After my last post, of course I got back to work. I still feel I'm avoiding something - dyeing is very much in my comfort zone - but work is work.
The main activity has been dyeing colour families based on the complementary pairs I developed in June's colour study. There are different systems for doing this - the one I use is based on Leslie Morgan's - we share a fascination with this kind of study. The basic principle is that you dye three (or more) strengths of one colour and then over-dye the results with three (or more) strengths of a second, distributing the different values from the first round between the vats for the second. The outcome is twelve different values and hues out of three dye vats. This is the system I use for shibori-dyeing. It means I get a palette of shibori-dyed cloth in different colours that are all related to each other.
My colour studies are not usually about producing exact recipes for individual colours. They are more about finding sets of colour relationships. Because that is how I think about colour - no colour occurs in isolation, it has a "family" of related colours and it will look different depending on the colours you see it with. Often when I see a colour I like, it is as much about the context - the background or associated colours that set it off.
If I use a photograph or an image as a design source for a colour scheme, I don't necessarily try to match the individual colours in it. I will do some colour mixing and compare the colours in the image to the swatches in my dye book but what I'm looking for is the family (or families) of colours that will create a similar effect. There was a period when most of my work was based on the colours of a favourite painting by John Piper and for several months I worked predominantly with the family of colours I could generate from just two - Royal Blue and a rust orange that I mixed myself - extended with some Black and Dark Brown.
So the point of this latest colour study was to test the potential of the pairs of complementaries I had found in the last to produce interesting neutrals and semi-neutrals. I started with the warm primaries (Scarlet / Golden Yellow / Royal Blue), which had demonstrated the greatest potential for producing brown. Then for the sake of comparison, I moved on to the cold primaries (Magenta / Lemon Yellow / Turquoise), not expecting them to produce many neutrals, but was pleasantly surprised by the range of cool greys and blues that did result. The combined results are pinned to my studio wall in the photo at the top of this post. I love how each family has its own personality colour-wise. In the second row are six versions of the same family, as I experimented with the effect of changing the relative strength of the primaries.
When you arrange the results in a grid, the neutrals (if there are any) are almost always along the diagonal - where the "parent colours" are equal in strength and cancel each other out. Either side of that diagonal are subtle semi-neutrals - colours that are definitely blue or green or red rather than neutral, but muted, softer versions of the pure hues. If one of the "parent" colours is stronger than the other, sometimes the neutrals are shifted to a different diagonal, nearer to the weaker "parent".
I extracted the neutrals and semi-neutrals and arranged them into palettes as above. This was when I could really see and appreciate these subtle colour combinations. This is what I would be likely to work from in future. In principle I could reproduce individual shades, but in practice I'm more likely to use them as a basis for decisions on which combination, strength and ratio of dyes to use and tweak the results according to what I need.
As is the way, doing this prompted some small eureka moments and further ideas to explore. So, while I thought this would be the last major colour exercise for this year, I have an idea for a third ...