A Colourful Journey Through Time

color Color me beautiful color theory colour colour theory colour theory workbook complementary geothe and schiller geothe theory of colour hex codes isaac newton opticks Lizanne's fabric store Monochromatic pantone color of the year Picasso Blue Phase Picasso’s The Old Guitarist primary Primary colour Palette

What's your Favourite Colour?

This is probably the most popular conversation starter of all time, at least for kids. Think about your favourite colours throughout your life. Has it always stayed the same or has it like you, evolved over time to richer or more sublime palettes? Keep it in mind as you explore colour in our world. 

What Season Are You?

Remember that question from the 1980s? This inquiry was the opening call to a Fashion Trend of learning what colours suited your complexion and hair colour so that you could curate your wardrobe into the most flattering attire possible. That company was called Color Me Beautiful. It had stood the test of time and is still around today!

colour me beautiful   

It was everywhere at a time before social media and online quizzes.  In my recollection, I was first exposed to it at Lizanne’s Fabric Store, either as In-Person Sales or on a merchandising rack.  It made sense to me at the time, since you were there to buy fabric to make a flattering outfit. In my zest to explore different patterns without any real training, I made a lot of items intended for day wear that ended up as pyjamas.

 At some point I did that quiz. I was an “Autumn”; from what I recall that meant I could wear Jewel Tones, Black and Navy Blue and Earthy Colours but not Pale Colours. I still wear jewel tones, navy and black. In fact, I like to set up my closet in colour blocks within those palettes.  Luckily, I was able to save time this Autumn, since I didn’t put away my winter wardrobe in March as is my habit, and all the clothes is still hanging organized in that way. I am not addressing the pile of summer clothes on my closet floor just yet.

Historical Connections

The earliest theories about colour were created by Isaac Newton of “gravity” fame. In 1704, he presented Opticks, where he demonstrated that colourless white light is split up into segmented colours when directed through a prism.  It is the same as a rainbow seen when sunlight shines through the prism of rain showers.

Isaac Newton prism light opticks

Then, onto the scene comes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with his Theory of Colours – his focus was on the phenomena of perceived colour. I particularly like his colour wheel with associated symbolic qualities: beauty (red), noble (orange), good (yellow), useful (green), mean or common (blue), and unnecessary (purple). And even more fetching is his Rose of Temperaments Colour Wheel created along with poet Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. In this, they started the first personality test before it was in vogue. They group the 12 colours into 4 temperaments: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic. Sounds sickly but they are not. Look at the second wheel below - although written in German you can still see the colours within each theme. 
goethe theory of colour
goethe and schiller rose of temperament


They also go further to apply occupations or character traits to each colour. Try to guess which colour relates to each of these descriptions within each theme: Choleric -tyrants, heroes, adventurers; Sanguine - hedonists, lovers, poets; Phlegmatic - public speakers, historians, teachers; Melancholic - philosophers, pedants, and rulers). 

Here's a hint Choleric is (red/orange/yellow); Sanguine (yellow/green/cyan); Phlegmatic (cyan/blue/violet) and Melancholic (violet/magenta/red).

According to these learned men, if I want to be good and useful, then I am yellow and green but since blue is my favourite colour, I am common and mean.  I choose to ignore that one but will take the Phlegmatic teacher approach for my love of blue.   

Emotional Impact of Colour in Media

Colour creates moods and settings in its absence and presence. Think of Schindler’s List. Who can forget the girl in the red coat?  Entire television seasons are shot with colour in mind. Remember Cold Case? It always had a blue tone. The movie, The Devil Wears Prada made viewers aware of Cerulean Blue. The marketing world is also colour conscious. Did you know that yellow and orange make us feel hungry? Red makes us passionate! Which fast food giants have made up passionately hungry? Did you know that orange makes you feel like you are getting good value for your money? Which home improvement store makes you think this?   

The Most Famous Primary Colours in Fashion

Louboutin RED is the colour of luxury footwear. The soles of stiletto heals was inspired by shiny red nail polish.  

By Arroser - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16729898

By Arroser - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16729898


Imperial YELLOW painted a broad stroke in contemporary culture when Chinese fashion designer Gua Pei outfitted Rihanna in that stunning yellow gown at the Met Gala. 


Lukas Jackson/Reuters


Tiffany BLUE is the colour of luxury jewellery. The colour branded in 1845 by Tiffany himself, represents the tiny blue box with big expectations.  


Some of The Most Famous Primary Colours in Art

Looking at the history of art is a great way to learn about colour. It's like getting the Coles Notes before a quiz. Artists such as Matisse, Van Gogh and Picasso all explored colour not just in terms of which ones look good together but what the colour meant to themselves. Through them we can see what works and with a little Colour Theory knowledge can know why. I've selected one painting from each of their collections to express each of the three primary colours. Look to Monet to see harmonious analogous colours or Cezanne for dynamic complementary pairings. 


The Dessert: Harmony in Red, Henri Matisse  
Wikipedia; Location Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
What other primary colours are grouped here? 



Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh  
(Bibi Saint-Pol / Public domain)

Can you name any of the yellow hues utilized by Van Gogh Use here?



The Old Guitarist, Pablo Picasso
Wikipedia, Location Art Institute of Chicago 

Can you identify the colour scheme used here? Hint: it used one colour with tints (whites) and shades (black). 


Beyond the Naming of Colours - PANTONE 

If you read last week's blog post, you will recall that the 12 colours around the Colour Wheel have specific names but the healthy human eye can see about a million colours. We do not have a name for each of those million colours. Luckily, we have PANTONE, it is the industry standard colour guide. They standardized the language of colour as a code and it is understood worldwide for hard copy printing like posters and fabrics.  In digital and web design, a similar type of naming is used.  A HEX code stands for Hexadecimal colour.  Fashion and Home Décor follow colour trends that are planned a year or more in advance in order to plan production of clothing and goods. Designers look at the Pantone Colour of the Year to plan out their seasonal lines.  This year is PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue. I love blue, it's my favourite colour. Why did such a great colour get such a challenging year?

Patone classic blue


To make the coming months a little more calming for others, I am creating Art & Craft activities to still your mind and engage your hands in something productive to offset the news cycle, and binge watching. I have created a Colour Theory Workbook and have used it in some form or another, in all my intro to art and craft courses. Students keep it as a quick reference throughout their creative journey. 

Once you know how and why colours go together, and why they might not, you will be able to make beautiful things. 

The following videos will help you to make your own Colour Theory notes using coloured pencils or you can join subscribe to my newsletter and will get immediate access to your own fillable PDF Colour Theory Workbook. Each Video corresponds to the respective page in the Workbook. 

Colour Theory Workbook Page 1

Colour Theory Workbook Page 2

Colour Theory Workbook Page 3

Please join me on my creative journey on www.Instagram.com/jaccquieblondin where I post images and videos my processes in craft and ceramics.



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