It’s that time again; time for a ‘Whack on the Side of the Head‘.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with these monthly posts they are initiated by a book, and companion card set, by Roger Von Oech about being more creative. Once a month I randomly select a card and share my thoughts on the topic here. Today’s card is titled ‘Imagine You’re the Idea’.
The card states, “Imagine that you’re a parking meter. How does it feel when coins are inserted into you? What is it like when you’re ‘expired’? How could you be easier to use? Imagine that you’re a box of cereal on a grocery shelf. How can you be more attractive? What can you do to force the grocer to give you more shelf space? How would you feel if you were the idea you’re developing?”
As I read the card my answers to the questions posed regarding the parking meter were: a) no longer hungry, b) no problem, I’ll be reincarnated with the next coin, c) give back change for unused minutes. For the cereal box: a) be more colorful and b) enlarge and knock your competitors off the shelf. ‘Clean up on aisle 4!’ Then came the last one and my response was…I’m not developing an idea.
I no longer work in a corporate environment where problem-solving and process improvements are part of my everyday life. However, each painting begins with an idea. While I keep a running list of painting concepts which I will likely never finish, I don’t really think about what I’m going to paint until I start to work on a new piece. Questioning what it would be like to ‘be a painting’, which is the culmination of the artist’s idea, led me to consider the painting process from a different viewpoint.
How do I, as a painting, provoke contemplation? What emotions do I hope to evoke? What do I want the viewer to see – literally and symbolically? This led me back to basics about color, composition, and style. We know certain colors create moods and even affect people physically.
Red increases a person’s appetite for food, blue is said to lower pulse rate – thus may have a calming effect – but blue is also associated with sadness. I guess sometimes it can lower your pulse rate too much creating a somber mood? Purple has long been associated with royalty but can also seem exotic, given that purple is rare nature.
However we can never truly predict the way a color effects a viewer since part of their reaction will be based on experiences they’ve had with a color. For instance, when I was growing up the predominant color in our house was green. ‘Avocado’ green appliances, deep green carpet in my bedroom, pale olive-green in the ‘formal’ living room with similarly colored upholstery on the furniture. Even the exterior of the house was painted in two-toned green – dark viridian green shutters and pale mint green window trim. I still have an aversion to any shade of green inside a home due to childhood color overload. So while green may be associated with health it can cause me to ‘green at the gills’ if it’s used indoors.
So in imagining I’m the painting how would I feel if I were color being applied to a canvas – anxious, sedate, arrogant, strong, sad. As I gave this more thought, likely more than is healthy, I decided it might depend on my neighbors. A basic color wheel contains primary, secondary and tertiary colors and their proximity to other colors affect how they ‘behave’ and as a result how they make other colors ‘feel’. Primary colors cannot be created by combining colors. They exist as the basis for all other colors. Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors. So red with yellow becomes orange, blue and red result in purple and when yellow mixed with blue we get green. Then we have the tertiary colors which is where all the fun comes in for us artists. Tertiary colors are created by mixing primary and secondary colors.
Certain colors are complementary to each other; basically, ‘you and I look really good together’ or more accurately ‘you look good with me’. Pairing complementary colors results in vivid and bold compositions. So if I’m violet I’m at my most striking if I’m paired with yellow. Red-violet and blue-violet are like violet’s ‘relatives’ and therefore result in a more unified creative work. But if my violet is paired with the colors green and orange (called a triad because we are the same distance from each other on ‘the wheel’) the result is usually harmonious as long as one of the colors is lighter or darker. If our hues are too similar we are all trying to push in front of each other resulting in competition and chaos.
And what if I’m violet and am surrounded by shades or tints of purple. We refer to this type of color combination as monochromatic and when used can be moody or soothing. My first monochromatic painting was ‘East Bend Blue’ most recent venture is ‘Blue Reflections’.
So if I’m the painting and I want to be striking but unified I want the paint applied to have both complementary and tertiary colors. A composition using the violet example I’ve applied throughout this narrative would consist of elements of violet, yellow, blue-violet and red-violet arrays. Any of the color combinations can be further enhanced or muted by adding white, gray or black to the mix.
So if I’m the painting I want my color palette to match the desired reaction from my viewers. This is just the color portion of ‘what if I were the painting’. We haven’t even talked about light, balance, focus, movement or proportion…..