I just finished a great 3-week primer in color theory, taught by my drawing teacher. It was taught from a painter’s perspective, but we covered a lot of principals that are useful for designers too. One of the assignments he gave us was to take an art print and recreate it from swatches cut out of magazines. He suggested using a hole punch and just gluing them down on the print itself. I really wanted a challenge, so I chose a painting with a lot of subtlety to it. Subtlety isn’t the first thing that comes to mind with Van Gogh, but when you look closely at the colors used in the painting you can see so many variations in hue, value, and saturation. I’m not very far along in the process, and I got lazy in a few areas, but I would love to finish this. I’m really excited about the petals, because I’ll be forced to start averaging colors into a single hole punch-sized swatch.
With this exercise, you realize how easily colors can be manipulated by their surroundings. I’d find a color in a magazine that looked like a very pale, warm yellow. Then I’d place it on the van Gogh print and it would look extremely cool. We did some other great exercises using Josef Albers’ “Homage to the Square” series, to learn how to push colors in different directions by changing their background colors.