Wonderfully coordinated color palettes are one of the things that truly spark my creativity and light up my creative life. In much of the art world, things that speak to a person happen through good design and color. Every person has a color or a specific color palette that aligns with their soul, mood, personality, and even the design scheme of their home. In the opening season of the TV show Frasier, his producer goes to his home for the first time and says, “Exactly as I imagined, beige everywhere.” Most of the time, even our personalities tend to say a lot about our color and color preferences. For many artists, our color palette tends to reflect ourselves and not that of our customers or buyers. Well-seasoned artists do both and do it well; they design with their own specific color palettes but also keep their customers in mind.
Creating Color Palettes
Whether you are a polymer clay jewelry artist or a sculptor it is tantamount to start with a well-thought-out and planned palette. When you skip this important first step, your work looks like a bunch of Skittles are thrown together at random and it’s easy for your main focal point to get lost along the way. Creating a cohesive palette takes time. When I’m creating a well-thought-out palette, often the palette takes just as much time as the piece itself. It’s not because it’s hard, but it’s because I have to think of the person receiving the item, the end result and feel I’m trying to capture, and the look and essence of the piece that I’m trying to achieve. Do I want my piece to be warm and have flecks of light and reflectivity? Do I want my piece to be cool with a pastel color as well? Do I want my end piece to have a metallic component to it? Is my piece based on a time period or season that I’m trying to capture; if it is I have to take those things into account too. All of these things I have to take into consideration before I even begin to create my palette.
While that might sound complex, it really isn’t. It’s something that happens second nature at this point. But when I first started not using polymer clay straight from the block, it was difficult. I ended up with winter pieces that looked like they should be summer pieces because I hadn’t taken into account some of those considerations. The result was frustration on my part. It made me want to go back to just using clay straight from the package. But here’s the catch … anyone can do that. But can anyone create cohesive palettes? No. Not everyone could. So I decided I would.
So where’s the downside? The downside is that you have to make enough clay for your entire project. Why? Because running out is not an option. I don’t mix clay by recipe. I mix it until the colors “feel right” every time. This means that 95% of the time they are impossible for me to match. So going back and redoing a piece that broke for a customer, or making more clay for a piece that I ran out of color is next to impossible. Not to mention that with my clay system, I never know what may have been in that color in the first place.
Is Color that Important?
Yes. Color defines the look, feel, and theme of your piece. Color also defines who you are as an artist and it defines who your buyer may be as well. When you begin a project, color should be the first thing that you think about and not just an afterthought. I hope that next time you create a new piece you take the time to plan out your color palette in advance.