“If one says ‘red’ – the name of color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.”
– Josef Albers
For well over half of my life, colors did not play into the work of 99.99% of my days. So, I must confess that at first when I started this journey into art, I did not get color. I thought, “Of course there is color everywhere. So, what’s the big deal?” Eventually I did get it, but it took quite a bit of effort on my part and a great deal of feedback from others, who were thankfully more kind in return than my initial arrogance deserved.
I want to share my own movement into the understanding of color in my art. People much more versed in the theory of art and color have spent much of their lives writing about and explaining color. Yet it has become clear to me that there is an immense difference between reading books, listening to ideas, and explanations of color and experiencing it through my own work. In art I am not an intellectual learner. I am an experiential learner. I must understand the experience of color and work my way through it to my own place of understanding. People like me unfortunately must reinvent their own wheels.
I must experience the colors that come out of my soul onto the paper and then explain why I chose them to my viewers. The explanation and naming of color is imperative in refining a sense of color. It is thought that certain colors do not exist or cannot be appreciated if they are not named.
A month before this afternoon project, I had attended a workshop where there was a fair amount of discussion about developing one's personal style of color. I took those discussions and personal inquiry into this work. This project is my first color-focused project. It is titled Color and Form circa 2013. I think it shows well my early understanding of color within an image.
This gallery was from an afternoon wandering around Huntington Gardens outside of Los Angeles and came upon me quite unexpectedly. I was visiting friends, who wanted to take some of us to the gardens. After entering the gate everyone spread out to see it for themselves. I had the time to become inspired by what I was seeing. These scenes were making sense of the discussions I had heard a month before.
After countless hours of processing, I slowly became aware I was defining my understanding of color and developing a personal color palette. I worked on countless images with red in it, and there was a particular red that I favored and used repetitively. I found this to be true for greens, blues, yellows, and all colors for that matter. I had begun to develop a penchant for certain tones in each of them. As time went on, I found myself using these tones repeatedly. They were becoming my style of color processing...and the colors that now dominate my art.
Many years later there came a certain rhythm to my work. When I get to the color processing phase of developing an image, I almost reflexively move the reds, yellows, greens, cyans, blues, magentas, blacks, and whites to those tones that are part of my palette.
Having a personal color palette is artistically freeing and far from restrictive. I can focus on their application in the image I am working on and not have to spend time thinking, “What colors am I going to use today?” I have more time to be creative with the form and elements in the image, because I have already put my stamp on the image with my colors.
As an ongoing practice to this day, I will often stop and name the color palette of a scene in front of me. It is a great exercise to do when warming up after I have been away from shooting for some time. It gets me back into the seeing and naming of the colors in front of me. I do not photograph enough to make this an ingrained habit, so I have to find ways to remember where I left off.
The awareness and naming of color makes it easier for me to photograph and process more creatively.
I perceive the next step in this process is imagining what a scene will look like on paper as I am capturing it. But that is for future years of work.