Colour choices

I’m completely ambivalent and scatterbrained when it comes to colour taste. I like all the bright shiny colours at once and I like the muted greys/browns, I come up with ideas in both groups and everything in between.

Most artists seem to pick a certain corner of the palette that they work in, making a coherent body of work with a specific “signature”. At least for a while. I can’t help feeling that I need to limit myself in order to not be all over the place and end up doing nothing but sampling. But I don’t want to. I want both the bluish slate greys that I love and the bark colours, fog and dusk, as well as the circus.

I experience this in all areas, paint, photo and fiber. It’s like a kid in a candy store.

My latest yarn splurge:


And the next to last one:


I write down all my notions and if I set out a block of time to work properly on each, never get another idea in my life, I’ll be done in about 20 years I think.

Do you think it’s possible to work without constraints like that and still master a few things? Because right now I just feel like I have a head cold (ok, perhaps I do, it’s been a while), I feel heavy and unable to focus as well as rearing to get started again. Everything in my head is stampeding, the desire to sketch, weave, paint, more weave, cloth and tapestry and a mixture of both.

And of course this kind of panic leads to absolutely nothing. I know I can only do one project at the time, and anyway I got some stuff to improve the homemade tapestry loom, so it would make more sense to leave it alone until it’s rebuilt. That’s at least 50 projects off the list for now. 😉

And this is why I never get anywhere. I can’t choose my topic, there’s not one that burns just slightly brighter than the others. I wonder why that is.

It doesn’t feel like an inner critic “you’ll do badly anyway” kinda thing. Possibly it’s the usual result of too much downtime and then trying to cram in all the things when you finally have a slot for playing. Having to build up flow from scratch too often. I’ll first try my usual method, I just wound a couple of yarn skeins that I forgot to when preparing for one yarn adventure, and after I hit send on this I’ll spin the fiber I started weeks ago that should could have been done in a few days. Sometimes a project will present itself when I do these preparatory things. I’ve already discovered during the course of this exercise, one of my conundrums: I want to use the Rigid Heddle loom for two different projects in particular, one could turn out to take a while. But I don’t want to rush through the other to get it done and free the loom. And I used to snort at people with a whole room full of looms, like you can weave on more than one at a time…

Then I just have to figure out what to do with the sketching painting urges. I so admire real artists who get up at 5 every morning and get cracking, putting in 6-8-10 hours of work a day without distractions. (Like, I just realized, no matter how my thumb is doing, I should be giving big brown pony a pedicure asap)

So I guess this pertains to both of my current Keywords: Focus/Intention and Health. Improve both and perhaps I would not have to reboot so often! Perhaps then, my colour tastes could simply be seasonal, and I would have time to exhaust one before the next fascination happened?

Do you ever put blinders on yourself when it comes to colour themes, or does it happen naturally?

Playing with tapestry designs that are totally out of my league:
cartoon02 cartoon03

33 thoughts on “Colour choices

  1. i don’t think you have 2 separate colour explosions here–both are in the muted naturals look–just pretend you have madder and indigo and cochineal etc 🙂

    1. Well, I admit that some of my orange/purple fantasies would have completed the collection, but I never made any sketches of those. 😉

  2. So, what is your goal? Mastery, project completion, or unconstrained creativity and the ability to hop from one idea to another without limiting yourself?

    1. Sorry, it was late and I had promised to make dinner. The long answer is, I could live with mastering just one or two crafts and dabbling in the others. Project completion is purely a time/energy issue, I’m getting pretty good at controlling my startitis and actually finishing once I begin a project. As for getting many ideas – I find it hard to imagine that I can train myself to have a specialist mind? But, you know, serial projects, not parallel and all that….

      But I don’t see how I could limit my palette. That’s the really hard bit.

      1. But it’s that specialist mind that is necessary for mastery, I think. Which is why I asked the question. Would you rather have mastery or would you rather have the experience and fun of multiple un-mastered arts or crafts? Is the mastery necessary for the true enjoyment of them? Does the lack of it bother you? If you had to decide to work on just two towards mastery, which two would it be???

        I agree with you about startitis. I’m the type that HATES an unfinished project so much, that I would rather not start a project at all until I am certain to have enough time to work on it than to have it staring at me from a corner for ages. It’s not about the finished object so much as it is about finishing the task, seeing the process through. This can be as much a hindrance to ever working on anything as getting distracted by other projects.

        I love your inclusive colour palette. I think it’s perfect.

        1. Well, if I look at it long term, I think working with the things I do now for the rest of my life, if I can get a bit more time in on a regular basis, would get me far enough, even if I do all the things. I’m curious about others, stamping, collaging, whatever, but I could cull those easily and stick to the paint, photo and yarn. I have a heck of a time getting enough momentum for the paint, so perhaps that’s my minor, but it may take off all of a sudden. So I don’t know that my activity list is really all that crowded, it’s my idea list that is exploding. You know, coherent body of work etc.

          As an aside, the lady at my LYS asked me yesterday if I’d be interested in teaching some plant dyeing at the shop this summer. I have no idea how to go about it since I never take classes myself, but it might be fun. Force me to meet the locals and shit 😉

          1. Oh, you should definitely do it! Not only will you meet the locals, but teaching is a great way to firm up one’s own knowledge and skills. Plus, it would be a ton of fun.

        2. I often say that I need staff to do some of the production, so I could just do the funnest part, which is getting ideas. Really, that gives me the most kick apart from having done a good job.

  3. Ja, når man kommer op til overfladen efter en omgang sygdom, så står ideerne nærmest på nakken af hinanden og råber “Tag mig!” alle sammen. Det kan ofte lede til att man bare vimser rundt uden at få gjort noget som helst – i hvert fald ser min verden ofte sådan ud.
    Og så lige på denne årstid, hvor der ikke er noget det skal gøres fordi det er vissent i overmorgen, så er det endnu værre. Og den der sang “Det er fordi jeg elsker alle farver og fordi alverden er min ven” kender jeg også (med undtagelse af orange, som min håndarbejdslærerinde i folkeskolen gav mig en sådan afsky for, at den stadig ligger langnt nede på listen). Der er intet sæsonbetonet over mit farvevalg. Højrødt og gråt om vinterren, brunligt og blåt om sommeren eller omvendt. Lige nu fantaserer jeg om noger blåt/gråt eller rødt/gråt i nogle helt bestemte toner, men det bliver nok ved fantasien.
    Jeg har ingen gode råd, for det lyder totalt som mig. Jeg hylder som atltid det spirale princip og fejrer hver fuldendt projekt og hver nyindlært teknik som en sejr.

    1. Gul og rosa kan jeg evt. med rimelighed godt undvære. 😉 Og postkasserød. Måske er der alligevel håb?

      Skidesmart med det der fodmap. Man laver for mange majspandekager til kødsovsen og spiser resten med jordbærsyltetøj!

      1. Det gjorde jeg i forgårs, dog hindbærsyltetøj og ahornsirup ;p
        Gul er da totalt uundværlig til solsikker, blomstermidter, bier og 117 andre ting. Og hvordan vil du mle valmuer og postkasser og flag og … uden postkasserødt. Og solnedgange uden rosa? De er da totalt uundværlige alle samme.

          1. Nej, enig, alle glimmerbøssern osv kommer jo også farende, hvis man har gult tøj på.Men hvad tøj angår er jeg ret kedelig. Det skal være bomuld eller alpacca, passe og have mange lommer; farve osv kommer langt nede på listen (dog stadig minus orange)

          2. Og hvad var verden lige uden orange morgenfruer. Jeg er bange for at alle farver har deres plads, men ikke nødvendigvis på vores tøj 😀

          3. Naturen kan bare noget med farver som kun hører til der. Siger hun, som faldt for noget lyngfarvet multigarn i går.

  4. I love your recent yarn purchases Pia, years ago after being self taught and always working home alone, I did a year at the local school of art on a costume course, I was the only student in the class who had not had an art education and came to the course via fabric rather than paint, what surprised me was that these students were as mad about paint/crayon/colour pencils etc. as I was about fabric, collecting in a very wide variety of colours, over the years I’ve noticed this is true of many even those who appear to work with a small pallet they still experiment,
    regarding completing a project v. endless experiments, when I taught machine knitting way back, I noticed my students (all adult women in all 3 classes in different areas) fell in to 2 distinct groups, those who only worked on full garments completing them, mostly in one go but occasionally will have 2 at a time and rarely experimented (some never), often they would make several garments from the same pattern, the other group experimented, experimented and experimented, rarely making a garment, I fall into this group, I love trying something out to see what happens, since I saw this and talked with the students about it, I have felt much more comfortable about it and accept very few of my ideas will come to fruition but will remain ideas, I also noticed that this second group when they did finish a project very often had made a one off master piece, a beautiful garment like no other, always individual,
    any designers I worked with in my working life always had far more ideas than needed for the project and knew that only some would be used and brought to life, the same goes with artists I’ve known both painters and textile artists, so I would say stop fretting and thinking about what you should be doing and do what you enjoy when life allows it, Frances

    1. Those are very useful insights, Frances.You and I are definitely in the same group, whereas my mum will see a knitting pattern and buy the exact yarn specified and in the same colour as the photo. I would be bored out of my skull doing it like that, but she has no stash = no clutter! 😉

      I guess I want to do all the things (colours) but also put in some effort to improve, and I know that’s partially done by repetition!

  5. It’s funny, colour themes have been very much in my mind in the last few weeks, and precisely the question of whether to limit my palette or to try them all!

    I need to improve my colour mixing skills (whether with paints or dyes) and at first I thought I’ll approach it systematically, practising and sampling all the different colour groups in turn. My natural inclination is to try all possible colours, but as you say the sampling process takes so long, and I don’t really have the patience to be quite so systematic.

    So by necessity I’ve decided I just have to limit myself somehow and focus, at least for the moment, to only those colours that suit me or that I particularly like. Unfortunately being a pale faced Finn means that bright colours make me look even more tired and pale that I already am. And since I like complex colours anyway, for me a natural way to limit the palette is to focus on muted colours. And having a limited palette has the advantage that your stash is more coherent and not quite so random (although random is great if you have tons of room and lots of money). So I am all for focus and limits, at least in theory, but I don’t know whether I’ll manage it in practise as occasional diversions must be allowed, otherwise things just get too dull!

    1. I like that idea of a main palette with diversions!

      I already did another blog post on the subject actually, or revived an old draft really. Perhaps my way of being systematic, repeating and exhausting a topic in a spiral pattern until I get to the top (or bottom of it).

  6. I know the exact feeling of wanting to do everything at once, not any one thing calling. I’ve got a half-finished painting yelling at me, an e-book in the making, a visual narrative that needs color, a novel that needs editing, and a head cold as well. And lately I can’t have a plan. I just do what I’m called to do. Which also drives me crazy– I like having control!! But that often leads to procrastination. Argh.

    Those are some gorgeous splurges. LOVE all the colors. My color life– ah. From age 14 (when I first started formally studying paint) to 23, I almost exclusively relied on burnt sienna, yellow ochre, crimson, red oxide, burnt umber- for paint as well as my wardrobe. Then from ages 24-25 I went color crazy. I started grabbing colors from all sides of the palette, resulting in very muddy strange paintings that I just threw away… also I got rid of 90% of my wardrobe. The past year, year and a half, I’m now completely obsessed with pthalo blue, pthalo green, violet, indigo, turquoise, mint green. It’s what I want in my clothing too. I just gave away another bag of warm-colored not right clothes for me… am ready for sea and water colors in skirts, tops, scarves. I don’t know if this is anything you’re looking for… I’ve never written about this before therefore I’m just so wordy here… but it seems less like a choice on my part and more like the colors are picking me… they jump out at me and I can’t not become fixated.

    I also always think of colors in terms of chakras and their symbolism. That’s the hippy dippy in me though…more hippiness… I’m drawn to turquoise, amethyst, serpentine, and lapis as far as crystals now… crystals that would’ve made me disgusted back in the day!

    1. Ha! I know what you’re saying about changing your taste in general, I have been opening up to purples and dark reds which I’ve never used or liked before. But in some areas I simply like too many options at once. Especially with the fibers/tapestries, I want to do what you call the chakra colours as well as the fog, the slate, the bark as you see in the top photo (ok, a peacock slipped by unnoticed, LOL). And I feel they are two or more separate project “series” which would really be more suited for working one at a time.

      With paint I have a harder time toning it down, actually. I suppose that’s another way of doing both, painting boldly and weaving the subtle, I don’t know.

      And yes, the colours often pick you, or insist on invading your attention. Seasonal changes would really be fine with me, that would give me 3-4 months on each group!

      For now I just try to take notes and really structure each project idea, then let whichever one speaks the loudest be next. But my goal is to be just slightly more coherent – or at least try to see if that brings me anything.

    2. I actually had a very interesting dream earlier this week, that could be about this whole topic. But I’ll put that in the next blog post, as you’ve all got me thinking even more. 🙂

  7. My colour choices depend on what it is I’m doing. Colour communicates, so I just select my palette as I go, usually its instinctive though, I don’t think about it much. And yes I love all colour, neutrals too.

    1. So perhaps, from all the wonderful replies, I’m not that scatterbrained after all (when it comes to colour). And you’re right, I don’t think about it as I go, it just happens. I just wondered if I change my mind too often.

Add a comment: