I use a lot of colour – it’s almost a compulsion. I feel I’ve failed somehow if I use just black and white alone (very trendy, but I like colour.) In fact I never have.
It’s a tricky thing. There are many theories, and conveniently, various shades of white. But it’s always about the contrasts, for me anyway. Garish, bright colours: I love them. I’m not that keen on washed out pastels either. I don’t go in for realistic colour: most of my work is abstract, and even in life drawing I habitually draw green people with purple hair.
Way back, I once wrote that I had actually walked into the much put-upon and very patient art-store, and asked their stoic experts if I could please buy some green. They offered many ways of delivering the green, but I also had to choose which green: pea green, emerald, forest, olive or lime green. My head was spinning.
Then I discovered the innocent fun of the wheel of colour, used to determine contrasts and similarities. And badly named pastels: the peachy crayon called ‘flesh’ is so right off as to be unbelievable – who’s flesh is that colour (mind you in living memory there was paint colour called n***** brown.)
And then there’s symbolism. In my ‘Bunny’ series, the colours are symbolic, and represent ways of dealing with my limited vision, at a time when I could only see blue, when yellow is commonly used in hazard signs since it is deemed easy for the blind to see. Red was lost to me. It was horrible, but the blue seem extraordinarily beautiful.
Back to green. It’s my favourite - all the lovely oil paint names like phthalo green (cadmium green sounds dangerous.) I am never happier than when lining up my balls of thread and choosing the best colour for a certain word in my text samplers. Especially when it’s green.
On a tangential note, colours are amazing. Blind people sometimes have colours explained in terms of musical instruments. Violins are pale blue, trumpets are scarlet, cellos are mauve, I’d imagine.
But you can get immersed, wrapped up and lost forever in the act of deliberation, so I bought a ready chosen set of watercolours, which limited my options but did save time. I buy pastels one at a time, as needed. A fresh, vibrant pastel colour can really inspire me. I am such a wanker. I am also easily distracted by shiny things.
Colour matters: for impecunious artists, failed experiments are costly, especially when the art-pixies don’t respond to your special ‘send me a wide-range of colourful materials’ dance (it’s great – I am like a whirlwind of tassels.) Collecting your shrapnel until amassing enough to buy a few pots/pencils/pastels and then have them not work, to be too similar, or weak is so dispiriting.
But here’s a funny thing: the colour I use most and therefore replace most often in all its textures, forms and strengths, oddly enough, is white. Figure that one out.