Color Study, Self Study

This crazy thing happened to me last week. I was sitting down for a little knitting break while Jared was watching the kids on our day off, and I wanted some light reading while I redid that wonky square on the Mitered Magnificence. Maybe it was the nine colors of mohair on my lap, but I found myself reaching for this.

I skipped the chapter on color theory – I’ve read all that before, I thought – and skipped to a chapter I thought would be tactical for my stash: spinning multi colored yarns from hand-painted roving.

In the next 45 minutes, I had my mind completely blown, did a mental stash dive, and hatched a ridiculous plan for experimenting with and expanding my experience with both spinning and color. More on that another day.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that, Saturday morning, when we had the girls situated for a bit of painting, and Jared was out on an errand, I found myself pulling out their new Crayolas and messing around.

Primaries and secondaries below; tertiaries on top. It helps that Crayola has a solid sample to work with in their 24-pack.
Primary and secondary split complementaries on top; on the right, tertiary complementaries and tertiary split complementaries. Not sure all that verbage is quite right, but it sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

The truth is, without really reflecting on it, I had dismissed color theory as at once too simple and too overwhelming. Too simple because, whenever I tried to read about it, it seemed like I was just reading about the color wheel. I mean, I know what a color wheel looks like; is that really all there is to know? And I had learned the vocabulary of primary, tertiary, split complementary etc. But then I see these color combinations in other people’s designs that I never would have considered in a million years, and I love them. Like the latest post on ravelry about grey and yellow. (Scroll down a titch; it’s from Jan 17th.) I figured I just lacked whatever kind of intuition produces that kind of idea, and trusted there would always be the ideas of others to draw from.

My Saturday morning Crayola epiphany was this: I understand the math of the color wheel. That is not how you learn color theory.

When N had painted a few interpretations of “Twinkle twinkle little star,” consisting in a floral scene with a star and a diamond in the sky, she asked what I was doing. Her response was, “I want to do a color study!”

So, paints cleaned up, and little sister playing with suspicious quietness in the next room, we did color studies together. She would put together some colors that I’d never have thought of, I’d love them, analyze what she did, then put together every possible combination of that color relationship.

The above are her scribbles; I particularly liked the red, pink, and green-yellow combination. I explored the possibilities of that combination below: complementary tertiaries plus one analogous hue.

Then she drew a shape and started filling it with stripes, calling it a “color practice.” So I tried that, drawing a losenge and trying some combinations I’ve e been thinking about for sweaters.

You see, you don’t learn color theory by reading about it. You learn by playing with the actual colors. And of course, when I went back later and started reading Ms. Menz’s chapter on color theory, that’s the first thing she says. I’ve just never been ready to listen.


I have this problem. You can see it in my Crayola experiments.

This is the work of someone who is trying to analyze something.

I get this idea that if I can get the whole big picture in my head, understand the ideas, I can control it. I can figure out what I want, and produce the results I want. Diligence in experimenting is good, but the problem is, when I think like this, I lose the ability to explore. Take risks. Do crazy things and see what happens.

It’s this weird dichotomy in my head between being creative and being intentional. In order to be creative, I relax, but am only willing to put in a limited amount of experimentation and repeated effort. (I almost never re-knit things, for example.) I’m willing to be intentional and work hard, but the only way I know how to do that is by being very controlled and analytical, and then I can’t be creative. I can see that I have to put those things together: apply myself to learning what I don’t understand, as analytically as necessary, and open up to explore and take risks and try unexpected things – at the same time. You know … like you do when you play. At least that explains why my kid is so much better at it than me! That’s being a kid – playing around at things you’re not good at yet.

Sounds like something that would help in the rest of my life and ministry, too. Not just my crafting.

What about you? Do you ever learn about yourself through your crafting? Or, if you have kids, have you been learning about yourself through them lately?

One thought on “Color Study, Self Study

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