Art Colour Palettes

Hopper-Nighthawks-1942 Zena O'Connor

This side project involves identifying colours evident in source material such as paintings and examining these for insight, inspiration, and colour scheme development.  The exercise is one which I learnt whilst a student at the Shillito Design School and I find it to be a fun, informative side project.

Colour palettes are by their nature simplistic representations of the usually broader range of colours. However, they are useful tools for designers as inspiration and for colour scheme development.

Nighthawks (1942). This painting by Edward Hopper features a low major light-dark tonal chord in blue/greens contrasted with warmer hues. The painting features two pairs of contrasting hues: red-green and blue-yellow.  Nighthawks is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Hopper-Nighthawks-1942 Zena O'Connor

Blue Poles (1952).  Also titled Number 11, this Jackson Pollock painting features a limited number of colours. Pollock’s style of painting (often referred to as action or gestural painting) involved applying colour to the canvas with free but also controlled arm gestures. As a result, colours overlap across the entire painting and in some areas, run into other colours.  Painted on a background that is predominantly light blue other hues include light grey, light beige and white. The light blue background and contrasting hues of yellow and orange set up a visual effect that reinforces the blueness of the darker blue strokes. This high major tonal chord and the sense of movement due to the gestural and diagonal application of colour gives the painting a strong sense of vitality. Blue Poles is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Pollock Blue Poles Zena O'Connor


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