Alas, Nita Leland’s Exploring Color: How to Use and Control Color in Your Painting is out of print, but used copies are still around. I found a copy at the public library in 2004, and was entranced with Nita Leland’s assertion that color can be learned. As I explored collage and other visual mediums, I noticed how strongly I responded to color, and I wanted to understand this language of hue and tone and contrast. I took a watercolor class, and all I wanted to do was mix colors, which didn’t translate into actually painting much.
It was exciting having a name for why two colors practically vibrate next to each other(ie. orange and blue, complementary colors), and learning how colors transition into each other around a color wheel. I found my notebook of color experiments, and it brought back the thrill of trying these combinations out for myself. I played with a “tetrad” of red-orange/yellow-green/blue-violet/blue-green.I wrote a page of anxious notes about whether the colors were what I thought they were, but that’s part of what happens with colors. They shift and shimmer depending on context. Fortunately, I wrote at the end the page that I really liked the red of the ship against the blue, and the yellow-green against the red-orange. Color sense cannot be completely articulated in words, and along with learning the language color, I’ve also learned about the unspoken nature of color.