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February 12 - Custom Colors and Color Poetry

Today’s practice is inspired by my many years leading color mixing workshops. One of the favorite activities was to create color samples cards and name custom colors.

It was delightful to see how color inspired language in these workshops. Sometimes colors were named for things they resembled while others were more about the process of making them. “Patriotic purple” was a light lavender made from mixing red, white and blue. “Orch” was a mix of peach and orange.

If you are going to mix some colors, here are a few tips and a bit of additional color vocabulary.

Strong colors and weak colors - when mixing it is important to add small amounts of stronger colors into weaker ones. For example, red and blue are stronger than white and yellow. If mixing green, you would add the blue to the yellow rather than the other way around.

You see a bigger change when you add small bits of a strong color to a weaker one. Think of mixing house paint at the hardware store, if you want pink, they will begin with a can of white and add bits of red until it is the correct tint.

Mixing brown, black and darker tones can be a great challenge. Typically colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel mix browns and grays.

Whether you mix your own colors or choose from colors you already have, I hope you will let colors inspire language in your practice today.

Practice - Color Names and Poems

Today’s invitation is to choose some colors or mix your own custom colors.

Begin by exploring possible color names or brainstorming a list of images brought to mind by a given color.

From these lists, begin to compose a poem, either free verse or haiku. The haiku form is 3 lines: the first is 5 syllables, the second is 7 syllables and the third is 5 syllables.

Below is a poem I wrote inspired by images of yellow. The first line is inspired by a book of poetry by potter, M. C. Richards.


With paint
accompanied by that joy
of discovery
in a child
mixing paint with sticks.

But yellow is PRIMARY
It comes FIRST
You can’t invent it!
The children protest
You said so -
We already KNOW that!

Ok then,
imagine discovering yellow
in a field,
a lone autumn tree
bright against the faded browns
in warm highlights
on white curtains,
the plastic watering can
that pops against the green grass
as light returns after the rain.

In the light
at the just right time
of day as the sun ripples the wall
thrown in through
hundred year old glass
in a bungalow
as children settle
in late evening.

Then gather those
children close so
the thrill of discovery
is so clear
they feel they’ve invented
this yellow,
can own it,
name it, inhabit it,
and share it.

- Kathryn Coneway (inspired by M. C. Richards)

Below is a link to a project called “Hue Haiku” that includes several examples of color haikus. I’ve enjoyed reading haiku’s readers have sent inspired by light and hours of the day and look forward to reading your words for color.

Inspiration from the Color Factory and 826 Valencia - Hue Haiku

826 National is a collection of tutoring centers around the country founded by writer, Dave Eggers. In both New York and California, they teamed up with artists from the Color Factory to offer workshops in writing haiku's inspired by colors.

You can see a link here that includes a video of haiku’s written by kids. The video slide show runs pretty quickly so be sure to pause to read the poems. It might offer inspiration for your own poems.

Additional Inspiration from What Color is the Wind

What Color is the Wind by Anne Herbauts is a beautiful story inspired by a blind child asking the artist to describe color. You can read more about the book and its images in this Brainpickings Post by Maria Popova. I hope thinking of how color interacts with our other senses might inspire some language of your own.

Thank you for being a part of this newsletter community.

Thank you to everyone who has been sharing images and creations.

Please feel free to share anything you are noticing or creating.

Respond to this email or share on Instagram with hashtag #papercolorearth

Thanks, Kathryn

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