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Color Theory

By: Janet Mariadoss

Nested Knowledge – Week 2 Workshop

This workshop consisted of creating six different color schemes to connect with six words or phrases from our discussion about identity and community. The first word I wrote down was community. Our discussions revolved around the concept of a community and how individuals fit into different communities throughout their lives. When we shared our family portraits with each other, I noticed that our own personal communities are comprised of people we’ve met at various points of our lives. These people may not even know each other and yet together they make up our personal communities and support systems. I chose a monochromatic color palette to represent this word because I believe that communities are composed of individuals with commonalities. There is typically a common thread that ties people together such as a religion, ethnicity, or a hobby. I made the shapes different saturations of the same purple hue to represent the differences that exist within a community. As we discussed through our family portraits, individuals within a community can carry different characteristics and traits with them as well. People may bring various skills or past adversities with them to the table in a community. This ultimately makes some communities incredibly diverse but tied together with a common thread or goal in mind.

The next word I illustrated through a color palette was trust. Trust is important in building strong communities and relationships. A concept that has always interested me about trust is how it can take years to build up and seconds to break down. This duality of the nature of trust can be symbolized through a complementary color scheme. The blue and orange hues I chose are on opposite sides of the color wheel which creates a vibrant look. I chose shades of blue and orange with high saturations to further add to the vibrance of the palette. I tend to find such color palettes jarring and uncomfortable to look at since these colors are rarely seen next to each other. The uncomfortableness invoked by the blue and orange rectangles reminds me of trust when navigating complex relationships. In our discussion, we shared stories about individuals who we have a lot of trust in. On the other side of things, the discussion about Doreen Garner’s sculptures and the medical experimentation on black bodies demonstrated the lack of trust that certain individuals have in the medical system. Doreen Garner’s artwork beautifully illustrates how history’s unfair treatment of black bodies is carried on in modern day through the concept of trauma. Trust needs to be rebuilt through careful work by the scientific community.

Next I created a split-complementary color palette to represent the phrase “confronting the past.” A split-complementary color palette consists of a base color and two colors adjacent to its complement. In my palette, I chose yellow as a base color and blue-violet and violet-red and the two complementary colors. Similar to the complementary color palette, there is an element of vibrance and tension between the colors. This palette was also jarring for me to look at because it did not make sense for the cooler, violet colors to be placed in a yellow background. This concoction represents confronting the past because I view the yellow as a bright future ahead of us. The cooler and darker colors represent elements of the past that are making their way into our present. As we discussed in week 1, our identities are made up of layered experiences. I wanted to show how it is crucial to acknowledge these parts of us by creating a stark contrast between the shapes I drew with the yellow background. If the shapes had been violet, I would have created a complementary color scheme. The contrast is less stark because instead I chose the two colors adjacent to violet. To me, this also symbolizes how past experiences aren’t always at total odds with our present selves. They inform our present identity and have more of an influence on our decisions than we may think.

I used a triadic color scheme to represent personal identity. As we shared parts about our communities, we also shared how our communities had an impact on our personal identity for better or worse. Personal identity is fluid and constantly changing throughout our lives especially in adolescents. When I think of personal identity, I also think of our sun, moon, and rising signs in astrology. Astrology and zodiac signs is one way of categorizing our personalities, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or Enneagram tests. While I don’t look into astrology heavily, I think it’s a fun way to categorize ourselves and see how fit into certain boxes. Your sun sign represents your core self, your moon sign represents your inner self, and your rising sign represents how you present yourself to others. Triadic color schemes consist of three colors that are even spaced around the color wheel and I chose red, yellow, and blue. I always found it intriguing how some people like to separate an identity into three personas. The triadic color scheme was the ideal choice for this concept.

I decided to connect the tetradic color scheme with the idea of family. This color palette is probably the least appealing out of all because the colors have a dark value. When choosing the colors, I kept the same value but only changed the hue. For a tetradic color scheme, I chose a complementary pair of red and green as well as a complementary pair of blue and orange. I noticed how the warm colors (red and orange) are juxtaposed with the cool colors (blue and green). The green background reminds me of growth and vitality which I often connect to the idea of a family. I could have taken the approach of using vibrant and bright colors for family but I liked that darker colors convey a stronger yet more ambiguous mood. Drawing our family portraits with Dr. Gadsden reminded me of how families and communities are often seen as established and strong. They can also be conceptualized through uncertainty and conflict. The complementary colors in my color scheme show this uncertainty but the pairs of warm and cool colors show harmony. Family is complex and all of these things together in my mind.

The last color scheme is an analogous color scheme for the word relationship. Analogous color schemes use colors next to each other on the color wheel to create a cohesive and harmonious design. I find that violet, red-violet, and red are the colors that come to mind when I think of a relationship. I wanted to use an analogous color scheme to convey how strong relationships are meant to be harmonious and pleasing. Each color accents the other colors in the palette which symbolizes how two people in a relationship should support each other and bring out the best in each other. Throughout the discussion with my peers, it was evident that even the bad relationships we have experienced made us stronger people today. Thus, while harmony is present in an analogous color scheme, there is also conflict shown through the different colors. For instance, the red in my color palette feels out of place amongst the violets. The colors do not fit in with each other perfectly, and not every relationship will feel perfect either.

In all of the color schemes, there is at least some tension present through the chosen colors or shapes. This made color theory an eye-opening avenue through which to illustrate the intricate concepts we each brought up in week two’s workshop. I am now more able to appreciate how color theory can be understood as an art and a science. Understanding how color theory influences perceptions and evokes strong emotions in the audience helps me as an artist manipulate designs and aesthetics to better communicate my messages.

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