Thursday, September 16, 2010

Color Playground

I'm really, really enjoying the art class I'm taking this semester. The past few semesters, I've taken classes in the Graphic Design program. This semester, I decided to take a class in the Fine Arts department. The whole class is about color. In the first few weeks, I've already learned so much. I think my happiest times right now are when I'm in class or working on pieces for the class. 

It's hard to explain what all we're learning but mostly so far, it's about how all color is contextual. It's about seeing the more subtle aspects of color. You may see a piece of paper that looks gray but if you put that gray paper on a red field of color, it will look "cooler" and maybe a little green. If you put that same piece of gray paper on a blue field of color, it will look "warmer" and maybe even a little reddish. So...the colors we see are often more about how our eyes and brains interpret them than they are about what's "objectively" there. It's so cool because once that becomes clear, the possibilities of working with color are so much more complex. Is that cool or what?! 

One of the people who's most famous in color studies is Josef Albers. He did a bunch of experiments with color and created various exercises to lay out more specifically how color behaves. You can play around with some interactive exercises here. It's fun! You can see more of his art here.

Now that you've seen an expert's results, here are my virgin attempts to "get it." It's harder than it looks! 

In the exercise below, the idea was to create the illusion that the small inner boxes are actually two colors when they're the same color. The right one should look darker than the left one and even a little deeper, darker gray but they're actually the same color.

In this exercise, we were to make the X on the right look like the background color on the left and the X on the left look like the background color on the right. The color the X's are made from is the same, though. The effect doesn't show up much in this photo...

In this exercise, the goal was to create the look of transparency when two colors overlapped. I'm not sure how successful I was at the lesson (i.e., that they really look like they're transparent and one's showing through the other) but the instructor and class really loved it! They thought the overlap between the S and the P was too dark so I might mess with that more. Wish I wouldn't have cramped the letters so much.   
I feel really grateful that I have the resources and the energy to be able to play with art. I hope I always want to learn, explore and take risks to create.  

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