Category Archives: media

Rebuilding Foundations: 2012 Colour Studies – Unit 6

Unit 6: Colour in Nature

Continuing with my self-directed study of colour by following the telecourse Colour: An Introduction.

(Check out all my colour assignments here.)

Here are my notes from completing this unit of study:

Click image to view the gallery for this unit:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 6

The goals for this unit of study were:

  • analyzing colour and form in natural objects

My experiences while completing the assignments:

  • I haven’t drawn anything by hand in a long time. When it came to analyzing the structure of a flower for this unit ( picked a sunflower), I decided that I had to abandon my Blackberry Playbook tablet and use good ol’ pencil and pen in my sketchbook.
  • The Playbook tablet remained an excellent tool for recording the colours that I saw on the skin of yellow and red peppers as I turned them over in my hand. I painted the colours schematically (as mostly vertical strokes) using a fairly large brush, as if the surface of the pepper were rolled out flat like a map of the earth, instead of rendering the pepper’s surface volumetrically.
  • I learned a lot from this unit, appreciating the interior structure of the flower, seeing how small seed and filament-like structures extend out into the myriad of pollen-bearing pieces, densely packed into a spiral form in the near-black centre of the flower. Amazing.
  • I felt an empathetic and emotional response to the flower itself: the visual energy I felt from the beautiful, bright ranges of rich yellows, in it’s pollen aroma, and in the realization of its inner life.

Rebuilding Foundations: 2012 Colour Studies – Unit 5

Unit 5: Discord Energy

Continuing with my self-directed study of colour by following the telecourse Colour: An Introduction.

(Check out all my colour assignments here.)

Here are my notes from completing this unit of study:

Click image to view the gallery for this unit:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 5

The goals for this unit of study were:

  • mixing alternating, classical and complementary discords

My experiences while completing the assignments:

  • I enjoyed the ideas of discords, and the approaches to them as described by Hudson and Johannes Itten. I found colour and tonal combinations which, for me, evoked particular periods and styles in art, design and fashion. When I see a dark orange against a light red (pink), or light blue next to a dark green, it always makes me think of fashion and illustration from the 40s or 50s.
  • I did this unit exclusively on my Playbook tablet. Even though the colour exercises demonstrate mixing red, yellow, and blue primaries in pigment, I was actually dealing in RGB colour.
  • An enjoyable unit, but I need to produce more work here – it seems too incomplete. It would be a good idea to go back and review the unit examples, video and assignment instructions and see what I may have overlooked.

Rebuilding Foundations: Colour Studies, Redux

Unit 1: Colour Wheel - Subtractive Primaries and Secondaries
Unit 1: Colour Wheel - Subtractive Primaries and Secondaries

Recently, I’ve been walking myself through a telecourse called “Colour – An Introduction”. This course intends to help anyone effectively use and appreciate colour in many different capacities. It was designed to be for a general audience, with no specific art or design training or prerequisite experience.

Originally co-produced by BC’s Knowledge Network and The Open Learning Agency around 1987, this award-winning telecourse was comprised of nine video programs and a printed course manual. It was first aired on BC’s Knowledge Network and for years was broadcast and offered as a Foundation-level colour course to students across Canada and internationally.

In the mid-2000s, after the OLA’s catalog was taken over by Thompson Rivers University, Colour and its companion Foundation telecourses continued to be offered offline via DVD.

Foundations of Colour

As a student at Emily Carr College in the 80s, I studied under (and later worked for) Master Art Educator Dr. Tom Hudson. At that time, Tom and ECCAD’s Outreach department had made it their mission to make ECCAD’s first year Foundation curriculum available to the general public through distance learning. Colour was the first of four series that Tom wrote and hosted.

Although I’d never formally taken Tom’s Colour telecourse, I was able to get a spare draft copy of its manual, and I religiously taped the video episodes off of TV. Although I’d already taken Foundation Colour classes, the theory and perception of colour continued to fascinate me. I read and bought books on colour and perception, and learned a great deal by studying under Tom’s expert personal guidance. To me, Tom’s manual for “Colour: An Introduction” was a must-have item for my growing library, and an indispensable artifact of Tom’s studio-based teaching methodology.

Computer as Tools for Learning About Colour

I was one of two second year fine arts students selected by Tom to be his “computer students”. Where Tom’s other students used charcoal, ink, graphite or paint to explore visual language in his summer master classes, we worked almost exclusively on Amiga personal computers.

Back in the 1980s, desktop computer technology was still relatively in its infancy, with different platforms offering different capabilities of colour range and spatial resolution. My earliest explorations in computer-based visual literacy research were using a Commodore 64 running Koala Painter and a KoalaPad drawing tablet and stylus. Months later, Emily Carr College acquired dozens of Amiga personal computers, and I continued using the Amiga platform for visual literacy research and animation development over the next four years.

This Round of Research

In my new series of personal research in colour, I’m using a Blackberry Playbook tablet and sometimes, Adobe Photoshop on a Windows PC.

I guess the moral of this story is:

Once a computer-based visual literacy student, always a computer-based visual literacy student. 🙂

Rebuilding Foundations: 2012 Colour Studies – Unit 1

Unit 1: Basics of Colour

I thought I’d dive into a self-directed study of colour by following the 1980s telecourse Colour: An Introduction. It’s always good to re-tune your instrument once in a while.

(Check out all my colour assignments here.)

Even though I’ve worked as a designer for over 20 years, and have had a good sense of colour for as long as I can remember (at least in my opinion), this telecourse has challenged me and refreshed my thinking on effective colour use, theories, visual perception, and visual literacy in design.

These notes give more detail on my experiences while completing this unit of study:

Click image to view the gallery for this unit:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 1

The goals for this unit of study were:

  • to establishing primary and secondary colours
  • to define colour wheel model
  • to explore light/dark (tonal) properties of the primary and secondary colours
  • to explore  warm/cool (temperature) properties of the primary and secondary colours

My experiences while completing the assignments:

  •  I’ve completed most of the assignments on my Blackberry Playbook. I thought it might be a convenient and capable tool for colour exploration and basic mark-making. It’s a convenient tool for some things, but not ideal for everything.
  • In essence, I have much less drawing control than I’d like. With the generic stylus I’ve been using, painting little freehand lines and figures or little blobs of paint is quite easy, but drawing clean geometric shapes is cumbersome, because the stylus isn’t that accurate and the paint programs that I chose (free ones) leave much to be desired in terms of drawing tools. Some drawings, like the colour circle, had to be completed in Photoshop.
  • Check your tablet’s brightness setting before you begin, or all your colours may be too light or too dark.

Reflections on a multimedia career…

All through my post-secondary education (four frantic, sleep-deprived, incredible years at art college), I seldom knew exactly what I wanted to do in art and design. I just knew what ideas excited me.

In the summer of 1985, once I learned that I was accepted the the Emily Carr College of Art and Design (after I peeled myself off the ceiling), I started to do a few things.

First I panicked, thinking “Gawd – can I do this?” I got over that phase.

Next, I began to imagine what it would be like to be an art student. Unfortunately, nothing but stereotypical images of painting and drawing came to my mind.

Finally, I realized that I needed to prepare myself in a few ways. I needed to assemble my portfolio and I needed to develop a little confidence, so I took a life drawing course at a small studio on Granville Island. I blushed self-consciously while trying to avoid the eyes of the nude model. I scribbled, muttered to myself, and produced a bunch of weak and tentative scribbles that I probably threw out later. As I was packing up to leave, I looked to the model as she was reaching for her robe, and she shot me a smile and a knowing look that both reassured me and told me that she knew just how green I was. I laughed on the inside, and walked home feeling some pride in having tried in my first life drawing class. I proudly announced to my Dad that I had done my first life drawing class. Once Dad realized that “life drawing” involved a nude model, he became very angry, growling “Why can’t you just draw fruit?!” Screw him, I thought. I was proud of myself. It wouldn’t be long before Dad felt proud too. That was pretty cool.

Fortunately, I passed my portfolio interview (and I still don’t know how I got through), and began Foundation (first year) studies at Emily Carr.

One of the first places where things really clicked for me was in Foundation Computer class. Even though it was 1985, and we were using Commodore 64s (and in one class, I swear to god I had a Vic-20 with a datasette), I became fascinated by those little machines that were capable of turning key-presses into little glowing blocks of colour and shape. I remember trying to memorize MS Basic character string functions like “Chr$(32)”, and trying to understand how BASIC worked. A year later, the college bought dozens of Macs, Amigas and Atari ST PCs, and we all began using mice and creating real computer-based graphics and animation.

I also began to consider the schism within myself: artistic and instinctual on the one side (my Mother), and structural and technical on the other side (my Father). Early on, I did not know how to reconcile these two aspects of my personality, but I knew that they would co-exist, and eventually, I developed the idea that they would interact or influence each other in some way.

In the following years, I developed a keen interest in multimedia, animation and video, and began to learn how these technologies were gradually converging (read Stewart Brand’s book “The Media Lab”). I absorbed as much media theory as my instructor Gary Lee Nova provided, got technical help designing simple electronic circuits from Dennis Vance, and studied on my own a lot (relationships between art, science and technology, cybernetics).

More than any other teacher I’ve had, Dr. Tom Hudson was a massive influence on me throughout my art student years. Under Tom’s tutelage and inspiration, I learned about visual literacy, and undertook experiments in colour and drawing in the Bauhaus and British post-war traditions. The main difference was that all my “vis-lit” research for Tom was executed on a microcomputer, using a commercial paint program. We were actually exploring and developing work in computer-based visual literacy. This extracurricular research work was used in Tom’s educational television series “Mark and Image”, and also published in two of his academic articles for the British Journal of Art and Design Education. These events remain my academic high-water marks, and form the springboard of my interest and development as a digital designer.

By a couple of years after graduation, I was developing icons, layouts and animations for the user interface of what was to become North America’s first home-based banking system. From there, my interest in GUI design and web design was born. Since that time, I’ve enjoyed working with software designers on GUI design projects for TV, game consoles, PC and web-based applications. The essentials of visual literacy, colour, design, perception, and user expectations have all been developed and refined through those practical, real-world design projects.

Now, 21 years after graduating from the ECCAD four year program and receiving my diploma in fine arts, I look at the preponderance of digital media and information systems in the world around me, and I’m amazed at how much that culture and technology have converged, and have even seemed to become practically inseparable.

I think that good digital design is more important than ever, and being able to work in multiple media, multiple formats and multiple modes of thought (artistic, technical, exploratory, practical) seems to me to be more important than ever.