Thursday, November 18, 2010

Colour theory and me

 Jubilant spring flowers
Watercolour on watercolour paper
24  x 36 inches
© Barbara Muir (date unknown)

Looking back I feel so much empathy for the poor teacher
who had the job of teaching colour theory to
students who thought you picked up great colour
combinations by magic, not by trial and error.  I can see
him perfectly in my mind's eye, but don't remember
his name.  He was painfully thin, with thinning brown
hair, deeply tanned skin, and wire-rimmed glasses.
A tall man I sometimes saw him walking in the streets
near the school, in a long, loose black coat,
and a black beret.  He was French from France and
I felt sorry for him living in a town so void of French
language and culture.  I thought he would have been
much happier teaching in Ottawa, Montreal or
Quebec where French is spoken everywhere.  But the thing
I forgot to include writing this late last night was that
our sweet, kind teacher never wore colour.  I think he
flashed into my memory because one of my students
complained to me yesterday that I always wear black
in her class.  It's true that my uniform over time has
become a white shirt, black sweater, black pants,
black boots.  It never occurred to me before that I might
have picked up my colourless fashion tips from
my former colour theory prof.  Merci Monsieur.

 Colour study #6
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
© Barbara Muir (date unknown)

I was sixteen when I studied colour theory, and it seemed
too much like charts to me.  I found the wheel
easier to absorb, than a colour chart, but I was
definitely not interested in the subject.  Still there
was something so understanding about the teacher that I
tried against my better judgement to please him
with badly executed abstract, hard edged paintings
(assignments) that played with colour theory.

Tonight I'm showing you a watercolour from my
selling watercolour while managing my young son
stage, and a very early abstract work done in my
colour theory studies phase.  It's hanging proudly
in my mother's house, but my photo does not do
it justice, because it is in fact all perfectly straight
rectangles.  The painting is supposed to explore the
movement from cold to warm colour and it does do

Have an enjoying-exciting-theories-day.


Sheila Vaughan said...

Yes you are right , it does do that. It's also a very pleasing painting. I was just reading an interview of Rachel Howard by Damien Hirst (both British artists) and Rachel said "I would love it if I didn’t have to work with colour. To me colour is an absolute hindrance because it goes back to that cheating thing. You can cheat with colour and you can play games with it, and in my work if I didn’t have colour it would be so fantastic." Of course then I wanted to see a resume of Rachel's work but when I went to her website it was not easy to get at (in fact I failed to do so). Anyway, point is, black and white simplifies things but , but....

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Sheila,

Ultimately for me colour and light are all. I paint because something hits my eye, and I don't see in black and white. That doesn't mean that I know what I'm doing all the time, but I also love the search for my solution. (Okay sometimes that's daunting, but most of the time there's the pleasure of one small aha after another). If colour is cheating (this seemed to be a European point of view) then I am a cheater. Bring it on I say. In New York last year colour was noble, and I found the same to be true in England a few years back.

Love your work so much.


Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!