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The Magic of Colours

In the last post, I shared murphy’s law in printmaking. Today, I share the process to arrive at the correct colour.

Colours? You mean red, blue, yellow and stuff? How hard can it be?

Fifteenth of Ninety-Nine Views of Polluta: Chasing after Light. woodcut (Oil-based ink on Cloud-dragon handmade rice paper) image size: 18 x 23.5 inches / 45×60 cm. 2019.

There are entire university courses (3-6 months) dedicated to colour theory. Last year, I found myself stammering when my students asked me about colours?

What did I do?

OF COURSE I cleaned out all relevant university library materials and read everything from front to back. It took me 3-6 months to go through all the materials. It was well worth the time.

First of Ninety-Nine Views of Polluta: Pagoda Five, woodcut (Oil-based ink on Cloud-dragon handmade rice paper) image size: 18 x 23.5 inches / 45×60 cm. 2018

Here are two of my favoruite titles:

✵✶✺The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair✵✶✺

My absolute favourite. In fact, there are a few books that I buy AFTER I finish reading the library copy. This is one of them. It's a book on all the fun historical stories on colours. How expensive can purple be? Has pink always been a girlie colour? Who in their right mind would use mummies to make paint? What paint is more expensive than a trip across Italy? Take a guess in the comment below!

It was this book that sheds light on why I despise brown with my bodily passion. I find myself excitedly reading passage after passage to my students. I also bought a second gift copy for a fellow artist friend who always feeds me books. He loved it too.

If you love finding out curious little random facts and leading the most fascinating and charismatic dinner party conversations, this is your book.

✵✶✺Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors by Betty Edwards✵✶✺

This book is an amazing practical guide for artists on how colours work. It is essentially her decades of university teaching experiences condensed into 200 odd pages. From her years of experience, she has distilled a system to teach artists to understand and use colours effectively in a 5-day intensive workshop.

Of all the books I’ve read, I found this one the most accessible and practical.

**If you are interested in learning to draw, her widely-acclaimed book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” is a gamechanger.

✵✶✺ Colour chart✵✶✺

What does that have to do with Polluta woodcut prints?

My initial plan for my woodcuts was to only use red and green. Red is Polluta’s official colours. Green is the environmental colour—central to the Pollutarian ideology.

However, since I wanted to make quite a few woodcuts, I was quite flexible with the shades of red and green. Turquoise was game. Fuchsia was acceptable. Fluorescent orange was close enough.

After I finished my first 20 woodcuts in 2019, both David, master printer from Marble Print and Clay, and I thought the colours began to repeat themselves. That also coincided with my months of self-study of the colour theory. Well, since no one knew about my red/green colour choice, I decided to break beyond the shackles I put around my own wrists.

However, in order to figure out the exact shade I wanted and for Dave to match it, I created colour charts to match. I would try creating different shades of blue or pink or purple, making it warmer or cooler or lighter or darker or more vibrant or more muted.

13 hours later, I had pages and pages of colour charts that all colours for my woodcuts would be based on. I wrote detailed notes on how I mixed the exact shade so that Dave could replicate it. Once we picked a colour, we would do a test print. Sometimes the colour worked out. Sometimes not. In the latter case, we would have to do another test print.


Love what you are seeing? I am going to launch "The Animal Collection" of Polluta Propaganda Woodcuts on 30 March. Get my love notes for an exclusive launch special, reserved only for my most loyal fans!

Plus, I give away a piece of art with every love note I send out. Yes, you heard me right. That's over 25 pieces of art every year! Only to my most loyal fans. Get it now!


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2 comentarios

24 mar 2022

Colors themselves are wonderful and have evolved on Earth for numerous reasons. It is a blessing to be able to perceive them.

However, I am not sure whether I have problems with my retinal photoreceptors, or whether an issue may reside within my visual cortex, but some of your monochromatic woodcut prints are a challenge for me, at least those of a certain colors. The fine details in some prints demands that I get very up close to resolve the detail...of which there is so much, and which so important for full appreciation and understanding.

You may want to consider polling some of your artist friends and followers to see any trends in color preference, regarding monochromatic prints.

Do you…

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Michelle Fung
Michelle Fung
25 mar 2022
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Yes in fact, one of my students has mild colour blindness, which makes teaching quite interesting at times.

I do agree with you that colour selection is personal, wrought with different opinions and often a journey for the artist too. There are so many reasons why an artist chooses a colour.

Sometimes she might be the only one in this world who thinks that's a fantastic colour choice. Sometimes she is in pain because it was the worst decision in her life. Sometimes she is so in love with the colours that she continues to use it!

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