Paula Bailey

February 4, 2011

Yellow Fever

It seems that everyone’s moaning about the winter at the moment.  The problem is, I think, that they started moaning about it in December when we were just getting over Autumn.  No wonder everyone’s so fed up.

So I thought I’d put out a cheerful and encouraging post today.  Spring is on its way! Yes I’ve seen the signs – little flowers are starting to pop their heads through the hard soil and buds and catkins are appearing on trees.

Yellow is a colour that is prevalent throughout the spring, summer and even autumn, and yet it is perhaps most closely associated with the onset of spring.  It may be because of the “host of golden daffodils” that appear in our woodlands, parks and gardens, and even on the high street outside florists, greengrocers and petrol stations.

Yellow is seen as a positive colour.  To me it lacks the warmth of orange, but it certainly does brighten things up.  On the other hand it can be a warning. We use it on our signs to bark instructions, warn of danger and send out signals at a distance. In nature it can mean poison, particularly when teamed with black.

Traditionally its ‘opposite’ (on the colour wheel) is purple or violet, but this pairing often jars the senses.  The orange/blue pairing works well, but yellow/purple and the red/green do not seem to share that harmonious relationship.  However yellow is complimented well by blue, as can be seen in the centre image of the yellow flower against a blue sky.  It’s all about light rather than colour wheels.

Yellow has a broad range of ‘types’ as with all the colours I’ve discussed so far.  It can veer towards orange or to green in hue. It can be a subdued ‘mustard’ yellow (supposedly the fashion colour this season) or scream at us with fluorescent versions.

Whichever way you perceive it, you really can’t miss it and I hope you find the collection below cheerful. Spring’s not far away.

Yellow Fever

I have curated a Flickr gallery to accompany this post.

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November 19, 2010

Oranges Poranges

I find orange a wonderfully warm and joyful colour.  I love red, but that sometimes can be a little cool or harsh.  Yellow is fabulously uplifting but for me it is a definite spring/summer colour and I am definitely not a spring/summer person.

Orange is rust and the beauty of fire; it is the colour of thousands of vibrant flowers; it is my favourite late afternoon autumn sunlight on a warm terracotta wall.  With its counterpart, blue, it really pops as part of the most successful pairing of complementary colours.

As mentioned in previous musings about colour, orange is no stranger to disagreement.  Is it yellow? Red? Brown?  That might depend on your mood or your outlook.  For some it is school dinner carrots, for others it’s golden syrup pudding.  I know which I prefer.

Native Americans associate orange with kinship and it is the preferred hue for Hindu swamis and Buddhist monks.  It has associations with Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving (is this because of the colour of pumpkins?), and is often regarded as a positive and optimistic colour.  There are some who would say it is merely the part of the spectrum that exists between 585 and 620 nanometres. #FFA500 to them!

Orange is also the favourite colour of fellow photographer and Flickr friend Jennifer König.  She is moving house and that’s why I’ve chosen orange today.  And if you’re wondering about the title, you may be too young to remember H R Pufnstuf!

I’ll let Wassily Kandinsky have the final word:

Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.

Orange

I have curated a Flickr gallery to accompany this post.

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October 2, 2010

Photographer’s Blues

I’m working on a new blog post but in the meantime I thought I’d share another colour collection with you.

Several years ago, when I was still using film exclusively and before I’d even heard of Flickr (can you imagine a world without Flickr now?) I started to photograph things that were blue.  It was the beginning of a new relationship with the colour for me.  I never really liked blue.  It was my grandmother’s favourite colour (we lived with my grandparents) and there was a lot of it around the house.  It was her colour.   Not mine.  I never wore it, never chose it for furnishings, never sought it out.  This wasn’t a deliberate shunning of blue, but it just wasn’t ‘me’.

In some ways, my ‘blue’ project was all the more interesting for that reason.  It was brand new to me and I collected it fervently.  For a couple of months it became a bit of an obsession – I saw it everywhere.

Proper cobalt blue is described as a ‘cool’ blue and technically it is.  However, as is the case with all colour perception, we are rarely (as observers) all that ‘technical’ about it, and my collection below inevitably shows some ‘warmer’ (towards purple) variations on the theme.  As designers or printers, of course, we need to be more discerning in our descriptions, but we’re not going to get bogged down with that here.

It seems a little clinical on school books and ‘important’ signs, but jollies up dull things like doors and machines.

This blue is now my blue. How do you perceive it?

Cobalt Blue

Some images from my blue collection. One of these was taken on film - when it all began.

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September 6, 2010

Arsenic Green

‘Arsenic Green’ is not an easy colour to describe but for many years it was the very green which, according to John Lloyd and the late Douglas Adams was “supposed to make you feel comfortable in hospitals, industrious in schools and uneasy in police stations” (from The Meaning of Liff, 1983).  I’m not entirely sure it is even called arsenic green – but that is what I call it (and so do a company called Farrow & Ball it seems – actually check out their paint colour names, they have one called Dead Salmon too).

Pantone call it 557 U.

Many years ago, copper acetoarsenite was used to colour things green.  The resulting greens were variously called emerald green, Paris green or Scheele’s green (which is, in turn, also known as copper arsenite).  It was used to colour many things including wallpaper, clothing, paints, even children’s toys and as a face makeup to reduce redness. Of course it was very poisonous.  People died and often in quite alarming ways, frequently in green rooms, and usually by inhaling the toxic fumes that were emitted, particularly in damp conditions.  It has even been suggested that this green pigment was the cause of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte.

And we were worried about lead in paint?

For me, this colour (or more correctly range of colours) sums up dusty old school rooms and sensible books, soft furnishing materials and old biscuit tins at my grandmother’s house, and the thick layers of green paint peeling off my grandfather’s old zinc shed, showing the faded versions of the same colour below.  It’s a definite nostalgia colour – not only for my own childhood, but also for the earlier childhoods I read about in my story books. Faded summers.

In design work I would use it to convey a ‘classic’ feel, particularly in book cover design.

What does it mean to you?

Arsenic Green

I’ve curated a Flickr Gallery to accompany this post.

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June 13, 2010

Turquoise is all in the mind

Business Card

Is this turqouise?

My sister-in-law recently asked me to make her a business card.  I asked her what she would like and she replied “simple butterfly, turquoise shades”.  So I started to look at ways of designing her card.

After a while, and when I was ready to send some ideas to her, it occurred to me that what I thought of as turquoise might not be what she thought of as turquoise.

How many times have you discussed the colour of something, only to have one person state that a thing is blue, and another to argue that it is green?  Does that make it turquoise by default?  It seems not.

Turquoise is a recognised colour related to the turquoise mineral, Pantone has declared the colour of 2010 to be 15-5519 Turquoise, and yet I have heard people declare that colours as blue as cobalt are turquoise.  So do we wrongly call something turquoise because we cannot decide if it is blue or green?  We may never know.  As my friend and fellow designer Naomi Finn has discovered through her recent research into colour, visual perception is very personal.

We will all have to agree to differ from time to time.  Oh, and my sister-in-law loved the card design.

Turquoise is all in the mind

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