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Blue Neon Madonna in Dunmore, PA. Photo by Margaret Almon

N is for Neon Spreading Illusion: A to Z Challenge 2014

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Blue Neon Madonna in Dunmore, PA. Photo by Margaret Almon
Blue Neon Madonna in Dunmore, PA. Photo by Margaret Almon

The first time we witnessed the Blue Neon Madonna(not her real name), Stratoz and I were startled.  She has a blue mantle of other-worldliness.  Another favorite neon was Electronic Superhighway by Nam June Paik.

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Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Nam June Paik, 1995, 49-channel closed circuit video installation, neon, steel and electronic components, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2002.23. Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Ehrenstein Color Figure
Ehrenstein Color Figure via Andy Parkinson.

 

Neon signs combine glass tubes with inert gases and electrification to create a gorgeous glow.  I love neon signs, but neon paint never appealed to me, and in investigating what makes a color “neon,” I discovered that it’s the addition of substances that show up under UV or black light.  The paint will reflect back more light than expected.  I also discovered the illusion of neon color spreading, where colored lines in the midst of black lines take on a glow like a neon sign.

Neon Color Circle
Neon Color Circle via blebspot.

 

 

 

 

Spiral Mosaic Mandala by Margaret Almon

M is for Mauve: A to Z Challenge 2014

Spiral Mosaic Mandala by Margaret Almon
Spiral Mosaic Mandala by Margaret Almon. Mother of pearl, dichroic, stained glass, gold smalti, on slate, 7 inches.

 

When I saw Simon Garfield’s book on the color mauve, I checked it out of the library immediately.  I wasn’t a mauve enthusiast, but the idea of a whole book about one color was intriguing. William Perkin(1838-1907) was experimenting with coal tar, in hopes of finding a cure for malaria, but instead noticed an intense purple color in his beaker. Perkin pursued the manufacture of mauve, a world awash in shifting purple pinks.

Methyl Orange
Methyl Orange via Rubashkyn.

Because it is also Orange Tuesday, I will mention another coal tar dye called Methyl Orange.  It changes color, from red in acid, to yellow in base.

http://dba.med.sc.edu/price/irf/Adobe_tg/models/rgbcmy.html

L is for Light Receptors: A to Z Challenge 2014

Mixing primary color paint is an ingrained memory from elementary school.  Mixing light is much less familiar, and watching this video was a bit unnerving.  If you mix red and green light, our brains will interpret it as yellow light.  I was staggered by the complexity of interpretation on the part of the brain, creating many colors with of just three types of light receptors: red, green, and blue.

The RGB Color Model

 

I is for Johannes Itten: A to Z Challenge 2014

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Johannes Itten The Encounter
Johannes Itten, The Encounter. Oil on canvas (1916).

I found a copy of Johannes Itten’s book The Art of Color at a rummage sale.  Itten was a Swiss Expressionist painter influential on artists of the Bauhaus.

Itten taught about color in the face of the belief that either you were good with color or you were not.

Most instructive was Itten’s statement that, “A color is always to be seen in relation to its surroundings.”  Colors shift according to their neighbors and to the light.  Itten describes a mausoleum in Ravenna with blue mosaic walls, and narrow windows of orange tinted alabaster.  Orange and blue are complements which means they mix into gray, and Itten says the light in the mausoleum is a magical gray, with the walls reflecting blue and orange depending on the angles.

I appreciate his assertion that mosaic art places “high demands on coloristic powers” with each fragment acting in relation to many others.

 

Stratoz doodling to Benny Green with gray and green Prismacolors.

G is for Gray Tones: A to Z Challenge 2014

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Stratoz doodling to Benny Green with gray and green Prismacolors.
Stratoz doodling to Benny Green with gray and green Prismacolors.

When I met Stratoz, he said his favorite color was gray.  He still digs it.  He’s also doing an A to Z challenge, doodling his way through the alphabet with jazz on the stereo.  Since it’s Orange Tuesday, I also include this photo of a gray pendant I created with a dash of orange.

Gray Pendant with a Flash of Orange by Margaret Almon.
Gray Pendant with a Flash of Orange by Margaret Almon.

Pendant Joy at Nutmeg Designs Etsy Shop

F is for George Field the Color-Man: A to Z Challenge 2014

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Colour Chart from George Field's Chromatography(1841) via Cottonwood on Flickr.
Colour Chart from George Field’s Chromatography(1841) via Cottonwood on Flickr.

 

One of my favorite classes in Library School was Preservation of Materials, and I wrote a proposal for a program to encourage artists to use archival art supplies.  I wasn’t making art at that time, but the subject seized my imagination.

George Field(1777-1854),  was a British color-maker who manufactured pigments, and who wanted the colors to stay fast.  He kept copious notes on his experiments with the chemistry of dyes and pigments, which were acquired by Winsor & Newton after his death. when I finally took a watercolor class to explore my pull toward art, I bought tubes of Winsor & Newton.

One the articles that introduced me to Field appealed to my former librarian self by including a proper format for citation:

HOW TO CITE THIS BRANCH ENTRY (MLA format)

Shires, Linda M. “On Color Theory, 1835: George Field’s Chromatography.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. [Accessed April, 7,2014].
On a Color Theory, 1835: George Field’s Chromatography

Earthtones at Nutmeg Designs.

E is for Earthtones: A to Z Challenge 2014

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Stratoz doodling to Benny Green with gray and green Prismacolors.
Stratoz doodling to Benny Green with gray and green Prismacolors.

Earthtones rise out of browns and grays and can be muted or intense.  When I was 10, I  came across a Sears catalog from 1972, and the shades of rust, brown, and orange created a world different than my own. This was the first time I realized an era had a look of its own. Pigments made with earth elements have been around a long time: ochre, sienna, burnt umber, but dictionaries attribute the actual term “earthtones”  to the 1970’s.

Earthtones at Nutmeg Designs.
Earthtones at Nutmeg Designs. Left top and bottom mosaics by Margaret Almon. Right top and bottom, stained glass by Wayne Stratz.

 

International Colour Day

International Colour Day: Celebrating the Equinox in a New Way

International Colour Day
Light and Dark in Balance. Logo by Hosanna Yau.

 

Thanks to Instagram I discovered International Colour Day, which was created in by the AIC ~ International Colour Association.  I am still charmed by color spelled with a “u” since I grew up in Canada, and it took me awhile to unlearn the spelling when I moved to the United States.

The AIC chose the Spring Equinox to celebrate color because of the equal balance of light and dark, day and night.  Color draws me into the studio, and is the fuel for my art.  I watch how people respond to my work, how color can draw them like a magnet.  The blue-green people are particularly sensitive to those tones, lit up from within, as are the lovers of the spectrum of visible light.

Rainbow Panel Mosaic by Margaret Almon. Glass on wood, 4x18 inches.
Rainbow Panel Mosaic by Margaret Almon.

 

For my celebration, check out my Color Wheel Pinterest Board.

Butterfly in Flight: Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Synchromism

Flight of the Butterfly No. 1 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright
Flight of the Butterfly No. 1 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright(1955), North Carolina Museum of Art. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

I grew up in Canada, and prefer going north in the summer, but Stratoz and I made a rare venture south for vacation.  We discovered the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, which reveals more delight around each partial wall, a maze to enjoy rather than get lost in.  The painting Flight of the Butterfly No. 1 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright caught my eye right away with the blocks of color and the spiral shape.  To see the whole painting, plus more of the collection, check out Amy Looks Closer: North Carolina Museum of Art.

 Stanton Macdonald-Wright, 1948 / Robert Bruce Inverarity, photographer. Robert Bruce Inverarity papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Stanton Macdonald-Wright, 1948 / Robert Bruce Inverarity, photographer. Robert Bruce Inverarity papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Macdonald-Wright named his painting style Synchromism “with color” as Symphony is “with sound,” and envisioned color as akin to music, not needing to be tethered to a literal interpretation of the world.  He imagined a scale of colors, which could be orchestrated like musical notes.  Often there was a central vortex out of which the other colors arose. The orange in the center of Flight of the Butterfly is bursting with sound against the blue-violet.  I make mosaic spirals and something about Macdonald-Wright’s unwinding center resonates.

The American Magazine 1928 with a story by S.S.Van Dine(pen name of Willard Huntington Wright)
The American Magazine 1928 with a Philo Vance story by S.S.Van Dine(pen name of Willard Huntington Wright)

Macdonald-Wright was given his first name, Stanton, in honor of women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and he hyphenated his middle and last names to avoid the constant question of whether he was related to Frank Lloyd Wright.  His older brother, Willard Huntington Wright, wrote the Philo Vance detective novels under the pen name S. S. Van Dine.

Yellow-Red: Munsell’s Concern with the Subtlety of Orange

Orange Mosaic Pendant by Margaret Almon
Orange Mosaic Pendant by Margaret Almon, glass, gold smalti, mirror, 1.25″

My love of orange appeared when I started making art in my 30’s.  My sister loved orange as a child, but I was unmoved, baffled.  I discovered that orange was a contentious subject for some color theorists at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Albert Munsell worked on developing a color notation system, like a Dewey Decimal for color, without names, which he found undecipherable, and his notation is still used in the 21st Century.

Munsell Sphere Color System
Munsell Sphere Color System

Orange is known as Yellow-Red.  Munsell was an artist, and he envisioned colors as mixtures of pigments, and orange was yellow plus red pigment.  He wanted to teach children about color starting with the primary hues and only then moving to intermediate ones like orange.  Henry Bailey, a teacher of art, was incensed at the notion that children weren’t ready to learn about orange.  He saw orange as a basic color, along with green and violet, in addition to the primaries of red, yellow and blue.  Both Munsell and Bailey took color education very seriously, in an odd forward echo of sex education in my own era.

Munsell Color Chart
Yellow-Red Munsell Color Chart

Reading the text of Bailey’s lecture on color, I was surprised by the sudden turn into theology.

In conclusion Mr Bailey said that the end of all education is character God’s aim in this world is the perfection of human souls and he has flooded it with color. Let us try to lead the children to see the color that there is in the world and to love it.  And when we are weary of this world we love to read of the next and in the Book of Revelations we are told that the gates of the heavenly city have the colors of the most beautiful and most precious stones and may it not prove that in teaching our pupils to appreciate the beauties of this earthly habitation we are preparing them to share the glories of that eternal abode that house not made with hands

I have a spiritual connection with color, though not in a Book of Revelations way.  In spite of my discomfort with color theory being equated with preparation for the gates of heaven, there is something wonderful about Bailey’s line, “Let us try to lead the children to see the color that there is in the world and to love it.”

More Yellow-Red Goodness on my Orange Tuesdays Pinterest Board

The Color Orange Sets of a Testy Debate

Psychology of the Color Orange