Write about how you feel about colour and how you might gain a greater understanding about colour?

Colour is very important to me because I paint, but as well as that, I have very vivid feelings about colour. I have synthesesia, a disease that lets you see sounds as colours when you close your eyes, Kandinsky had the same disease. Normally, it is quite pleasant, you listen to music you like, close your eyes and you see a colourful abstract movie of what you are listening to. Today, however, it became quite unnerving, the dentist was playing a radio station with gentle relaxing sing along pop music which alternated with the fluorescent turquoises, reds and yellows of the sound of the drill. I was quite surprised that my brain interprets fear and pain as florescent hues, but then I remembered the florescent orange of concussion from all those years ago. There is another aspect to synthesesia that is seldom commented on, in that it works the opposite way but the music that colours inspire in my mind is mostly classical.

My conscious, I suppose analytical feelings about colour tend more toward the harmonious, I love the ochre- greens of Giacometti, the subtle contrasting complimentary colours of late Gauguin and yet still the vivid contrasting hues of Vincent.

You can only gain a greater understanding of colour in four ways.

Looking very hard at colour around you

Firstly there is looking very hard at it. We are surrounded by an ever increasing number of images but to understand colour better you have to look at it very hard noticing what it does by itself and how it is influenced by the colours around it. How it makes you feel and what it conjures up in your mind there is a very subjective aspect as to the emotions that colour makes you feel and although some generalisations can be made, it is highly individualistic.

Visiting galleries

Visiting galleries allows you to look very hard at how other artists used colour in their process. It is fine to look at art books but these can only get vague clues as to the artist’s process with regard to using colour. you can only ever see how an artist uses colour by looking at the original work, artworks were not designed to be a walkthrough exhibition, they are something you need to contemplate and wonder at slowly.

Since starting this course I have spent a lot of time in the galleries in London and I am beginning to understand the colour techniques that other painters use as part of their process.


Read and understand the theories of colour

There are many theories of colour, Aristotle developed the first one that held sway until Newton’s theory of colour in 1660. Newton‘s theory was challenged be von Goethe who introduced the psychological effect of colour. All three of these theories were based on the colour of light using prisms.

It was le Blon who first considered colour as an artistic medium and introduced the notion of primary and secondary colours and in 1855 Chevreul’s research into died threads and the law of simultaneous contrast greatly influenced modern art.

Munsell created a codified system for classifying colours relative to their hue, value and chroma in the early twentieth century and that was about the end of scientific colour theory.

Of course each artist has their own colour theory and while being based loosely around the current scientific theory is often particular to each given artist or school of painting.


Experimenting with colour in your work

I am working with quite a limited palette at the minute. Two blues, two reds, two yellows and white, this is teaching me that I don’t need any other colours and has removed most of the mud from my paintings, with the two versions of the primaries I am becoming to understand the warmth and coolness of the colours and I think this is helping to give me a greater understanding of converting form from three dimensions to two.

Since starting this course I have spent a lot of time in the galleries in London and I am beginning to understand the colour techniques that other painters use as part of their process.