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Tuesday
Aug212012

On colors (2)

Find the whole series "On colors" here.

I studied colors for a long time. Working on forensic reconstruction of the face of Ramses the Second, I learned how Egyptians used colors  3 thousand years ago. I was intrigued because they used two set of colors : one, very restricted, for sacred stuff, and an expanded one, where they mixed colors , for more casual pictures. (follow links for pictures)

I also knew that parietal paintings found in Lascaux had mostly four colors : white red earth and black. I don't think it's because they didn't have any other colors. I think it was mostly because of symbolic meanings. The same kind of meanings you will find in medieval pictures, in pojagi or ukiyo-e. The system of colors we use for road signals and logos are still respecting the medieval rules of colors created for coat of arms. Colors are deeply embed in our culture.

It is easy to get on the other side of the color perception and consider only symbols. Meanings and symbols generated glorious and simple, beautiful pictures. You can drape yourself in color meanings and enjoy it tremendously.

Clutched between science and symbols, Goethe and Newton make me quite nervous. Their work on color is the basis of most that we know now, but both of their work is tainted with approximation and affirmations with no scientific basis whatsoever.   

I studied  for a long time. I also studied the fact that we don't really see or integrate a color before  we have a name for it. Like there is very little quotes of about blue in Occident literature before the 13th century, when suddenly blue became a very trendy color indeed.  We ourselves thrive by trends, and words like turquoise, tangerine , coral and the multiple names of browns bring different palettes to our lives. Language is actually a big part of our color world.

Studying gave me only one certitude : there is scientific rules for color production...But there is none for color use. Unless you consider the part of art that is giving yourself rules about what you are doing ( ex: I will do this in a square. I will use bright colors. I will use only crayons...etc) there is absolutely no rules. There is taste. There is culture. There is fashion. That's it. You can follow, or not : you are free.

Pick something you like. Work with colors you love. Chose your own rules. And break them too.

I remember that brown and navy blue together were out of question for me. I mix them happily now. I wouldn't squirm on an orange and khaki and pink picture now, but 20 years ago I would have found that disgusting. And I would be sorely disappointed now by the colors of my living room in 1992 : cream, grey-blue and pine wood, which I used to love to bits. 

So I took another approach.

(to be continued)

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Reader Comments (4)

J'adore, merci beaucoup, j'ai tout lu de bout en bout et tout les liens aussi :) C'est un thème passionnant et lire ton avis... Je suis d'accord qu'au final c'est une question de gout, qu'il n'y a pas de règle. Mais c'est en faisant son apprentissage et en se posant pleins de questions qu'en fait on crée ses propres règles.

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMagoute

Merci !

Nous n'avons pas tous l'occasion ou la chance d'apprendre toutes ces choses, c'est un sujet vraiment très intéressant !

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHélène

Cela rejoint un peu ta réponse à mon précédent commentaire. Et je trouve cette série sur les couleurs passionnante et j'aime beaucoup la phrase "Chose your own rules. And break them too" qui devrait être appliqué à tout et pour tout!
On rénove une maison, avec mon amoureux et je trouve que c'est drôlement difficile de choisir la couleur des murs. Quelle couleur irait avec cette pièce? Est ce qu'on aimera vivre dans cette teinte là? On a beaucoup de badigeons à la chaux, blancs, mais pour le reste... alors finalement on fait au coup de coeur, en se baladant dans les rayons du magasin de bricolage. Comme tu dis, il n'y a pas de règle!

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpetit bruit

J'ai trois enfants et je me rappelle que 'jaune' (ou yellow qui n'est pourtant pas si facile a prononcer pour un titounet) a toujours ete la 1ere couleur qui a ete nommee. Mon 3eme n'hesite pas a baptiser 'blue' et 'red' en 'lellow, mama'...
Alors ce que vous dites sur le fait d'integrer une couleur quand on arrive a la nommer est encore plus fascinant!
Merci pour ces topos tres accessibles et interessants!

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSev

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