Friday, November 27, 2009

Push the color red as far as it can go?

One of my unfulfilled dreams as a colorist has been to pack as many colors as possible into a painting that breaks the barrier of “it’s too pretty to be considered as serious art.”

When I was working on my M.F.A., the "anti-aesthetic" ruled. The art that was sanctioned by the intelligentsia was far from lovely. Matisse’s famous philosophy - that a painting should be like a comfortable armchair - was taboo. There was no going back to the luxurious color harmonies of Matisse and Monet in the French impressionist era or the lush abstractions of deKooning or Rothko in the mid-twentieth century.

Maybe it was a good thing that I turned away from painting fifteen years ago, because until a few days ago, I didn’t think it was possible to create an image on a canvas with juicy oil paints - an image with more colors that one could imagine occupying the picture plane or just one lush or screaming color in a way that it had never existed before. Finally, I didn't believe that this genre of colorful imagery could meet the high standards of the fine arts world today.

I met an artist last week whose paintings embody every goal, every dream any artist, any colorist could wish for. She is Chris Chou, a Guggenheim Fellow 2007 - and that means she is indeed taken seriously by artists and art historians internationally.

Here’s what Chris says about red “I paint the color of red. I want to push red as far as it can go.”

At this point, words fail. See what she did with red and every color of the spectrum at her website -

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Here comes trouble: Paint matching apps for the iPhone

Its' supposed to solve the dilemma of winding up with all those cans of paint in colors that are too bold, too dingy, or not quite right. Both Benjamin Moore's Ben Color Capture and Sherwin-Williams' ColorSnap applications for the iPhone work the same way: Take a picture with your iPhone, zoom in on an area of color that you want to match in paint. Click “match” and the application gives you a range of paint options just like a real paint strip from their catalogue (either Moore or Sherwin). On the plus side, it shows the color’s nearest neighbors, in both lighter and darker shades.

However, you’re still in for hours of hard work. After you buy a quart of paint (or a gallon if the color is unavailable in quart sizes) you have to try it in the room. It’s best to test the color in several areas of the room - one area in bright light and one in the shade. Look at it at night and in the daytime as well. Chances are that the color isn’t what you expected. Paint chips are very tricky, regardless of whether you selected the color in the store or with this app. So, now it’s back to the paint store with the other color options generated by the iPhone app.

It does seem to solve one problem: Color samples in the paint stores are usually affected by store lighting and always look different when they’re on a wall in your home. On the other hand, the lighting issue on the iPhone is also problematic. Too little light, and your color image ends up dull, faded, or too dark; too much, and your colors end up washed out or too pale.

Will these apps save you hours and hours of agony? Not really. They have a long way to go before they can take a very clear color-accurate picture of whatever it is that inspires you - and adjust for all the variables between a photograph and a can of paint.

It will make it easier in one way: Beginning a task is usually the biggest challenge.

I’ll make it even easier by giving my blog fans a copy of “Color Tips” - a set of pages of tips for using colors schemes and layouts for your home (from my recent publication, Color Matters for the Home). For the next two weeks, you can download it for free. Click here.