Color Full

Recently I found a tube of Cobalt Blue gouache and I swooned.
Paschkis parrotsI painted several blue paintings.
Paschkis Everything-is-connected

Painting is always a matter of choosing one color to go next to another, and lately I’ve been carried away by the sheer pleasure of doing that.

Paschkis small possibilities and parrots



Sometimes when I look at other people’s paintings I can feel the artist swooning from the pleasure of the colors. (Angel by Paul Klee).

klee angel899

This image by Borghese di Pietro Borghese was painted in 1448, and the pink still astounds.                                                                                                     .



In Melissa Sweet’s illustration from Firefly July each shade of pink adds to the ones around it . The greens are gifts to the pinks and vice versa.                          .

melissa sweet moonlight


Georgia O’Keeffe experienced synesthesia. She heard colors. This is a collage illustration from Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez. Rachel said that O’Keeffe walked through the hills, humming the colors she saw.                                     .

Through Georgia's Eyes paschkis

Do you hear the reds in Margaret Chodos’s illustration for Buzz by Janet Wong?
chodos irvine buzz
The little red triangle says AHA to the orange and yellow/green in this paintingby Douglas Florian.                                                                                               .

Radio Lab has a podcast all about COLOR, rich in information. One fact: butterflies (and pigeons and lampreys) have pentachromacy and can see many more colors than people .                                                                                                  .

paschkis butterflies see
In addition to the physical capacity to see a color (rods and cones etc.) your brain and your eye also need practice and coordination. When you learn a new language it takes time for your brain to learn the sounds that it hears. The same is true with visual perceptions. If you have never seen the color blue you will not be able to see it even if you have the physical ability to do so. Here is a landscape without blue, by Paul Klee- just lush oranges, reds and greens.

klee with the eagle
In Seattle right now there are blossoming trees, bushes and flowers everywhere- a profusion of color, light and shadow. Are humans hardwired for these colors and contrasts to give us joy? These cherry blossoms are from Maira Kalman.


This painting by Klee (below) is called Blossoming.                                                   .

klee blossoming

The podcast used a choir to illustrate the harmony and depth of colors. The bass note of  dark colors brings out the soprano yellow and white. Bright boats and buildings sparkle in the alto fog in this illustration by Melissa Sweet.                     .melissa sweet fog

Pink and green add harmony to the red and blue duet in this bouquet by Joe Max Emminger.

joe max emminger bouquet

And finally here is a swooping, swooning, humming landscape from Matisse.

matisse acanthes

I hope you have a color full week.

p.s. I am having a show at the Bitters Co. Barn in Mt. Vernon, WA , opening on May 9th. Please come by if you are in the area.

14 responses to “Color Full

  1. Perfect timing! Our museum has a Van Gogh on loan and a mini-display that talks about his growing interest in color, esp. after his visit to Paris. There is a hands-on section where it tells the history of how the color wheel was developed (and changed) and how our optics work.

    • Julie Paschkis

      Sounds wonderful. I think Maira Kalman’s cherry blossoms (from her book about Lincoln) have a Van Gogh feel.


  2. Cobalt blue is a favorite color of mine too. Thanks for this essay on the wonder of color!

    • Julie Paschkis

      And those traditional pigments – cobalt blue, cadmium red, yellow ochre – have such staying power over time.

  3. I think this is your best post ever, Julie, and that’s saying a lot, because I always love your posts. The soprano yellow, the alto fog, the small red triangle saying AHA to the other colors, Joe’s wonderful bouquet, and Maira Kalman’s cherry trees – and oh!! the pink of Borghese’s image, so unexpected. I think you’re right – we’re hardwired to get pleasure from colors like this!

    • Julie Paschkis

      Julie – thank you. I think you would really enjoy the Radiolab podcast. It opened my eyes.
      Margaret saw the Borghese painting at the Cortauld Gallery in London and sent me a picture of it.
      It is a picture of the early Christian martyrs Julitta and Quiricus – so it even includes swoonworthy words.


  4. Thank you for this gorgeous post! Swooning all over the place. The cobalt blue is sublime. 🙂

  5. Wow, Julie! This was a gorgeous way for me to be introduced to your blog. It filled me with longing for the unnameable. Thank you.

    • Julie Paschkis

      That is a perfect way to describe sublime colors. I guess that is also true for music. The itch is simultaneously scratched and created.

  6. oh! to be a pigeon or a butterfly and (maybe even) a lamphry and see even MORE color….could it be even better than the glory we can use or see before our eyes. And what kind of color do they see anyway?

    • Julie Paschkis

      They have an extra cone and see many more shades and hues than we do. Maybe it is useful for looking at flowers (butterflies), coral (lampreys) or crumbs (pigeons.


  7. Hi Julie, I love this post and the way you write about and show color in yours and others’ paintings. In the past few months I’ve started to think about how I use color in my work and what I am drawn to. I tend to think in black and white much more easily, and I can lose value contrast when I work in color. I also used to have a misconception that working in color meant making your paintings super-colorful, but as you have demonstrated, the best color combinations can have a limited palette with hints of contrasting hues. I would love to read more posts about how great artists use color! Thank you.

    • Julie Paschkis

      Thanks for your comment. Good luck with your explorations! You might want to check out the book Home by Carson Ellis for a judicious use of color. She uses lots of black and white and then bits of zinging color. >

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