Thursday, September 11, 2008

Selecting a Balanced Palette

I have made substantial progress on my Guild challenge. As you may recall, the basic challenge was to have a conversation in fiber with either Mondrian or O'Keeffe. I had selected Mondrian and wanted a hat with a bird theme* ...

Well, it's all planned out and in the execution stage. My goal is to complete it by the end of September.

I originally had selected three saturated colors; a vibrant red-orange, a vibrant yellow-orange and a teal. I have since tossed the teal and replaced it with a magenta or fuchsia color - a red purple. While walking the dogs I had seen a grouping of flowers in those three analogous colors and they looked excellent together. So now they will become part of my headband.

Here's a photo of my final colors in Sulky sewing thread.

I designed an initial cartoon as a starting point by simply putting boxes and colors where they seemed 'right' in a self made Mondrian design. I wrote about that here. Later I studied the design and decided I needed to have a better balance of the colors - no one color should stand out and I wanted it to be a bit easier to weave.

To make it easier to weave I decided to have squares the width of the band, one in each color located equally around the band. I would then put the smaller rectangles and squares along with the greater complexity between the squares.

Here is the final design in close to the size it will be once woven. The colors aren't true in the cartoon nor in the photo. It was created in excel. When I am ready to weave I will print it out larger so I can actually read each row and column since they indicate which shafts should be raised for each shuttle of colored thread. [You may notice the proportions don't look quite right...yes...I was a bit lazy. Those squares in the cartoon would have been a bit more square if I had worked on getting the rows and columns in excel to be the same size...]

Anyway, it took a while to get to this point since I took a couple of iterations to get a good balance between the three analogous colors. Mondrian tended to use a lot of white with a few other colors always separated by black. The other colors were always proportionally balanced. I figured if I was trying to converse with Mondrian, this part of the conversation should be balanced.

My first step was to figure out how much of each color I had in the design. Since I did it in excel, it was pretty easy to get. I discovered the red/orange occupied the greatest proportion of the design with the red/purple and yellow/orange having smaller and similar proportions. Whether that is a good balance depends on how visually intense each of the colors are. If they are equally intense then they should be in equal proportions and I would need to alter my design.

I used concept of balance in the Munsell Color Theory Handbook that I have been studying. It says to achieve balance you need a good balance of both chroma and value. For example, if you have two colors - one with a stronger chroma and higher value and the other with a weaker chroma and lower value, you would need to use less of the first and more of the second proportionally to achieve balance.

To determine a numerical value for the chroma and value of my three colors, I matched them to the color chips in my Color Handbook. Multiplying chroma by the value gives a representation of the overall impact of the color. I converted those to proportions and discovered that the red-purple will stand out much less than the other two colors and hence would need to occupy a greater proportion of the final piece in order for there to be a good balance.

I was again lucky. I did not have to re-do my design. All I had to do was switch the red-purple with the red/orange and the resulting proportions were in the ballpark for a good balance. A quick switch in excel, the design was done and I was ready to weave.

Now on to sampling... Here is a photo of my sample where I needed to determine how many colors and strands of thread I wanted to weave with in this piece.

I was again lucky. Using two strands of each of the five colors will yield a balanced weave and provide good coverage for the head band. Therefore, I only have to weave one pass for each row in my cartoon. This makes things so much easier.

This afternoon, I actually started weaving the headband and it looks quite astonishing. I love it. Once I have a few more inches done I will take a photo with my better camera to give you a sneak peak at the work in progress.

* You also may be wondering how the bird fits into this too is quite astonishing...more later.

1 comment:

Valerie said...

Fascinating design process using excel. Thanks for taking the time to share it. Looking forward to your finished project!