Are You in a (Color) Rut?


stonecrop-squareI’m deeply affected by color. You probably are too.

But do you sometimes still feel timid about making unconventional color combinations? Do you rely on “tonal” ranges of color (all greens or all blues, for instance) in your projects because you don’t trust your sense of what colors look good together?

Do you look at your work and realize that you’ve been using the same palette of colors over and over?

You’re not alone. It’s very common to second guess your color sense or fall into a safe routine.

Why Rattle the Color Cage?

One reason you might want to challenge your usual palette is to get out of a rut or create freshness in your work. To get out of your comfort zone and stretch your aesthetic sensibilities.

Or, if you’re kind of new to making, you might feel kind of shy about your choices–what if they’re wrong? Perhaps you’d like to mix things up a bit more, but aren’t sure how to do that effectively.

Well, I’ve got a great idea to get your creative color juices flowing again.

Inspiration is All Around You

If you want to break out of your color rut, or if you want to feel more comfortable expanding your palette or creating fun combinations, the answers are all around you.

A plant changing color in your garden (see photo). Your lunch at a local cafe. The little girl’s outfit you notice as her mother hurries her across the street to school (this morning, that was bright red pants and a turquoise jacket–LOVED it).

The inside of a pistachio shell. (Natural things are a GREAT place to start this color exploration. Nature is never “wrong” when it comes to color.)

You can find great color combinations everywhere you look, if you look for them everywhere.

A glass of white zinfandel and a glass of chardonnay side by side. Oh, the pale pink and pale yellow!

(When I was a waitress back in the day, I loved picking up that order at the bar–even if I were cursing my customers under my breath, I always had a nano-second thought of “gorgeous” as I picked them up. Pleasure in an unpleasant situation.)

Deepen Your Relationship

Start applying these color observations in your artwork. Bead up some turquoise and coral together. Make a collage using the colors inspired by something like my photo above–I walked out of my house last week and was knocked out by the colors this sedum had turned in my garden when I wasn’t looking–the pinks, the oranges, the reds, the pale greens! I turned around and got my camera.

Sometimes the color combinations we see are old friends, and sometimes they’re a pleasant surprise or make us re-evaluate. Either way, consciously searching and heightening our awareness of the colors around us creates a rich experience that feeds us. And for me, it’s often a way back in to appreciating life itself–beauty in unexpected places and in the everyday.

It’s also a way to integrate the creative-you into everything you do: to connect with the world as a lover of color and maker of things. The simple act of saying “Hey, that color is fabulous on you” is also an artist’s observation about why–their skin tone, their hair color, that belt, etc.

Color Palettes as Expressive Tools

You can then start using color more strategically as you make things–to express a certain emotion, capture a certain light, or maybe explore a memory.

Colors from the beach, for instance, might be all sunbeaten greys, yellows, tans and sage greens (think sand, rugged seaside plants, boardwalk) if you live in the Northeastern United States, or deep blues, greens and bright whites if you’re on a trip to the Carribean.

Now your observations have provided you with a palette that can represent that beach experience whatever your medium or whatever you happen to be making: a watercolor painting, a decoupage vase, a beaded necklace or an abstract collage.

Simple observation is all it takes to improve your “color sense”. Gradually your confidence increases, your appreciation deepens, and color becomes another creative tool for you to better express your self, your life, and the world around you.

It’s satisfying.

What is your relationship with color? Where do you get inspired for your color choices? What are some of your favorite color combinations?

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