in and make available the tangental things that can expand your ability to do what you want with your art and craft. To remind you why it‛s important to keep learning when you know almost everything. Because, as for me too, there‛s always something you didn‛t know. If you like these classes and this booklet, please recommend me to the guild, store, conference, or happening where you like to learn. So that we can share so much more than just class. Ellen Anne Eddy Thread Magic Studio 125 Franklin Street Porter, IN 46304 219-921-0885 www.ellenanneeddy.com
Published on Aug 17, 2013
Color theory off the color wheel and outside the box, featuring art by Kathy Weaver, Caryl Bryer Fallert, Kathy Weaver and Ellen Anne Eddy