Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Colors that Advance and Recede



Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Colors that Advance and Recede

On March 20, 2011, during our Color Muze segment on Artistically Speaking Talk Show, I had the opportunity to chat with hosts  Rebecca and Lyna‘s delightful guest, mixed media artist Kelli Perkins about color temperature, colors that advance and recede, and the relationship between the two.  Playing off our previous discussions of “Synesthesia“, or, “The Unity of the Senses“, the idea that colors provoke associations our senses other than sight, during this Muze, we focused on which colors seem to advance, and which to recede.  This effect is particularly salient as regards to architectural color, as it can be used to make a space feel larger,

or smaller….

For example, if we paint the walls a color that seems to advance towards us, the space itself will feel smaller.  Doing the opposite can create the opposite effect.  This technique can be used in any visual context.  Using colors that advance and recede can create movement or stillness, dynamism or placidity, agitation or peacefulness, in paintings, textiles, clothing, or anything that uses color as an element.  Artists, take this to heart.  Kelli does use color!  Warm, saturated, and often secondary (purple, green, orange) color!  She uses it intuitively and instinctively, even giving herself luminescent purple hair in a self-portrait.  Check it out, you have to see this!

But what makes a color seem to advance or recede?   And, what qualities do those colors have?

Well, for one thing, how warm or cool a color is perceived to be plays a major role.   If we consider the color wheel, we can see a warm half of the wheel,  red through yellow-green, and a cool half, green through red-violet.  In terms of our perception, warm colors seem to advance, and cool, to recede.  When we talk about color “pop”, it refers to the advancing quality of that color, making it “pop” out at us, like the brilliant orange vase in this room.

Warm to hot colors will seem to advance, making the surfaces sheathed in them seem to be closer to you, thus making a room seem smaller, cozier, and, of course, warmer.  Often, we want this, and a cavernous space may need it to feel livable.

Cool to cold colors will seem to recede, making the surfaces they sheath feel farther away from us, thus visually adding space, or volume, to a room.  This sense of space can be calming and refreshing, especially on a hot day!

By the same token, dark, saturated colors advance and make a space feel smaller, and more intimate,

while pale, light colors, with less saturation add volume by receding. offering a sense of spaciousness, and potentially, rest and relief.

And for sure…strong, bold busy pattern advances!  This intimate boudoir becomes yet more magical, fantastical and fun with the addition of this totally HOT fabric wallpaper and curtain!

Smaller, more subdued pattern also recedes.  Here the cool blue elegance of the drapes is warmed up by the detail, which brings them to the same plane as the surrounding white walls.  The walls themselves recede in lightness of color, advance  in warmth of tone, and recede  in absence of pattern!  Wow.  This advancing and receding stuff can be complex.  Almost like a math problem. But, ooh, how fun to contemplate!

An interesting discovery can be made when considering our use of language, vis-a-vis not only color, but temperature, AND the idea of advancing and receding.  Let’s listen to what we say, what we think, and how we describe relationships, or even our own emotions  and personalities.  When someone, or even our self, is being or feeling cool, or cold, we often describe that behavior as distant.  Or, visa versa, if someone seems remote, or distant, we may jump to the conclusion that they are “cold” or “cool”,  emotionally. We may even feel cold or cool ourselves, when we feel emotionally distant from another person, experience,  or something we see, or do.

Conversely, when we feel intimate and close to others, to our experience, to ourselves, to Life,  we may feel warm, or even hot (!).  How often do we say, “I feel so cool and cozy!”?  Never, I would venture to guess.  Not if we aren’t characters in a J K Rowling fantasy!  When we feel warmth towards or from another person, they feel “close” to us, and we feel close to them. .  It would be hard to feel close to someone, to our authentic selves, or to our experience, and feel cool or cold. When we say, “Person X is so warm, I feel so close to him/her.”, we are equating emotional temperature with emotional proximity, and the idea of emotional color advancing and receding within ourselves and others.

There is much to contemplate here, and this could be the subject of a whole new post.  Have you ever felt the temperature effect, either emotionally, or physically, through color?  Have you used color deliberately, to expand or contract the perceived volume of a space? Have you noticed your own telling use of language to describe either?

If you feel so inspired, please share your insights, discoveries, and experiences with us here.  We love to hear from you.

Remember, we are all, hopefully, advancing through this thing called Life, together.

Here’s wishing you both color and emotional mastery, magic and adventure.  It’s hot!

 

Kitchen Contemplation

Kitchen Contemplation

I have a relatively humble kitchen…and  I love it.  I  love my humble kitchen, because it affords me an “inter-space’, an inner space, and an interstice between the activities of work, home and play.    I love to come into my kitchen of an early morning, make a small cup of strong espresso, (and drink it from one of my Mom’s unique ceramic espresso cups) write, contemplate, write, and contemplate again, even though this initially meditative time often morphs into list making, or checking email on my phone…

If it’s lunch-time, and I’m working in my home office and studio, I may sit in my kitchen, and read articles from an ever-present selection of inspirational and educational publications.  It’s a monthly challenge to imbibe them whole, and every word, as I love to do.  As creative entrepreneur Abby Kerr would say…don’t want to miss a drop!

To enter my kitchen from the central hallway, I pass a door which has become an image patchwork of beloved young family members and their original artwork.  Every time I pass through the doorway, the possibility is there to consider, cherish and appreciate them, and send them my love and well-wishes.

A wonderfully convenient shelf offers display space for treasured wedding gifts; a beautiful Asian lacquered tray, an obscure Belgian coffee maker (from a seriously coffee-obsessed friend), and it’s more modern cousin, the French Press.  We use these for company, and special occasions.  Otherwise they remain a “shelf-scape”.

What contemplative space would be complete without a chalkboard door?  It’s the perfect place to note dreams, hopes and plans. Ours tends towards the task, to-do, gotta get it done before the future comes list, but we do celebrate each task in living color!  The chalkboard border is painted with glow in the dark paint, with a few glow in the dark stars thrown in for good measure.

It must look really beautiful and mysterious at night when all the lights are out…but we usually don’t see it then.  Maybe I can get a nocturnal shot, and use it to illustrate another post, “Kitchen Contemplation II”...

What is your favorite nook or cranny, space or place to muse, meditate, contemplate and commune?

If you have one, or more, please share it with us here.  We love to hear from you.  Remember, we are all contemplating this thing called Life, together.



Behold the Glitterati

Behold the Glitterati

All that glitters isn’t gold…or is it?  Well, it might be “schlag, or combination metal leaf, it might be 22 karat gold leaf, or it might be copper, silver, bronze or a combination of all of the above. Materials that contain or give the look of  precious metals can add instant warmth and light to a room, which can be a welcome addition at any time, but perhaps especially during this the darkest time of the year.  Use of metallic leaf, waxes, paints and glazes can be instrumental in transforming a time of darkness  into a season of light. In a space that is.  Which may just affect our state of mind, and lift our spirits.

We speak of radiance, iridescence,  incandescence and luminescence.   We crave shine, sparkle, glitter and glamor.  We love sheen and shimmer, glow and glimmer.  We are attracted to the translucent, which lets the light through, and the reflective, which bounces it back to us.  In other words, we long for light,  our source, our fuel, without which we cannot live.

So, its only natural that we should adorn our  objects, furniture, architecture and accessories with materials which play with and celebrate light, and expand our experience and enjoyment of its qualities.

So, whether it is the enhancement of  a craftperson’s  decorative detail,

a ceiling treated in tones of gold,

or the embellishment of a chair…

let us celebrate the spark of our spirits, and illuminate our state of mind with the pure enjoyment of things shiny and bright.  Let’s revel in radiance, especially during the dark time of the year.  Let’s lavish ourselves and our loved ones with light, shine and shimmer, and spread a sphere of good cheer around us wherever we go, during this Season of Light.

Who knows? It may make us whole.

What is your favorite ritual of light?  Do you have a special way of embellishing the Holidays with glow and glitter, sheen and shimmer?   If you feel so inspired, please share your unique light with us.  We love to hear from you.  Remember, we are all  in this thing called Life, together.

Happy Holidays, and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Featured Work- Soulful Journey

Featured Work: Soulful Journey

Soulful Pilates Studio recently opened its red doors  in the Haight-Ashbury / Cole Valley neighborhoods of San Francisco.  It  is  owned and operated by Veronique and Walter Thoma.  I had the privilege,  referred by beloved vendor,  Creative Paint,  to take a soulful journey with Veronique and Walter and help them select paint colors for the interior of the Studio.

The Challenge:

To create a serene, yet energizing atmosphere of warmth, support, and intimacy in a somewhat cavernous space with high ceilings, punctuated by a pole.   To create a space which is soothing and cheerful, yet energetic and alive.

Veronique knew she wanted Soulful’s color journey to start with yellow.  But how to find a yellow that would work over such a large surface area, yet not be overpowering, jaundiced, blinding, distracting, too bright, too drab, too gold, or too muddy?  We sampled a number of hues, but none were right. When the Thomas showed me a tiny color swatch they had found at a small boutique paint company,  I was able translate that vision into the 2154 strip of colors found in the Benjamin Moore Color Preview fan deck.  By using a system of colors that were inter-related, we were able to create interest, variety, and subtle accents in the large space, without the complications of choosing other hues, which could busy the space, creating distraction for the students.  A strong, vital red on the doors (points of entry and passage) and the bench (place of rest and changing shoes) animated the space, providing contrast and energy.

Soulful Door

The exterior of the front door was already painted in an earthy red, and we took that idea to the interior.  The door now functions as an accent which can energize a foggy day,  of which there are many in our fair City!

Not Ketchup and Mustard

“Ketchup and Mustard”?   No…. Benjamin Moore  Spanish Red” 1301, and “Straw”  2154-50.

Front Accent Wall Contrast

Three tones of a soft ochre-yellow warm the tall space without cluttering it.  The warmth  is delivered by Benjamin Moore  “Straw” 2154-50 on the walls, (and pole), and “Filtered Sunlight” 2154-60 on the trim. What a dream job it would be to concoct the names for these colors!

Back Accent Wall Moves it Forward

The accent wall in the back of the Studio is Benjamin Moore “York Harbor Yellow” 2154-40,  providing just that slight bump up in color saturation, which adds subtle interest but not clutter to the space, as they are in the same hue family.

Royal Compliments of Gold and Purple

The golden tones of “Straw”, “Filtered Sunlight”, and “York Harbor Yellow” are offset by the complimentary purple mat, a royal combination…

Energetic Entry

The red door, clothed in Benjamin Moore “Spanish Red” 1301,  pops, creating an energetic entry into the bathroom, which is

Soulful Bath

painted in  Benjamin Moore,”Semolina” 2155-40, on the walls, and “Cottontail”  2155-70 on the trim.  Again,  the use of two related hues, less earthy and more orange then those of the main studio space, varying in degrees of saturation and intensity and thus, value.

Colors Support the Function of the Space

Using a unified set of hues unified the unwieldy space, and made it welcoming and accessible to both the Clients, and their Clients: the students and practitioners of Pilates that would come to this studio to study, learn, and grow, taking their own soulful journeys here.  Red, with its associations with blood, fire, love, and life force is the perfect foil and energizer for the harmonious “yellow””.

Says Walter Thoma:
“The colors look better up than we imagined….the darker…color on the two walls looks really good”

Sometimes, what color can do for a space can come as a (happy) surprise!  The results may be…Soulful!