Assignment 3

Produce a poster (297mm x 420mm) that celebrates a colour of your choice. Work only with your chosen colour, its complementary colour and black and white. You can
include text, collages, illustrations and photographs. Use black and white to help establish a range of tints and shades with your chosen colour.

Defining a Theme for the Poster

For this assignment, I chose to celebrate the colour green. Green makes me think of  being away on holiday and I am always at my most content when outdoors enjoying nature.

I started by doing some analysis of what the colour green meant to me:

I also investigated what the colour green might mean to others and asked some friends to share what they thought of when they thought of green – with some interesting and quite varied results!

  •  Countryside, food (vegetables), fertility, plenty, lusciousness, verdant, earthy, success, calmness, restive, nature working as it should – health, vitality, balance.


  • Grass, vegetation, school uniforms – hassle and stress, responsibility.


  • Pestilence, farms, money, ecology, ‘eat-your-greens – nagging, brocolli, sea-sickness, nausea, spring, envy, the Green Party – preaching.


I decided that I would explore creating a poster that celebrated the colour green in the context of the countryside, possibly combining green rolling hills with wild hedgerow plants. I am very inspired by the work of Angie Lewin who makes beautiful prints of stylised wild plants and flowers, often in the context of the landscape where the plants can be found.

Thumbnail Sketches

I continued my research by looking at illustrations of landscapes and wild flowers on Pinterest and collected ideas here.

I then began trying out some ideas for the poster using thumbnail sketches. (I worked on this while on holiday where I had limited access to coloured pens!)

Reviewing the Ideas

I reviewed my ideas for the poster designs with my husband and decided on three to take forward.


Poster Version 1

In this poster, my aim was to combine rolling hills, disappearing into the distance, with hedgerow plants in the foreground. I decided to do this as an illustration using Adobe Illustrator.

I started by seeking out and photographing different hedgrow plants to get some ideas for plant shapes:

I studied the shapes of the plants and began to sketch simple shapes that I could replicate in Illustrator:

For some of my more complex shapes, I sketched the plant out first on paper…


..and then drew over them in Illustrator using the pen tool to create a black outline of the plants:


For other simpler plant shapes, I drew them directly in Illustrator:

I then created the poster in Illustrator and started by creating swatches for the different shades of green I wanted to use. I started with quite a bright ‘grass’ green and used Illustrator’s Colour Guide to create a range of tints and shades for this colour (5 steps for each). I used Adobe Colour to help me identify a complementary colour for the base colour of green.

I began creating the ‘rolling hills’ background for the poster using the pencil tool to create the hill shapes. I used a gradient fill to colour the hills and tried to give a sense of distance by using lighter colours for the more distant hills. I made the nearest hill a dark green and then placed the leaves and flowers I had drawn in the foreground, colouring them with a mid-green so that they clearly stood out against the dark hill behind.

I experimented a lot with the different tints and shades and tried some different methods of creating the background:


In my final poster, I felt that the sky needed some additional interest, so I added a sun which I based on the way the sun was represented in old Japanese prints.

Poster Version 2

In this poster, I decided to do something different from my original thumbnail sketch as I wanted to try something a bit more abstract.

I started by creating a textured background for the poster. I used a roller to paint black ink onto sheets of A4 paper which I scanned into digital files.

I then used Photoshop to layer some of these images onto a light green background, changing the opacity and blend modes to give a green-grey textured background.

Next, I picked some leaves and grasses from the side of a nearby road and pressed them under heavy books for several days to make them flat. I then painted them with black ink and made prints, which I scanned in as digital files.

I used the ‘trace’ function in Illustrator to create vector images from the scans. I recoloured the plants and grasses  using the same colour palette as for Poster 1 and then arranged a selection of the plants onto the poster background. I coloured the clover flowers the complimentary shade of dark pink.

Finally, I added a verse from the poem ‘Meet me in the Green Glen’ by John Clare.

Poster Version 3

In this version of the poster, I wanted to revisit the idea of rolling hills with hedgerow plants in the foreground, but this time incorporating text into the image. I also wanted to give the poster a more ‘hand-painted’ feel.

I started by sketching some ideas for the layout of the poster and then recreated the design in Illustrator.

I used the same colour palette that I used in the other two posters.

I used dry brushes to give the outlines of the hills a more hand-painted feel and also to add some variation  in the tones of the colours of the hills.

I reused the images of the hedgerow plants that I had created for poster 1.

Finally, I added text along paths that followed the contours of the hills. The text is the first verse of the poem ‘Meet me in the Green Glen’ by John Clare.

Final Selected Poster

I reviewed the final posters again with my husband and we decided on Poster 3 as the final selected poster for this assignment. We felt it was the most visually interesting and the ‘hand-painted’ shading effect gave a good sense of depth to the image. The variations in tints and shades has the effect of making this poster feel quite ‘colourful’ even though the colour palette is actually quite limited.

Thoughts on this Assignment

I enjoyed working on this assignment as it really gave me an opportunity to experiment with Adobe Illustrator. The posters themselves took a long time to complete as I was having to learn a lot of new skills along the way.

In terms of creating the posters, I actually found one of the hardest tasks was deciding on the background for the posters, especially for poster 2 which I required a lot of trial and error before I decided on a background. Finding a background that was visually interesting, gave enough contrast to distinguish it from the other elements in the poster, but wasn’t too distracting, was quite difficult!

I also found it very difficult on all the posters to know where to place the dark pink complementary colour. The pink immediately demands attention. I tried a number of approaches, making the sky pink on Poster 1, making the text pink, trying to make green and pink gradients, none of which worked. In the end I opted to use just a very small amount of pink in all the posters by making the clover flower heads pink, as this was their natural colour. In the first poster, I positioned them in a diagonal across the poster, opposite to the sun and while flowers of the cow parsley, hopefully to draw the eye across and down the poster.

In Poster 2, I wanted the plant silhouettes to be more dominant than the poem, so I positioned them in the top left diagonal of the poster and the text at the bottom right. The clover flowers draw the eye across from the plant silhouettes down to the verse.

In Poster 3, the verse is the most important element. The pink clover flowers are just small points of visual interest which the viewer will see after they have read the text.



Part 3 – Exercise 6: Photomontage

For this exercise you are going to make a montage or collage with a political message. Collect images from newspapers, magazines, your own photographs or images online.  Create new meanings out of these extant images by juxtaposing and contrasting them. Be imaginative, playful, provocative or humourous. In your learning log reflect on the original meaning of the images and your subsequent collage. Write a short evaluative statement.

Choosing an Issue

I started this exercise, first by considering political issues that interested me and that I thought would be good subjects for a photomontage.

I decided to explore the issue of victim blaming for my montage. ‘Victim blaming’ is where the victim of a crime or an assault is considered to be partially or wholly responsible for what has happened to them. It is a term very commonly directed at women who have been assaulted or raped – typically the woman’s behaviour, what she was wearing or the fact that she might have been drinking, are regarded as contributing factor towards the assault.  It is a subject I am quite interested in and which has been raised in the media quite a lot recently.

I began by reading around the subject and assessing my thoughts and feelings on the topic. I created a mind map to document my general thoughts and added in some images to help me start thinking in terms of a photomontage.

Before I started this analysis, I thought I was very clear about what ‘victim blaming’ was but I found this mind mapping exercise very useful in revealing that my understanding of victim blaming was quite mixed up with other closely related issues such as objectification of women, male entitlement and the question of what constitutes consent. I spent quite a lot of time really picking apart my thoughts here, which proved extremely valuable in helping me to get a very clear idea of what ‘victim blaming’ actually was. Having a really clear understanding of the issue, helped me to devise a clear message about this issue for my montage.

Once I had a clarified in my own mind,  what ‘victim blaming’ was, I created another mind map, analysing this specific issue in greater detail – what it is, who does it, why people do it etc.

Devising the Message

My next step was to decide on the statement I wanted my photomontage to make. My more detailed analysis of the victim blaming issue resulted in a number of possibilities:

  • Women actually have a very precarious position in our liberal society. They are very much ‘free’ to do what they want, but if something goes wrong and they are assaulted, their ‘immoral behaviour’ will be blamed.


  • Is victim blaming a symptom of society’s inherent desire to control women’s behaviour? Society (begrudgingly) allows women their freedom but is quick to blame their ‘immoral’ behaviour if women are attacked.


  • It is easier to blame the victim than the face up to the fact that we live in a culture where women are devalued and objectified (known as the “just world” hypothesis).


  • Women are told to adjust their behaviour in order to avoid being attacked (rather than telling the attackers not to attack).


  • It’s easy to make judgements on a woman’s moral behaviour and blame her for an assault. It is much harder to blame the victim in other crimes such as a mugging.

I decided to use the last idea as the basis for the message of my photomontage.  I wanted to highlight how incongruous it was to accuse the victim for being responsible for the crime against them.

Depicting the message

Next I needed a way to illustrate this message in my montage. I began with an idea of showing innocent women enjoying themselves and having fun, with accusers and victim-blamers in the background or in the shadows ‘pointing the finger’ of blame at them. My idea was to show how precarious a woman’s situation was and how easily they could flip from becoming a victim of an assault to becoming the accused.

I then tried another idea, instead of the innocent young women, I wanted to show a victim of crime that you would not think to blame for what happened to them. I chose an image of an elderly woman who had been assaulted in her home, now with the accusers pointing the finger of blame at her. I felt that this image had more emotional impact and better highlighted how wrong it is to blame a victim for their assault.

Reviewing the Ideas

I reviewed the ideas for the montage with my husband. He agreed that the concept of victim-blaming the elderly woman had the clearest and most impactful message.

The Final Photomontage

The final photomontage is below:

Reflection on the Photomontage

The photomontage shows an 88 year old woman who was brutally assualted as she slept in her bed, by a man who had broken into her home. The image is heart-breaking as the woman looks so vulnerable, frail and broken. Society would not dream of blaming her for being attacked, and would not think to ask her what she might have been wearing at the time of the assault or whether, whether she had been drinking or if she might have somehow encouraged her attacker. However younger woman are often subjected to this sort of ‘victim-blaming’ if unfortunate enough to have been assaulted.

The figures in the background of the image represent the victim-blamers of society and  are people who have recently been in the news, accused of victim blaming, these are Judge Lindsay Kushner QC who stated that women who got drunk where making themselves a target for rapists, Henriette Reker – the mayor of Cologne who suggested that young women should adopt a ‘code of conduct’ to prevent assault, and Richards Littlejohn and Sarah Vine who are columnists for the Daily Mail.

The words in the montage are cut out from a copy of the Daily Mail – a newspaper regularly accused of sexism and victim-blaming.  They are put together in the style of an anonymous ransom note to give a threatening and accusatory feel.

The predominant colour of the image is red for it’s ominous, threatening and dangerous connotations. In addition, red, black and white are colours associated with tabloid newspapers which are often guilty of victim blaming.

Thoughts on this Exercise

I was quite pleased with the way my montage had turned out as I thought that the statement I was making was clear and impactful. I found the process of analysing my thoughts on the issue, very interesting, as I realised I wasn’t quite as clear on what victim-blaming was, as I thought I was and it took me quite a long time and quite a lot of reading around the subject, to get my ideas clear in my head.

My only disappointment with my final photomontage was that the design didn’t feel very original. I feel like I have seen this kind of photomontage design many times before.

I think I need to devote a bit less time to the ‘what’ I am doing, and try focus more, and be a bit more experimental, with the ‘how’.




Research and Reflection – Photomontage

Some notes on Photomontage and prominent photomontage artists..

Photomontage was borne out of the Dada movement in Berlin in 1916. Dada was started in Zurich Switzerland where a small group of artists and activists had gathered during the first world war. They used their creativity to to protest against the war, using irony, satire and improvisation to shock the public into recognising the contradictions of ‘civilised’ and ‘rational’ Europeans slaughtering each other in war. Dada art typically shows contempt for the established order and is often called ‘anti-art’.

Berlin dadaists were more politically orientated and had revolutionary social change in Germany as one of their main goals. John Heartfield (originally called Helmut Herzfelde) created one of the first photomontages for the cover of catalog for the ‘First International Dada Fair’. Photomontage was subsequently used a lot by Dada artists.

Photomontage was also used a lot by Russian Constructivists. The Russian Tsar was forced to abdicate in 1917 due to failures during the first world war. The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, took control in late 1917. Russian civil war followed from 1918 – 1920, between the Red Army (the Bolsheviks) and allied governments supported Whites. The Whites ultimately failed and the Bolsheviks established a communist state (maintained through the suppression of dissent by violence and intimidation).

The Bolsheviks used propoganda posters to ‘sell’ communism to the people. New artistic styles were required for the new utopian society. Constructivism built on the previous abstract style of Suprematism. (Suprematism was devised around 1915 by Kasimir Malevich and used blocks of colour a ‘non-objective’ style of baring no representational relationship to the natural world. The term suprematism relates to “supremacy of pure feeling in creative art”).

The Constructavist style tied art to the industrial world, rejected self-expression and therefore fitted well with revolutionary propaganda. Graphic designers became artistic leaders.

Constructavists such as Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko produced propaganda posters, designs for workers clothes and designs for government buildings.

In Russia, photography was revered because of its ability to produce depersonalized images which married well with communist collective ideals. Photomontage was therefore a natural tool for the Constructavist artists.


John Heartfield

One of the Berlin Dadaists but best known for his later political art photomontages created from 1930 to 1938 exposing facism and the Third Reich.



Hannah Hoch

Hannah Hoch was another Berlin Dadaists who used Photomontage. Höch explored the concepts of gender and the ‘New Woman’ in Germany society, presenting complex discussions around gender and identity.

Hannah Höch. German, 1889-1978
Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (Schnitt mit dem Küchenmesser durch die letzte Weimarer Bierbauchkulturepoche Deutschlands). 1919-1920
Photomontage and collage with watercolor, 44 7/8 x 35 7/16” (114 x 90 cm)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie
© 2006 Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin,
© 2006 Hannah Höch / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo: Jörg P. Anders, Berlin

Marlene (1920)

Alexander Rodchenko

A Russian Constructivist of the 1920s who used photomontage.

An advertisement for the Lengiz Publishing House sometimes titled “Books”, which features a young woman with a cupped hand shouting “книги по всем отраслям знания” (Books in all branches of knowledge), printed in modernist typography.

Varvara Stepanova

A Russian Constructavist.

On the lower left of her poster, under the phrase “through red glasses” (i.e. the world as seen by Bolsheviks), she drew three figures dressed in her prozodezhda (workers) costumes. The gender of the central, female figure is discernible only by the rounded line of her jaw and the slight fullness of her short hair. Their four anti-revolutionary white counterparts appear on the right side, dressed in upper-class clothes. Here the lone woman is strongly differentiated from the men, with round breasts, a tiny waist and wide hips. The female icon of those who see through red glasses is a productive worker no longer confined by conventional signs of femininity.

Later photomontage was adopted by surrealists who brought together disparate images to reflect the workings of the subconcious mind.


Untitled 1976 Linder born 1954 Purchased 2007

Untitled 1976 Linder born 1954 Purchased 2007

Annagret Soltau

– Mutter/Tochter – mit Großmutter und Urgroßmutter

“In these pictures I unite four generations of the female line of my family, who represent a female chain. I began with my daughter and ended with her great-grandmother. As a contrast to the patriarchal system of inheritance, I wanted to show the matrilineal connection and the interaction between the generations: the young girl already has the old body, and the old woman still has the young body inside her. The aim is to ensure that this painful process remains visible.”


Part 3 – Exercise 5: Abstract Cities

Create a series of 10 abstract designs in which you balance blocks of subordinate,
dominant and accent colours. These designs are going to be used as covers for guidebooks to the following cities:

Madrid Malmo Managua Manchester Manhattan Marrakech Marseilles Melbourne Montreal Mumbai

The books are going to be A5 landscape (210mm x148mm) size. You can use as many colours as you like and need to include the name of the city – where you place this and its colour are also important decisions to make. You may want to find out more about each city to help you develop your colour palette and also the size, shape and positioning of the colour blocks.

Design Ideas

I started this exercise exploring ways in which I could give the abstract designs some meaning or association with each city. My thoughts on this were as follows:

  • Is there a colour associated with the city that I could use as a basis of the colour palette, for example  the colour of the dominant stone used for the buildings? After reading a very tedious paper on colmenar stone used extensively in the buildings in Madrid, I decided this was going to take a lot of work to determine the stone used for each city and the variation in colours would not be enough to make the designs sufficiently distinct from each other, so I rejected this idea.


  • Could the  colours of the country’s flag be combined with some abstract motif associated with the city, such as an iconic building? I decided using the colours of the flags was an obvious solution so I rejected this as an idea for the colour palettes. I did like the idea of an abstract representation of an iconic city building, however.


  • Given all the cities start with the letter ‘M’, could I assume that there would be guides for all letters of the alphabet and assign a base colour to each letter, so M would be dark red, for example. Could all the designs then be variations of a colour palette based on dark red? I didn’t think I could vary the palette enough for 10 cities (but this would have been an interesting exercise 🙂


  • Could I create a linear spectrum of colours ranging from coolest (blues) to warmest (reds) and map each city onto the spectrum based on their latitude, with cities nearest the equator being near red and further away from the equator, blue? Designs for each city would then use their ‘latitude colour’ as the basis for the design.


  • Could the colour palettes for each city be based on well known, traditional or indigenous art for the country, with the design incorporating a silhouette of the main art gallery in the city (making them art guides to the city)?  I liked the art idea as a basis for the colours but research on the art gallery buildings made me think that the building outlines would not be varied enough.


  • Could I incorporate an outline of a  silhouette of the city’s skyline into my abstract design, where the skyline is made up of iconic buildings of the city? I started researching iconic buildings in each city but after a while felt that constructing skylines like this for each city was going to be too much work.


  • I decided instead, to work with a colour palette of the art of the country and an abstract silhouette of a single iconic building of each city.

Thumbnail Designs

I first did a quick check to make sure that each country did have some form of art that I could use as the basis for the colour palette. I then started by researching the outline shapes for iconic buildings associated with each city.

My idea was to have an outline of a building embedded in a series of background blocks or bars with the building standing out in one colour and the background blocks in another.

Initial Test Mockups

I decided to try out my ideas for the designs with the first city, Madrid, using a colour palette inspired by Miro. The mockups are here:

These designs were just not working for me. My main issue was that my abstract building didn’t make sense – it wasn’t obvious what the large block of red was representing and I felt it was just distracting. I was putting too much effort into trying to work out which colours would make the building stand out and was not thinking about how the blocks of colour were working together.

I reviewed the designs with my husband, who agreed that he could not tell that the large block of red was meant to be a building. We decided that it was too difficult to create a design that was both abstract and yet representative of a building.

After a lot of thought, I decided to drop the idea of including the building silhouette and instead would just focus on a truly abstract design using my chosen colours.

It was back to the drawing board, this time researching abstract artists such as Kandinski, Miro, Ben Nicholson, Mondrian and Malevitch for inspiration.

Revised Test Mockups

I decided to try two abstract layouts, the first was based on Mondrian’s paintings. I thought that this layout also I had a feel of a street map, which would fit quite well as a city guide, I tried to make my ‘Mondrian’ layout look a bit like a street map.

I also tried a layout based on an abstract painting by Malevitch. I liked the tumbling shapes as they gave a sense of movement, fun and energy, which for me also worked well for a city:

These mockups where working much better for me. However, I wanted to check that these two abstract designs weren’t just working because the colour palette is one that is associated with abstract paintings, so I tried with my colour palette for Managua.

I felt happy that both of these abstract designs would work, so I had another review with my husband, and we both agreed that the ‘Mondrian’ inspired design, which had the feel of a street map, would work best, so I decided to move forward this idea.

Building the Colour Palettes

I had decided to base my colour palettes on art work associated with the country, either indigenous art, an art movement or works of an artist associated with that country.

I did have some concerns that doing this meant I wasn’t really putting my own colour palette together, but it was still quite a lot of work. Sampling colours from images of artworks found on the internet, gives quite a variable result, so I used sampled colours as a starting point and then refined them (with the help of Adobe Colour) to try to identify complimentary colours, triad colours etc. to put together what felt like a comprehensive palette which resembled the artworks I had based them on.


The colour palette was based on some iconic works by Spanish abstract artist, Miro


Miró: The Experience of Seeing


This was quite a difficult colour palette to put together as I struggled to find examples of typical Swedish art. Eventually I did a Google search for ‘Traditional Swedish Art’ images and found quite a lot similar to that below, which I have based my colour palette on.


The colour palette was based on the Nicaraguan Primitivista painting movement which originated from a community of artists founded in the 1970’s on the islands of Solentiname in Lake Nicaragua. This style of painting is influenced by the Haitian paintings of the late 40’s and 50’s and shows idealised scenes of community life and lush natural environments in bright colours.  Noted artists are Alejandro Benito Cabrera, Victor Santiago Crespin, José Ignacio Fletes Cruz and Rosa Delia Lopez Garcia.


I based this colour palette on paintings of British countryside by John Constable.


This colour palette is based on American pop art. I decided to use one of Andy Warhol’s images of Marilyn Monroe.



This colour palette was based on a design for Moroccan border found on shutterstock


I based this colour palette on paintings of the Cote D’Azur by Van Gogh as these were based on countryside near Marseilles.


This colour palette was based on colours typically used in aborigional art. I particularly focused on the image of Uluru by Danny Eastwood (the image with kangeroos below).


This colour palette is based on the artworks of Willie Seaweed, a First Nation wood carver and artist from Canada.


This colour palatte was based on traditional indian ‘Rajput’ paintings.

Final Designs

Adobe Illustrator vs Adobe Photoshop

I created most of these designs using Adobe Illustrator with the exception of Manhattan and Marrakech, which I created using Photoshop. I found Illustrator the easier tool for these designs as is it easier to manipulate shapes and manage colour palettes. In hindsight, I’m not sure it was a good idea to create 8 designs on 8 different art boards in one Illustrator document as it made managing the layers in the document very difficult. I also had a lot of problems exporting the individual designs, with components being missed off an export or ‘extra’ components from other artboards getting included in an export. it took a long time to unravel!

It was perfectly feasible to create these designs in Photoshop, but because you can’t ‘click’ on objects to select them, I needed to be very disciplined in naming and managing my layers so that I could find objects within the design, which was quite time consuming.

Also in both tools, I had trouble with the colours in the designs changing when I created the final files. I think this was due to issues with the colour profiles used by the files. I had created the designs in CMYK mode but in exporting the files as JPEGs for display on my digital blog, the colours changed. I fixed this by exporting the files as PNGs from Illustrator and by saving the files as JPEGs from Photoshop but manually changing the colour profile in the JPEG from ‘US Web Coated (SWOP) v2’ to ‘sRBG IEC61966-2.1’. This seemed to do the trick!


Thoughts on this Exercise

This exercise was a lot of work – it has quite literally taken me weeks to complete!! The research took me a long time, first reading about types of stone, then endless research into iconic buildings and then different types of art associated with each country.

I also realised that what seems like an inspired idea in my head often looks anything but when I actually mock it up. I should test the design with mockups sooner before doing a lot of research (I wouldn’t have needed to spend so long researching iconic buildings as I decided against this design as soon as I saw the mockup).

I did most of my research using Google Search which is quite a dangerous way to do research given the amount of irrelevant junk that gets thrown up! Searching for ‘iconic buildings in Managua’ for example, returned buildings from all around Nicaragua so I then spent more time trying to cross check to see if buildings really were in Managua.  I need to find some more reliable sources for my research. The internet was useful, however, in helping to discover more general concepts like the typical style of art in Nicaragua.

I am conscious that I also needed to do more research to ensure that I haven’t committed any cultural faux pas! Would the residents of Mumbai be offended that I based the colour palette for their city on  Rajput art? I have no idea.

I was a little concerned that using colour palettes taken from existing art works was not quite in the spirit of this exercise, as I was not defining those palettes myself from scratch. However, it was very interesting analysing the colour palettes from existing artworks and trying to decide how to use and lay those colours out in my abstract designs.

Finally, thinking of a design concept AND colour scheme AND layout together is very difficult!

Part 3 – Exercise 4: Understanding Colour

Draw two grids of squares, filling one with colours that you like and the other with colours you dislike. Then put the two grids side by side and ask the question ‘which one looks better?’

Next try experimenting with placing colours together as Itten did.

Try and find different combinations of two colours to illustrate each of these ideas:
Angry Brave Creative Dangerous Energetic Familiar Gregarious
Hopeful Independent Jumpy Kinetic Luxurious Masculine New
Open Precious Quiet Reasonable Sociable Tasteful Unhappy
Vital Wonderful Extra special Youthful Zany

Colours I Like:

Colours I Don’t Like:

The theory is that I should find the mix of colours I like, more jarring than those I don’t like, but actually, I still prefer the colours that I like. The colours that I don’t like feature a lot of salmon pink, brown and orange (which I don’t like!). The colours I like don’t particularly all go well all together but the coloured squares remind me of a patchwork quilt.

Colour Experiments based on Itten’s Colour Theory

Colours interact and are influenced by the colours around them. Colours on a white background appear less luminous than against black. The white reduces their brilliance. However colours appear lighter against black. This is particularly apparent in the blue and red examples below when the blue and red squares look darker against white.


Yellow has been placed against a background of blue and red primary colours.  Primary colours are completely distinct from each other, creating quite high contrast in these combinations.


Yellow is now placed against backgrounds of secondary colours orange, violet and green. Yellow is a component of orange and also a component of green and consequently the contrast between these colour combinations is reduced. Yellow and violet are, however, opposite (complementary) colours on (Itten’s) colour wheel – a combination considered to be high contrast.


The combinations above show complimentary (opposite) colours. These are considered the greatest contrast.


Contrast is diminished as hues are further removed from the primary colours, for example green on red has significant contrast, green on orange is less intense.

A bold primary colour next to black can give the black the effect of a tinge of the primary’s complimentary colour (In this case – green). I’m not sure I am seeing this effect.

Grey on an Ice Blue background has a slight has warm (red?) tinge. Grey on red/orange looks slightly blue. They grey colour appears to take on a slight tinge of the complimentary colour. (An effect Itten describes as simultaneous contrast).

The warmth of a colour is effected by the colours around it – violet appears warmer against blue than against red.

Contrast can be achieved using the same hue with different levels of saturation.

Colour Combinations that Represent Words:

ANGRY – This pure red and orange do not sit comfortably together but seem agitated. The combination is hot and irritable, like skin that has been stung by a wasp.

BRAVE – To be brave you need to be calm, level headed, mature and rational. This dark tone of blue feels calm and authoritative. The dark and light blue sit well together, cooperating with each other. There is no conflict here – this colour combination has a focused intent.

CREATIVE – To be creative you need to be energetic, lively, vibrant and a bit whacky. This magenta and lime green combination is fun and the colours feel like they are dancing together. These colours are effectively opposite each other on the colour wheel producing a combination with a lot of energy.

DANGEROUS – This highly saturated red combined with a very dark red black feels moody and sulky. The bright red seems to pulse against the very dark red background.

ENERGETIC – The warm yellow and magenta colours feel warm and active. The yellow and magenta are two parts of a TRIAD and work well together.

GREGARIOUS – The highly saturated hot pink is loud, brash and fun. It is tempered by the blue-green tone giving a lively but not too over-the-top result. Again, green and red are opposites on the colour wheel creating energy. The slightly darker shades mute the effect.

FAMILIAR – Two tones of green, the colour of nature. Green is a cool and calming colour and the addition of black gives the green a soothing and quiet feel. The two colours cooperate with each other to give a sense of calm.

HOPEFUL – The yellow and orange colours are analagous and work well together, supporting each other. Yellow is the colour of the sun and summer. The combination has an optimistic and positive feel.

INDEPENDENT – The indigo blue and violet sit close together on the colour wheel and cooperate well as a pair. The combination is not particularly warm or cool. The blue colour feels formal and level-headed. These colours are bold and stand together well on their own.

JUMPY – A garish, highly saturated orange red and shade of green together seem to clash. They are complimentary colours and feel agitated together. The colours appear to jump around when you look at them.

KINETIC – suggests ordered motion, machine parts working smoothly together. A cool shade of blue tempered with a little black together with a complimentary yellow / orange suggests opposing parts working together.

LUXURIOUS – A warm, deep brown suggests leather or suede together with rich gold gives an opulant feel. This combination could also represent the colours of a smooth chocolate filled with golden caramel suggesting indulgence.

MASCULINE – A dark slate blue / grey and slate blue. These colours are serious and understated. The colours of a business suit. The dark shades are sober and no-nonsense.

NEW – two shades of a muted baby pink. These colours are delicate and fragile. The colours of a (white!) baby’s skin or a kitten’s nose.

OPEN – A bright, light green and cheery saturated yellow. These colours are analagous and work well together. Like spring they are bright and welcoming.

PRECIOUS – A tint of dusty pink and pale cyan hint at the colours of an opal. The pink and cyan are two colours of a triad.

QUIET – Two shades of blue green. The colours of cool, still water. They combination is calm and subtle. The colours recede as though they don’t want to be disturbed.

REASONABLE – Sensible grey (with a hint of blue) and a lighter blue grey. Diplomatic, neutral colours ready to negotiate.

SOCIABLE – A slightly muted tone of lime green and light shade of yellow. The colours are analagous and get along well together. They are harmonious and not too loud.

TASTEFUL – A muted and subtle green grey combined with a lighter, slightly more yellow tint. The green and yellow tones are analogous and sit well together, the muted grey tones are understated and sophisticated.

UNHAPPY – A very dark purple – almost black mixed with a green-grey. The green and purple tones are complimentary and feel uncomfortable together. The dark shades feel sulky and uncooperative.

VITAL – Blue and green, the colours of nature and water. These colours are analagous and work together. They are calm and serious.

WONDERFUL – Cyan and white, the colours of a spring sky, or ice and snow. Light, bright and sparkling – the colours of wonder.

EXTRA SPECIAL – Royal blue and gold. These colours are complimentary and have a sense of formality. The colours of royalty. The gold colour leans towards orange, making these colours complimentary.

YOUTHFUL – A warm and vibrant yellow/orange tempered by a magenta that leans towards blue. These colours are fun and energetic but tempered with a little seriousness.

ZANY – Hot pink and dark orange.  The colours are fully saturated and full of life and vibrancy. They are analogous but together are so brightly coloured that the colours seem to dance together.

Thoughts on This Exercise

I had always known that certain colours represented specific moods or feelings such as yellow for warm sunny optimism or blue for cool formality. I also knew that some colours just went better together although was not particularly conscious of why.  This exercise has really shed some light on why certain colour combinations seem to work, as well as how colours work together to convey certain moods.

Some common themes seemed to emerge for me in this exercise:

Fully saturated, pure hues feel bright, fun, youthful and energetic.

Adding black and creating shades of colours made the colour feel more serious and sober, having a calming and subduing effect.

Colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel (complimentary colours)  seem to jangle against each other, giving a sense of energy and agitation. For me these often seemed to fight with each other and were not relaxing to look at.

Colours which are different shades of the same hue are much calmer and relaxing to look at. There is no conflict between them.


Exhibitions – World Illustration Awards 2017

This was the first time I had seem an exhibition of illustrations and I was quite bowled over by it! The range of styles and techniques, the riot of colour, the humour and wit was all amazing! I was struck by how, in daily life, I am surrounded by these incredible illustrations and I barely notice – there were images on display that had been created as editorial work for newspapers which probably would have been glanced at by most people before the paper was tossed into the recycling.  I now have a whole new appreciation for illustrative work!

For me, it was also a great privilege to be able to read a little about how the artists created their work and the techniques they used. It was particularly noticeable how much of the work was wholly or partially digital.  I particularly enjoyed watching a timelapse video of a digital illustration being created, starting with a hand drawn pencil sketch that was scanned in and then coloured in using Photoshop. Something I am going to have to try myself!

These were the stand out pieces for me:

Tony Rodriguez – Bill Murray: Mark Twain Prize

I particularly like the pen and ink style of this illustration, in particular the creation of texture on the skin using fine pen lines. I also like the ‘busy’ background. There are more details about the image are artist here.

Richard Allen – Wave

This image was created as a cover image for Sunday Telegraph Money section. It took me a little while to understand what I was looking at but when I realised it was  Trump’s hair taking the place of Hokusai’s Great Wave – I thought it was genius! Given how Trump’s bellicose rhetoric  is threatening the stability of the Korean peninsula at the moment I thought this was an incredibly clever and witty image.

Oivind Hovland – Skaanevik Fjord Hotel

I really liked this child-like illustration of life around the hotel. I liked it’s ‘busy’ nature with  lots going on and lots to look at. I also really liked how there is so much detail packed into the image but it is using simple shapes and a simple colour palette. More details here.

Alice Yu Deng – Tashirojima: The Cat Island

I have to confess that I probably really like this because I like cats and I like Japan 🙂 That said, I do like images where there is quite a lot going on and I enjoyed looking at the sunbathing cats in their different poses. I also thought this was a very clever way to depict the Japanese ‘cat island’ where cats and people live in harmony. More details here.

Sam Pierpoint – Visit Bristol Christmas Campaign

This model wasn’t actually on display at the exhibition but I saw it on the website and thought it was beautiful. More details here.


Exhibitions – Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

The Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum (seen August 2017) displayed works from the last 30 years of Hokusai’s life when he is considered to have produced some of his most memorable works. Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely regarded as one of Japan’s most famous and influential artists, producing works right up until his death at the age of 90.

About Hokusai

At the age of 18, Hokusai was accepted into the studio of Katsukawa Shunshō. Shunshō was an artist of ukiyo-e, a style of wood block prints and paintings. Shunshō, focused on images of the courtesans and Kabuki actors who were popular in Japan’s cities at the time.

Upon the death of Shunshō in 1793, Hokusai began exploring other styles of art, including European styles he was exposed to through French and Dutch copper engravings he was able to acquire. Hokusai also changed the subjects of his works, moving away from the images of courtesans and actors that were the traditional subjects of ukiyo-e. Instead, his work became focused on landscapes and images of the daily life of Japanese people from a variety of social levels. This change of subject marked a significant change in the ukiyo-e style and in Hokusai’s career.

Hokusai was known by at least 30 names during his lifetime. Although the use of multiple names was a common practice of Japanese artists of the time, the numbers of names he used far exceeds that of any other major Japanese artist. In 1820, Hokusai changed his name to “Iitsu. It was during the 1820s that Hokusai reached the peak of his career. His most famous work, 36 Views of Mount Fuji, including the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa, dated from this period. Among the other popular series of prints he published during this time are A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces and Unusual Views of Celebrated Bridges in the Provinces. He also began producing a number of detailed individual images of flowers and birds.

Hokusai had a long career, but he produced most of his important work after age 60. His most popular work is the ukiyo-e series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which was created between 1826 and 1833. His ukiyo-e transformed the art form from a style of portraiture focused on the courtesans and actors popular during the Edo Period in Japan’s cities into a much broader style of art that focused on landscapes, plants, and animals.

My thoughts on the Exhibition

It was wonderful to see Hokusai’s beautiful prints ‘in person’, especially the very famous ‘Mount Fuji Seen Below a Wave at Kanagawa’ (smaller than I thought it would be!).

However, for me the stars of the show where the pieces that Hokusai created at the end of his life, particularly the ‘Old Tiger in the Snow’ and the dragon emerging from storm clouds. Although there is some speculation that his daughter Oi may have assisted in creating these works, they are incredibly delicate and detailed. His tiger seems to be full of joy, bouncing through the snow, and his dragon, emerging from storm clouds, with it’s almost human face, is full of life and movement.

I also particularly liked all of his images of birds and animals as they were full of life and personality.  For example, in the image ‘Weeping Cherry and Bull Finch’ the finch is not sitting passively on the cherry branch but is hanging almost upside down.

What really stood out for me with a lot of the works on display, was the sense of fun and joy in the images. I was quite surprised to see images of laughing ghosts and cartoon-like ‘manga’ figures. The images were all beautiful, delicate and a joy to see.

Some Notes on the Colour Wheel

The colour wheel arranges different colour hues around a circle. Three primary colours are placed at equally spaced points around the circle. When two primary colours are mixed, they create a secondary colour. Mixing a primary and secondary colours creates tertiary colours.

There are two important colour models, which have different primary colours and therefore different colour wheels:

Additive Colour:

Additive colour is based on how coloured light behaves and combines to form different colours. It is important in digital media or stage lighting. Primary additive colours will combine to form white.

The primary colours in the additive colour model are red, green and blue (RGB). Secondary colours are cyan, magenta and yellow.

Subtractive Colour:

Subtractive colour is based on how coloured pigments, such as paint behave. Artists typically use a traditional subtractive colour model, such as Itten’s colour wheel, where the subtractive primary colours are red, yellow and blue. Primary subtractive colours will combine to form black.

Printers use a more accurate CMYK colour model where the primary colours are cyan, magenta and yellow.

Complimentary colours are those positioned opposite each other in the colour wheel (which colour model??) These colours effectively cancel each other out so are said to have the most contrast.

My own experiments with colour mixing using watercolour paints (subtractive colour). Alchemy!


Itten’s Colour Theory

Some notes on Itten’s Colour Theory..

Johannes Itten (1888 – 1967) was a Swiss expressionist painter, teacher, designer and theorist,  associated with the Bauhaus school. He worked extensively in exploring the use and composition of colour.

A synopsis of his book ‘The Art of Colour’, published in 1961, is below:


Itten developed a number of theories regarding the use of colour and how colours are perceived, including:

Colour Effect

How a colour is perceived depends on how it interacts with the colours around it. colours effectively influence each other.

Subjective Timbre

How a colour is perceived depends to some extent on how the viewer interprets it..

7 Types of Colour Contrast

Contrast of Hue: The contrast between colours where hues are clearly differentiated from each other. This is most prominent between the primary colours. As colours start to be mixed, their hues move closer to each other and this contrast is diminished.

Contrast of Light and Dark: The constrast between how light and dark colours are. Black and white have the greatest contrast here.

Contrast of Warm and Cold: The contrast between warmer reds, oranges and yellows and cooler blues, purples  and greens. How warm or cool a colour appears also depends on how it is affected by the colours around it. (A violet next to blue may seem warm but next to red may seem cooler).

Complementary Contrast: Contrast between colours which are opposite each other on the colour wheel.

Simultaneous Contrast: The effect that a colour can have on its neighbours whereby the eye perceives the neighbouring colour to have a hint of the complimentary colour of the initial colour. This effect can make a black placed next to a red look slightly green.

Contrast of Saturation: contract between pure, intense colours and ‘diluted’ colours created by adding white, black, grey or a complimentary colour.

Contrast of Extension: The extent to which a colour a used. much of it is present. Balance is achieved when the brilliance of a colour is matched with the extent to which it is used. For example, yellow has more brilliance than purple. Using less yellow and more purple will create balance.

Colour Harmony

Colour harmony refers to creating colour themes by using colours that are related to each other on the colour wheel.:

Dyads: Two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel.

Triads: Three colours selected from equidistant points on the colour wheel.

Tetrads: Two pairs of complimentary colours on the colour wheel whose connecting diameters are perpendicular to each other.

Spatial Effects of Colours

Certain colours placed together give the impression of some colours advancing and some retreating, The background on which colours are viewed also contributed to this effect. For eaxample light tones on a dark background advance forward. Warm colours often advance next to cool colours which sem to retreat.

Colour Expression Theory

The mental and emotional effect that a colour may have when paired with other colours, e.g. yellow and orange denotes warmth and the sun, yellow and red is a very vibrant and loud combination, yellow and white is more subdued.