Friday, May 11, 2012

Color Choices


One important aspect of any work of art is color.  We respond to the hues selected (red, blue, etc.) and their values (pale, dark, or something between).  Many books have been written on color choices in art and we all have preferred colors for our clothes and our homes. This month, our gallery theme was Van Gogh's painting of irises.  Many of the members who responded to the theme did so by using the colors of the painting rather than the actual image of an iris.

Janet Stollnitz told me "I looked at Van Gogh’s painting, “Irises,” a number of times.  I liked the colors, but was unsure of what I could weave that would relate to the painting. Since most loom-controlled weaving does not easily lend itself to pictorial images as the interlacement of the yarns is horizontal­ (the weft­) and vertical­ (the warp), I thought in terms of color, texture, and structure of the cloth rather than representational images. In the midst preparing hand-dyed yarns for sale at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, I noticed a skein of hand-dyed Tencel that reminded me of the colors in the painting.  The yarn had shades of purple, green, blue, and a little yellow­–perfect!  A woven scarf would require more yarn than I had in the single skein.  Looking through my stash of commercially dyed yarns I spotted a cone of yarn that was a beautiful blue–sky.  I also found some hand-dyed purple and green silk yarns­–more irises.  I decided to “feature” the variegated yarn by not only making it a wide stripe, but also using a textured weave structure.  The additional silk yarns were narrower stripes woven as different twills. Wanting to emphasize the purple of the irises, I used a solid color purple silk for the weft.  Although my scarf doesn’t say Van Gogh’s “Irises,” it definitely was influenced by the painting."

Janet Stollnitz, scarf (detail)

Janet Stollnitz, scarf


Another artist who worked from the colors of the painting was Masha Kosmos, who submitted a bolero.  Though Masha often does pictorial work, in this case she used the colors of irises rather than their image.

Masha Kosmos, bolero
Photograph by Alexander Fedin


I also asked members of our gallery how they choose colors for their nonrepresentational work, which could be in any colors of the rainbow, when there isn't a theme that suggests particular colors.  Here is Janet Stollnitz's response to that question:

"Floris asked how I usually decide on colors for my scarves­, my procedure when there isn’t a theme.  Do I go my yarn stash and pull some colors that I like together?  Do I start with an inspiration such as a picture or a flower?  Do I start with the color wheel?  Working backwards, it is extremely rare that I look at the color wheel. Sometimes I am inspired by a picture or a flower.  Sometimes I look at my yarn stash and put together a collection of yarns that I think would work together.  More often my color selection is a combination of inspiration from an exhibit and what yarns are available in my stash.  However, my stash is easily changed as I often dye my yarns."

In my own work, art quilts, I sometimes start with a fabric I love and pull other fabrics from my stash of hand-dyes to complement it.  An example of this is "Spring View," which began with the mottled rosy fabric in the "windows."

Floris Flam, Spring View


In other cases, I begin with a painting I like and choose colors from my stash that echo those in the painting, though not necessarily in the same proportions.  For my collage, "Wind Dance," I started with a Rothko painting (Untitled, 1949) and chose fabrics in many textures–hand-dyed cotton and silk organza, painted cheesecloth, Lutradur®, and Gossamer–in the colors of the painting. 

Floris Flam, Wind Dance
Choosing in this way sometimes leads me to colors and combinations outside my usual palette.

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