Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Praise of Gray (or is that Grey?)

Well! I see from the comments on my last post's question (What do you see outside your window today that inspires a particular palette for your art? ), gray is getting a bit of a bad rap. Wow, nothing inspirational there, seemed to be the sentiment. I feel compelled to come to its defense. And on a day where I myself am mostly looking at gray, fog and rain. So let's consider for starters, how gray can make a dramatic backdrop such as in the bucolic scene above.

Colors placed over a gray background get an extra bit of pop, like these autumn leaves seen outside my studio. No competing here with brilliant blue.

I've used the lovely neutral gray as background for some of my quilts, like this Willow Leaves II. Was not thinking of cloudy skies, but of leaves on pavement...

...such as this leaf I found lying on the grass. Totally boring and hard to see against the green, it becomes a star when placed on grey as its supporting actor.

But even without any color, grey in all its values can be stunningly dramatic. I'm no Ansel Adams, but my photo of a December view across the lake is reminiscent of his stark black and white nature photos. He may not have been looking at totally grey landscapes, but that is how he rendered them in his art.

But I also ask you to look beyond the general dreariness of a gray rainy day. I'm betting there is some color there somewhere if you just shift your focus a bit. Here was the scene outside my studio window not long ago. Yes, there's still green grass and leaves on the trees, but yuck - it was a wet dreary day.

And yet, my eye kept straying out to that grass - what was it exactly? Oh - I see. It's NOT just green. It's not just different shades of green. There are other colors mixed in there too.

Run through a color analyzer, this is the resulting palette that I could use in my art. Granted, not the zippiest set of colors, but still, not totally boring either. At least not to me.

Here's the photo run through the pixelator filter of Paint Shop Pro. One could easily ramp up the contrast and values for a less neutral look.

Still not convinced that there's anything of interest out there on a rainy grey day? Then consider what this AP photographer captured in the midst of Portland, Oregon's heavy rain yesterday. I'm inspired!


bj parady said...

Good job of defending a great color!

Connie Rose said...

I think those palettes are awesome, like heather!

Sherrie Spangler said...

OK, you've got me. I hate grey, but the way you zoomed in on the subdued colors in the grass and analyzed them turned it into art that I like. Do more!