Color Studies in Chromatic Gray

Color Studies in Chromatic Gray

I'm constantly inspired by color combinations in print and textiles, but I never fully understand they work so well together.

So when I saw a book on color at my local discount book store, I snatched it up.

"Color: A Workshop for Artists and Designers" is packed with exercises that train your eye how to see and select color based on hue, value and saturation. Author David Hornung recommends making your own color samples out of gouache, so you can get familiar with the mixing process.

The first exercise was to create a collage of chromatic grays in a variety of hues and values.This involved getting the color saturation just right, and I painted page after page of muted colors before I realized I needed to go more gray.

Looking at the end result, I see that the bottom left square and the top right rectangle are virtually identical in value. I'm also not sure if the circle and the dark blue square can really be considered chromatic grays, since they're so dark. This is the problem with doing the lessons by yourself – you don't have anyone to ask.

Exercise two involved creating a similar collage of chromatic grays in a variety of hues, but in the same value. I quickly realized that I'm terrible at gauging value -- even after I printed out an 11-point gray scale and paired it against each color sample. Here's where I ended up:

Color Study

To my eye, that purple circle looks much darker than the rest of the elements. But when I scanned the collage into the computer and desaturated it, I could see that the green rectangles next to it are actually a little darker. Maybe the purple looks darker because it's more saturated?

Color Study Desaturated

I'd be happier with this collage if I had made the background a little darker. That would have decreased the value contrast and made it look more unified. Anyway. The whole thing gave me a headache but I think it was worthwhile, and I'm looking forward to tackling the rest of the exercises. Stay tuned.