What I notice on days out, is that there are many more colours to ‘notice’ than on my average day at home (when mostly the only things that change is the food I eat!). This is a way to collate palettes – although they are slightly more harmonious, they are still influenced by mood – the subjects I choose, how I frame them and the colours I subsequently choose when I’m back at home. All these variables could create very different outcomes from the same view.
I took a small amount of time on a trip to London to take some photos of the environment. My boundaries for this was to take photos of ‘boring’ things that I could ‘notice’ 9 individual colours. I recognise that I have been massively influenced throughout all of my work on colour, by a task we were set during my BA – depending on the group you were in, you spent 8 hours painting a study of the surface of an egg OR a featureless 1″ square of the wall. I had the task of the wall, and was amazed at how many colours you could see in something that ‘appeared’ to have only one. This has lead me to be fascinated by how many colours there are that are ‘hidden’.
I wanted to take photos of items that it would supposedly be hard to find 9 separate colours – and at points in my walk to the Tate where there were few places where I could find such subjects, to specify 9 colours that summed up the view. By this, I don’t mean the 9 most prevalent colours. I mean the colours that your eye skits to – i.e. creating points of interest.
Initially I had supposed that I would be able to use Photoshop to choose the colours – by using the gif values or trace. But this approximated the image using the 9 most prevalent colours, rather than the signposts (a couple of samples are included below) – so I chose them manually.
I used the eyedropper tool to do this – and what was most interesting (as opposed to specifying the colours from my memory) is that some of the ‘seen’ colours don’t actually exist as a specifiable colour. In some of the images of the tree bark outside the Tate, I could clearly see a violet and deep purple. But no matter how many times I tried to pick the colour I could ‘see’ with the eyedropper, I couldn’t. This is clearly due to the ‘clever’ eye and the way it mixes the colours together in the brain. Some vibrant oranges did not exist as an individual colour in an image an were clearly created by the mix of the nearby pixels – yellows, burnt oranges etc.
I’m not sure how I feel about these, perhaps they are a little contrived and too harmonious – they certainly lack the discords of the colours specified from memory – and the preciseness of specifying with the eyedropper eliminates the colours created by an individual’s physiology, so they feel a little robotic. Nonetheless, they make an interesting addition to a way of creating palettes and by striving to find colours from bland, everyday items is a great exercise in looking.
After these experiments with journeys and my discussions with Les, I’ve come to a decision about my Colour Diary… I’m going to stop.
Basically, it’s time to move on. I have been keeping my colour diary for nearly 2 years now. Every day. 9 colours. That’s approx 5,500 colours. But now, I am finding that there just aren’t enough colours that differ this far down the line to those that have gone before. Most of my entries now are a snapshot of something where I see an impactful colour in situ.
When I had my tutorial with Les we talked about the colour journey I had made from St Paul’s to Tate Modern. https://ameliawilsonblog.com/2014/04/20/sampling-views/ We discussed how moving outside into ‘journeys’ is a way to extend, expand and refresh my colour diary. This could be an entire body of work in itself. Hockney did work over and over again in a given location – watching how the light changed the colours in the environment.
The colour diary needs to move on because I was pointing out that, after 2 years, the colours are becoming rather ‘samey’ as nothing much happens or changes. But on a day out, the colours change dramatically because my environment changes. Emotions will still play a part in the colours I note, but I am looking at an expanded environment through which to express those emotions.
Another body of work would be pixelating such images – such as into a 3×3 pixels image. p.s. I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work how I think Les and I hoped it would. What happens when you condense the image into 9 pixels (and therefore 9 colours) is the pixels are the ‘sum of the parts’ and the colours all become muddied. They don’t look the way you ‘read’ the image – from the highlights and shadows and punctuations of colours. They are an average of an area. They were a disappointing outcome. Particularly in images such as tree bark – where there are similar colours with small areas of brighter colours – these smaller areas of colour disappear and the 3×3 grid appears virtually the same colour.
Les thought my colour journeys were like a story – like a book. The story of a journey, through time and emotions expressed through colour.
I told Les the London trip was good for me because I found new sources of colour. He thought journey was a nice way of dealing with abstraction and it was a nice way into the work – i.e. St Paul’s to Tate Modern – it gives a grounding to the work.
I discussed with Les about the ‘missing’ colours in some of the photos I took – I could SEE purple, but at no point could I get the eyedropper to pick that colour, despite it ‘appearing’ to be present. I said I was very interested in the physiological response to colours that aren’t there – that your eye and brain mix the colours that are really there to make something that isn’t.
Les suggested throwing 2 darts at a map and every 30 secs or 10 steps etc. I look left or right or up or down and take a photograph. The lengths of the pieces will be dictated by the rules I set up. I am using my graphic skills to make fine art. This feels much more rounded for me.
It should not be a random series of photos or where I see something of interest only (although I will continue to capture these things, as I do now), but a journey where I actively do something with a set of rules. (I went to London the Sat after the tutorial and set up walk parameters for the journeys between the places I was to visit – this included step and time photographs on foot, tube and train. I now have several hundred images to organise and develop into sampled colours for journeys).
I set rules, such as 3x round my garden – on the hour, for 3 consecutive hours.
From Kings X to Trafalgar Square – where I took a photo every 50 steps – or count of 50 when I was on the tube.
From Trafalgar Square to the Southbank where I took 4 photos at each 100 step interval (a choice from up/down/behind/left/right).
Here is the journey as a whole
I could also do journeys in other places you find stripes – such as in the library doing colours A-Z etc.
I intend to try these new colour journeys as small intimate books as well as my thin panel paintings.