An Introduction to Colour

piet mondrian, composition with yellow patch, 1930

In the painting by Mondrian above, do you find that your the eye is drawn to the yellow square? This is one of the effects that color has for us: to highlight and attract our attention. Although this is true, Everyone’s perception and reception of colour is different and is based on a range of things from our culture, our memory, the context in which we view things.

task 1

You will need: Magazines or newspapers, glue, paper

take the magazine photos and cut or rip them up. Divide the pieces into piles of particular colours. Rip these pieces further into approximately 1cm square pieces. Use these pieces to make a color mosaic. You could create a pictorial scene, a portrait or maybe an abstract pattern. Be inventive with the pieces to make them fit together to create something new.

Beck Map 1933.jpg

Colour can be used symbolically, to distinguish and identify. A perfect example is Harry Becks’ Underground map. Colour helps to organize and differentiate the complex mix of lines and stations.

pacific, Yukinori Yanagi, 1996

(Digital photograph: Photo © Tate)

Flags and the colours that make them up were the raw materials of Yukinori Yanagi’s work Pacific, which takes the flags of the pacific rim and turns them into coloured sand containers. Ants were allowed to burrow in through the installation

task 2

You will need: pencils, paper

Choose a flag. It can be a flag chosen at random or one that has certain personal connections for you, a national or regional flag, the escutcheon shipping flags, the rainbow flag. produce a composition approximately A4 size that informs someone of your chosen flag. But only use pencil, keep the composition black and white. How will you communicate the chosen colours of your flag?

task 3

You will need: pencils, paper, paints, coloured pencils, coloured items of at least 3 colours

Pick an object or group of objects that have at least three colours in them. Items of clothing draped over a chair would be ideal. If you have paints or crayons render the scene matching the colors as closely as you can. If you only have pencil, match the tonal ranges in the chosen still life.

homage to the square, 1958
(© 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London)

Josef Albers studied the way colors interacted, he produced a number of compositions that revealed how our perceptions of colors are very much related to their context.

task 4

You will need: pencils, paper, paints, coloured pencils, coloured item of one colour, coloured fabric or clothing

Pick an object of a single colour. place the item on top of you first item of clothing/coloured fabric. Try to draw the item matching the colors you see. Now place the item on top of the second item of clothing/coloured fabric. Again try to match the colours. You may find the colors you match the colours because they interact in different ways.