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Colour lessons


In my paintings I tend to create movement and a sense of drama through gestural marks and the juxtaposition of different materials, but Mark Cazalet’s recent “Vision of Colour” course has reminded me of the potential of colour to create physical and emotional depth in a drawing or painting.


This is something I have known in theory but experiencing this for myself has driven the theory home. At the end of official painting days, I wound down by experimenting. In this instance I set myself the challenge to use up all the oil paints that were left on a palette without adding any new colours. I would have loved to work with the three primary colours but had ended up with a palette of paints in various shades of brown, purple and pink and another with greens and blues. (We had been encouraged to work with colours we would normally not work with…) I decided to use the paints to create reference charts for colour mixing. However, as I was placing squares of different values near each other, I noticed how squares would recede or come forward in space depending on what other colours were surrounding them.


The exercise proved to be a useful mindfulness exercise (I learned to be in the moment), but most importantly, I saw that even static objects like squares can be dynamic and exciting, depending on their colour environment.


This lesson was reinforced last Saturday when my husband and I visited Vascoeuil Castle. The castle has been a home for modern art since 1970, with temporary art exhibitions in the remains of the castle and a permanent sculpture park in the castle grounds.


Whilst I loved some of the colourful, quirky sculptures that brought a sense of fun and play into the formal gardens, my attention was arrested by hexagon statues by Victor Vasarely. I noticed how this master of optical illusion had carefully arranged colour fields to create ever-changing 3D effects.

My key take-aways: 1) No colour is an island – a colour’s impact depends on its environment. 2) The right tonal values create depth and movement. 3) In the right environment, any colour can shine.


I wonder what you have learned about colour?

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