I’ve been writing about my own approaches to art and design for a year now and I’ve just realised I rarely talk about the creation of colour. I’ve mentioned the idea of ‘finding’ colour, through photography, printmaking, photo walks and maybe using Adobe Photoshop, but never about how I instigate colour. I’ve kept it quiet, mysterious somehow, even to myself.
This probing about creating colour was prompted by some rest between Christmas and New Year. I was thinking of writing a blog post about the connection between wellbeing and a repetitive creative task. The idea that we can offer our time towards something and find peace, even with a laborious task. A lot of creative work is repetitive and can quickly become a chore, 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, and all that. I’ve been wondering if by reframing the notion of ‘time’ around the chore, it can be transformed. The way that mindfulness tells us we can find gratitude in washing dishes. Rather than worry about how long something will take, we accept the task and pour energy into the action, not the thought of its burden.
Colour came to mind when I was thinking about past creative projects – times of work that have felt repetitive and a struggle to complete. In the first year of my textile design degree, our group studied Josef Albers’ colour exercises for a whole term. 12 weeks dedicated to colour, can you imagine? I remember our tutor emphasising what a unique moment this was in our creative lives, we would refer to this time, this learning, again and again and again. I’m not sure we were convinced, but we accepted. Now I have come to think of that allotted time very much as a gift.
We spent days mixing red to green, blue to orange and yellow to purple – finding their most beautiful midpoint of grey in each complementary pair through minute adjustments of hue. I was never to make grey from mixing black and white again. Because here was a richer, complex kind of grey, made up of red and green but looking like neither. A kind of magic potion to apply to all future colour palettes.
This precious bit of memory lane is to introduce my new video on colour. Last month I gifted myself a mere afternoon of colour mixing, without Alber’s rules this time, just a bit play and discovery towards some original colour combinations. Was there well being in my repetitive paint mixing? Yes. And with it, a reminder to focus occasionally on the merit of an exercise.