Color Theory

Some current thoughts I’m having on color theory:

  1. Why color? If you have the option between monochrome and color — why would you choose color?
  2. What if color is connected with physiological responses? For example the color red as being the color of lust, sex, danger — a woman (or man) with red lipstick or clothing as seen as more powerful, formidable, or sexual.
  3. Color combinations: Is there an “ideal”for color combinations? Are all color combinations socialized? Or is there some biological “truth” to more ‘desirable’ color combinations?
  4. Is if the role of the artist to imitate “natural” colors, or to totally disregard all nature, and create “unnatural” colors?

In praise of Mark Rothko

I think Mark Rothko is very underrated. His color combinations and palettes are absolutely sublime in terms of the proportion of colors, the color hues/tones he used, and the psychological and physiological response we get from looking at his color art works.

One of the ways I like to study the work of Rothko (or color in general) is to use the “Gaussian blur”filter which is now available on many apps (Photoshop, or Procreate on iPad and iPhone). This is another way we can deconstruct the work of great artwork, and figure out “what makes it tick”, in order for us to integrate these learnings into our own compositions and artwork.

With lots of Gaussian blur, the colors look like a sunrise (blue water on bottom, sunrise in yellow, and white on top).

Then what I like to do is to use the “color eye dropper” tool to select the specific hex code of the color, then draw/fill it myself, to figure it out.

Also on iPhone or iPad, I like to make galleries of the color tones, to serve as my own visual stimulus and inspiration. Seeing all the colors as small thumbnails is also fascinating.

Beyond nature

I believe as artists, we are blessed because we can escape the tyranny of reality. We can create whatever unnatural colors we desire — especially with digital tools and technologies.

The psychological effect of colors

Did you ever wonder why almost all the fast food joints use the red-yellow color palette? Yes — it really draws our attention, and is one of the most visually intensive color combinations which exist.

Color photography

When it comes to color photography, here are some tips:

  1. When you’re shooting color, photograph colorful things! Experiment using a flash during the day.
  2. Shoot JPEG with high saturation and color. RICOH GR II with positive film preset with contrast and saturation to the max, in program mode, with flash during the day.
  3. Travel to colorful places — Mexico City being my current favorite city in the world for color, food, culture.
  4. Fill the frame with color — which means, get closer to whatever you’re photographing.
  5. When you’re post processing your photos, play with the blacks slider, the whites slider, and increase contrast. Keep processing the colors until they look good to you!

More thoughts on color to come.