Colour: Inspiration and Frustration

I think the names of colors are at the edge, between where language fails and where it’s at its most powerful.

A.S. Byatt

I’m slightly obsessed with colour right now. I’m spending lots of time reading about colour theory and the history of colours, thinking about colours, and looking at them. And combinations of colours – that’s where I really become inspired and frustrated.

Two books on Japanese colour schemes, and one fascinating book about the stories behind colour … two of these books hardly have any words!

I’ve realised that the colours that make me most happy – those which I gather all around me – are repeated in different places, from the colours of the walls in our house, the furniture and accessories we have, the artworks on the walls and even the clothes I’m drawn to (I’m not really a fashion person). I’ve been pouring through books on colour and making mental notes for future use. I’ve been noting colours in nature in woodlands and on the coast, in parks and towns.

All photographs in gallery above are mine and copyright of Cara Shanley 2019. Please do not reproduce in any format without my permission.

I’ve realised how much they are inspiring me. I have a folder of images I’ve saved on my Mac – they are mostly within a range of colours that echo and reflect each other. They are disparate images pulled from all over the place – drawings and paintings and prints, photos, posters and book covers. It’s mainly the colours – and the graphic styles used – that unite them.

Image copyright of Cara Shanley 2019. Please do not reproduce in any format without my permission.

Colors are the smiles of nature.

Leigh Hunt

What do I do with this? I’m currently trying to define the seam of colours that runs through the things that inspire me. I’m trying to understand them so I can create some palettes that define me; that I can use to underpin any future artwork, in the knowledge that they will be a reflection of me. Perhaps I’m overthinking it and I should just throw colour at canvases, but that hasn’t worked for me in the past.

It’s exciting and very personal. I’m protective of the colour palette I’ve discovered and I’m shaping and defining it, and I’m frustrated that I know what I want to do with it, but have yet to make it real – at the moment it’s mainly inside my head, with some development in sketchbooks and ideas forming in my head about how to develop a unique identity that reflects myself, my influences and the environment around me. It feels elusive but within reach and I wonder if other designers or artists feel this way?

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