Exercise: Understanding Colour

I started this exercise by drawing the two grids of squares to colour in, one in colours I liked the other in bright colours that I disliked. The result was interesting:


Grid of squares of colour I ‘liked’

Grid of squares of colour I 'disliked'

Grid of squares of colour I ‘disliked’

Before the exercise I felt quite sure in thinking that the colours I liked put together in a square would be the ones that looked best. But when looking at the grid’s side by side the brighter grid of squares looks better. It really does prove the point that the brighter colours stand out more and look more appealing. If they were mixed together the two grids would work even better than they do separately.

I found the second part of the exercise quite challenging. Having to come up with colours squares in the style of Johannes Itten proved hard than I expected. I started off with really large squares drawn in my sketchbook and coloured in using water colour paint:

Large squares in style of Itten

Large squares in style of Itten

I felt like whilst this gave me a good deal of the colour to look at it was perhaps a little too big for the purpose of the exercise so completed the rest of the squares in a much smaller size:

Small squares

Small squares

I found some of the words which I was basing the colours on harder than others. For instance ‘Gregarious, precious, wonderful, reasonable’. I found it hard to decide what colours described which words as it’s so subjective, what might make sense to me might not mean the same thing to another person. I also have a very limited understanding of art history so again I have little knowledge about the history of the meaning of colour.

On that note I have been watching a series on the BBC called ‘The History of art in three colours’. The series explores three colours; Gold, Blue & White, delving into their use and meaning in ancient and modern art.


The programme kind of proves the point that colours can have multiple interpretations and meaning often according to their context and use. Which brings me to my final bit of exploration…

I felt that the water colour squares seemed a little duller and less vibrant that I’d hoped. My concern was this wasn’t really giving me a pure look at how the colours worked together. So I decided to re-do the colour squares but using Adobe Illustrator. The results are much more vibrant:

Large colour squares - made in Illustrator

Large colour squares – made in Illustrator

From top left to right the colours represent the words: Angry, Danger, Youthful, New & Zany.

More colour squares - made in Illustrator

More colour squares – made in Illustrator

From top left to right the colours represent the words: Independent, Kinetic, Brave, Familiar, Quiet, Jumpy, Vital, Sociable, Creative, Masculine, Extra Special, Tasteful, Unhappy, Open, Energetic, Wonderful, Reasonable, Gregarious, Precious.

To help me think about colours and their meaning to me I did look through magazines, pattern books etc just to give myself a chance to consider what do I think when I look at colour.

It was an interesting exercise that I think shows colour is something I’m still learning to understand and use to convey meaning.


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