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Colour - An intuitive practice.

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

I often find it hard to talk about colour but it's so important within my practice. I love colour but I often tend to question why I love colour , what draws me to colour? what's my favourite colour and why? I think for me colour is an experience, which is most likely why I find it so hard to explain but also probably why I find it so interesting.

Creating a colour story from my experience visiting Stanage Edge

The way I use colour within my work is quite intuitive; I have my own hand when it comes to colour and it always comes back to natural palettes.


Throughout my practice, I've used my never ending supply of natural photography to help inform my processes. The images below show how I have taken colour from my visual reference images in order to build a collection of natural source inspired colours.

Colour developments from natural sources
Using Adobe Capture to explore colour



For the above example, I used Photoshop and the colour picker tool to manually select these colours but I've also used the Adobe Capture app to automatically select colours into harmonious, analogous, complementary colour themes. This is a handy little to app to play with that you can also save the themes for use in other Adobe applications.


I tend to play with this app more than use it, as I like to pick the colours myself. However, the coloured circles can be moved around on the image to create your own theme too.


Using the colours from above and another selection of colours that were made from the experimentation with natural dyes, I collated the colours into the range below and in response to my connection with nature, in particular the nature and landscapes within the Peak District. I decided to name the colours after mountains and hills within the area.




Naming colours in response to my connection within the Peak District

Understanding why I am drawn to these natural colours though could be explained by such studies as the Ecological valence theory - (Palmer & Schloss, 201 ) who recognised that we associate certain colours with certain experiences such as blue skies and oceans are calming whilst browns can be reminicent of rotten food and therefore have specific colour preferences that can be innate or learnt.


Humphrey (2009) also backs up this claim and I particularly enjoy the way he speaks about colours as signals and how our ancestors would have used them. According to Humphrey "colours commonly have three functions: they catch attention, they transmit information, and they directly affect the emotions of the viewer" (2009, p.5) This is what intrigues me about colour: how do we respond to certain colours? What are our colour preferences and aversions?

Colour expert Karen Haller (2019) researches colour in terms of how they make us think and feel but most powerfully how they can be used to benefit our well-being.

In her book - The little book of colour she encourages the reader to assess their own relationships with colours and to try and uncover why we have aversions to certain colours. I've never been a fan of red, but it made me think about my personal experience with the colour. It was the colour I wore at primary school, it wasn't the worst experience for me but I don't have many fond memories from primary school. Maybe my aversion for red stems from here?


On the other hand, my most comforting colour is green... surprised?

Shutterstock image

This is my go to colour, my balancing and calming colour. If we look at the use of colour spiritually in practices such as yoga, meditation and reiki, colour is associated with our chakras.

The term chakra refers to wheels of energy within our body. There are seven chakras that are aligned with our spine from our base to our crown, and if any of these chakras are blocked or overactive then we can become unbalanced.

Green is associated with the fourth chakra, the heart chakra. This is the balancing chakra between the physical emotional lower chakras and the upper mental and spiritual chakras. Each colour and chakra has its own personality. Green is the "colour of meditation, adaptability, calm relaxation, empathy"(Mcleod, 2006, p155).

This is a whole other topic that we can explore but for today I just wanted to highlight the different levels of connection and experiences people have with colours.


Image from Pantone website

Colour is part of our everyday life especially in the world of design. Every year Pantone shares with us the new colour of the year; this year its 'classic blue' - "Instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era." (Pantone, 2020)

Here we see colour psychology and emotion being used in the story telling of this colour: "Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge."


Emotion and color are strongly connected to each other; thus, color must appeal to the 'emotional' makeup

- Leatrice Eiseman - Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute


Colours are signals and we can use welcoming , calming and relaxing colours to create those feeling within our environments. If we think about the positive associations we have with colour - is it related to a sunset? a forest? or a rocky landscape? If those experiences evoke feelings of calm and well being then we should strive to use these emotions in colours to optimise our internal environments. They're many studies that have shown that the use of certain colours can effect our productivity, accuracy and even our heart rate and blood pressure and in positive ways if used correctly.


The way I develop my colour ranges is a natural progression in my workflow. It's just something that comes naturally and I've never really given any thought to why I do it like this but I suppose that's what makes my practice a little bit more unique and the outcome is very much a personal expression. I want to remove the pressure of being "on trend" and produce harmonious colour palettes that are transitional but also evoke those emotions and feelings of calm and balance within the home.

Colour swatches in cotton linen blend from Stanage collection

Intuitively, I'm creating a narrative through colour in my practice, using my innate connection with nature (biophilia). I am responding to our societal pressures with harmonious and calming colour palettes that will evoke feelings of peace and serenity and therefore positively boosting our health and mental wellbeing.


Simply using colour to optimise our home environment to be a place of refuge and sanctuary should come before stressing about being "on trend".

Examples of home textiles from the Stanage Edge collection

In addition, if we can acknowledge the connection the colour has with a specific place or part of nature then we can become aware of it and build an appreciation for that source of inspiration.

Moody skies and panoramic views from Stanage Edge looking over the Peak District

If you're looking for inspiration for colour in your home, look to nature; find what colours speak to you and see how they reside in the natural environment.

Nature always manages to get it right.


"Nature has, after all, been in the business of design for over a hundred million years" (Humphrey, 2009)


 

References

Haller, K. (2019). The little book of colour. Oxford: Penguin Random House.

Humphrey, N. (Ed.). (2009). The colour currency of nature Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315881379-3 Retrieved from https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781315881379/chapters/10.4324/9781315881379-3

Küller, R., Mikellides, B., & Janssens, J. (2009). Color, arousal, and performance—A comparison of three experiments. Color Research & Application, 34(2), 141-152. doi:10.1002/col.20476

Palmer, S. E., & Schloss, K. B. (2010). An ecological valence theory of human color preference. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(19), 8877-8882. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/107/19/8877#ref-9

Pantone. (2020). Pantone color of the year 2020 introduction | PANTONE 19-4052 classic blue | pantone UK. Retrieved from https://store.pantone.com/uk/en/color-of-the-year-2020

Sanabria, V. (2001). Color psychology 101. Global Cosmetic Industry, 168(1), 28. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libaccess.hud.ac.uk/docview/196456529?accountid=11526


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