Sunday, June 8, 2014

Color Palettes within Famous Portraits from the History of Art

Girl with the Red Hat, Johannes Vermeer, Dutch
c. 1665-1666, Oil on panel, 9 1/8 x 7 1/8"
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
(Image courtesy of



Vermeer was a Dutch painter with only 34 works that survive and/or are attributed to him.  All of his paintings, no matter how large or small (this is one the smallest of his portraits), in addition to having a quality about them that is quite difficult to describe well, also have an attention to color that is quite extraordinary.

In this painting, red, white, and blue are the three main colors with gold and green providing the color for the background.  Obtaining paint in the 17th century wasn't as easy as it is today. There was a limited range of colors available and painters had to prepare the paint themselves after purchasing pigments - usually from an apothecary. Ultramarine was a rare color, made from crushed lapis lazuli, thus very expensive but Vermeer used this color often in his work. Vermeer was a skilled master at mixing colors to achieve a harmony of values and shades in each painting. We can assume he understood Leonardo da Vinci's ideas about color, the most notable being the idea that objects will take on color/values of adjacent objects. Just like painters from the 1300s (Trecento) in Italy, Vermeer used green to depict skin tones. In addition, he used transparent glazes to finish a painting.
The main colors he used were:

1) Ultramarine 
2) Green Earth
3) Vermillion
4) Red Lake
5) Yellow Earth
6) Charcoal Black
7) Lead White
For a wonderful and detailed disucssion of Vermeer's use of color click the link below to read more on the National Gallery of Art, London's site:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Newly discovered book on COLOR

The book was called the Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, and it was written in 1692 by a man who identifies himself in the book only as “A. Boogert.”

"It was, in essence, a hand-written textbook on the creation of different colors using water, and meant to be studied by any and all painters and artists who would be fortunate enough to actually get their hands on it."

Other writers have compared it to its contemporary equivalent, the Pantone Color Guide, which was published for the first time in 1963 (and with less than stellar color reproductions compared to today's standards).

I am assuming since it has been out of circulation for over 300 years, the colors still seem vibrant. It is currently located in Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France, which is of course, where Vincent van Gogh lived for a while (so obviously I need to plan a trip there).

(Original article found on Colossal - Colossal Site)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chupan Chapai - a visually intense and colorful short film

Chupan Chupai is a short film installation that combines environment design and cinema in an exhibition format. The project was developed for the ‘Future Perfect’ exhibition as part of the 2013 Architecture Triennale in Lisbon, Portugal and was presented by DAZED as part of the Visionaries series. 

In a near future heavily influenced by the imminent boom of the Indian subcontinent, an emerging technology and economic superpower a new digital city has developed. The film follows a group of young children as they play a game of hide and seek (Chupan Chupai) in the bustling streets of this smart city. Through their play the children discover how to hack the city, opening up a cavernous network of hidden and forgotten spaces, behind the scenes of everyday streets.

The project was shot on location in India and uses a mixture of animation and visual effects to embellish the design of the city and locations that are pictured.

Based on a short story by Tim Maly
Produced by Liam Young
View the film by clicking the link below - Vimeo 
(all the information above is from the filmmakers description)
My observations are below:

Visually stimulating. Intense color from the first opening sequence - red, yellow, pink, green, blue. Joy. Imagination. Playfulness.  

The color acknowledges and isolates each child running through this city. It individualizes them while at the same time making them part of this group of children. One of my favorite frames occurs when the girl in the fuchsia scarf attempts to blend in with the wall behind her (at 2:25), or when the girl in the yellow scarf and the boy with the violet scarf stand together on the stairs and look out onto the city. Yellow and purple are complimentary colors and create a harmonious pairing visually. These colors help to create a sense of stability and peace within the frame. They reinforce each other and all the colors seem to do in this short beautiful film.

(UPDATE:  Click the link below to see the blog post by mathzara on the film)
Chupan Chupai: A Study in Environmental Design

Film still @ 3:24
Color wheel showing complimentary colors opposite each other (yellow/violet)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter White

One year I had a client who asked me to "...just paint her walls white". Hmmmm. I showed her one brochure I had which had 3 pages of samples of "white". She looked stumped. I ended up choosing a white for her that had some warmth to it based on the colors of her furniture and decor but it was the first time I had understood the complexity of the problem of "white". 

Below is a quick search for "white" on the Sherwin Williams site.  I got 9 pages of results.
I realize for many people the subtlety of all the varying shades of "white" is so nit-picky and subtle that just picking any will suffice. But I do think it is important to choose a white that works well with your interior space.  If you have a lot of cool tones and metal in your home, then a cooler white will be best. If you have warmer tones, then a warmer white (Dover White by SW or Linen White by Benjamin Moore for example) will work well.  

(above: Benjamin Moore White Dove)

Below are some links to sites that might help with your "white" paint dilemmas.

In terms of fashion, you do read about "winter white" in terms of clothing - "summer whites" being clearly different than "winter whites". These examples about have a yellowish, warm hue which is definitely different than a cooler, bluer summer white (see below).

Friday, January 3, 2014

Biblical blue dye discovered

Researchers have discovered a blue dye described in the Bible. It was found on a piece of wool cloth which is thought to be almost 2,000 years old. It was discovered in a cave in the West Bank. The caves are the same caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Blue and purple were considered the most precious of dyes, this one made from snails. I have included a link below for more information. 

Elusive biblical blue dye found

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Great hotels with color and art

 This hotel, The Ring, in Vienna, Austria is so vibrant and colorful. This is a shot of their restaurant. Most of the examples in this article in CN Traveler look wonderfully eclectic and interesting. Here is the link to their site The Ring Hotel Vienna.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pantone Color Projects

Check out these fun Pantone-themed color projects (you have to be a little Pantone obsessed to make these I think) but they certainly are fun!

I have added a little info about Pantone here (from Wikipedia):

Pantone Inc. is a corporation headquartered in Carlstadt, New Jersey. The company is best known for its Pantone Matching System (PMS), a proprietary color space used in a variety of industries, primarily printing, though sometimes in the manufacture of colored paint, fabric, and plastics.
The company's primary products include the Pantone Guides, which consist of a large number of small (approximately 6×2 inches or 15×5 cm) thin cardboard sheets, printed on one side with a series of related color swatches and then bound into a small "fan deck".

The idea behind the PMS is to allow designers to "color match" specific colors when a design enters production stage, regardless of the equipment used to produce the color. This system has been widely adopted by graphic designers and reproduction and printing houses. 

and here is a link to Pantone's web site  - Pantone

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Color in India

Panorma of Jodhpur (from:


photo by izzet keribar   

Looking for some images today of aerial views of cities, I came across the top photo of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India.  Stunned to say the least, a city in blue, it propelled me to look into this interesting city and its choice of blue exteriors.

Here is some information about the city

Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan in India and is also known as the blue city because the color gives an indigo aura to it with blue colored houses surrounding the Mehrangarh Fort. Also known as the Sun City due to its perennial sunny weather, it receives sparse rainfall and is located in the Thar Desert. Jodhpur is a famous tourist attraction and offers myriad places of interest that have significant historical importance. It is also famous for its well preserved forts that are adorned with exquisite intricate carvings and pieces of art. The city is teeming with bazaars and crowded with tourists and is comparatively more populated than other cities in Rajasthan.

Some ideas for why the buildings are painted blue:

The district of Jodhpur that is painted light blue is generally where the highest cast of Hindus live. This high cast is referred to as "Brahmins" and traditionally were priests and town leaders. The color blue in India is commonly associated with royalty and power . One motivation for the blue painting of Jodhpur is that the higher cast Brahmins wished their dwellings to be of the Royal color and this is the commonly accepted reason.

The residents of Jodhpur are extremely proud of the city's blue color. When pushed for an answer as to why the city is blue they usually respond by saying it keeps the buildings cool during the punishing summer. This answer usually puzzles visitors who fail to understand why Rajasthan's other great cities are not also painted blue. 

The true reason for Jodhpur's blue color is more practical motivated than artistic reasoning. The dry arid environment of which Jodhpur is located is blighted by termites. The small insects damaged and destroyed the traditional building techniques which involved the exterior being coated in lime wash. It was discovered that the termites were repelled by copper salt compounds and these were added in low concentrations to the lime washes. Copper solutions under certain conditions produce blue compounds and this was true of the materials applied to the exterior of Jodhpur's houses.
The Brahmin class could afford the copper sulphate lime washes and applied it to their houses which were concentrated in just one area of the city. It is therefore commonly thought that the Brahmins painted their houses the blue color to emphasize their royal connection when in actual fact they were the ones only able to afford the specialist exterior paint. The blue of Jodhpur is best viewed from Meherangarh Fort where an entire side of the city is painted in this one uniform blue color.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hemp yarn

I always seem to gravitate towards displays where items in color are displayed in various ways. Here, the yarn is displayed in a case where you absolutely have to notice the rainbow effect. Does it make me want to buy them?  Yes.  Did I? No. But I thought about it and instead took a photograph.  

Lovely batch of pastels

Once again, I was drawn to the section of bold colors in Blick Art Supplies on Bond Street in Manhattan. I wanted to buy each and every one of these pastels but opted for photographing them instead.