Saturday, October 27, 2012

An Artistic Dialogue With My Immediate Environment

Guest Artist: Lesley Turner

This blogspot has a number of posts that highlight the artwork of invited artists. For you convenience I have listed them below:
Jennifer Libby Fay
Flora Fascinator
Shirley McKernan

I met Lesley Turner when I was tutoring in the USA. A New Zealander by birth, a Canadian by circumstance and an artist who completed her artistic education in Canada and the United Kingdom - all point to a person possessing an international mien. I have always been impressed by her art and her generosity in sharing her ideas and her art practices. Her artist statement and the processes that underpin her artwork practice, as outlined below, are a witness of her generous trait.

Lesley Turner.

Lesley has an on-going artistic dialogue with her immediate environment. A dialogue is a two way discourse: as you witness and interpret what you see - by “being” in the environment rather than possessing it – the environment becomes fused with your art making processes. I cannot put it better than Daisetz Suzuki who pointed out that in the East you do not have to possess (i.e. pluck) a rose in order to love and admire it – you just have to experience its presence, its very being (D. Suzuki, Zen and the Japanese Culture).

Below is only a vignette of her work. Visit Lesley’s Blogspot for more of her artwork and musings.

I know you will love her art as much as I do.


Guest Artist: Lesley Turner
Artist Statement

Title of Artwork: Home.
Materials: Bed sheets; cotton, wool, linen, silk, bamboo thread.
Size: 142” (high) x 101” (wide) x 101” (deep).

“Home” documents a process enabling me to get to know the Canadian Pacific Northwest Douglas-fir ecosystem - where I live. Each cloth records my marking of a lunar year in the tree’s life cycle.

I am working to build an intimate relationship with my natural environment by having an on-going dialogue with four specific trees, wrapping each of them in a sheet from my children’s beds. The wrapped trees respond by staining each sheet, leaving an imprint of their biological processes.

My response in the dialogue is to add stitch in the color palette I observe in each tree every new moon month. These sheets are a signifier of the care and attention I gave my children as they grew and they now reference my desire to nurture the natural environment.

Title of Artwork: Home.
Materials: Cotton bed sheets; cotton, wool, linen, silk, bamboo thread; wood, steel, plant material.
Size: 142” (high) x 101” (wide) x 101” (deep).

“Home” is the result of one of a number of dialogues I have started within my immediate environment. The above image shows the work after eight months of stitched documentation when it was exhibited as my final graduation work, fulfilling the requirements of Middlesex University's B.A.(Hons) Embroidered Textiles program.

These dialogues began after I moved to a house located within the Douglas-fir ecosystem on Vancouver Island, Canada. I was born in a temperate rainforest region of New Zealand and was happy with the idea of returning to live in this type of ecosystem. Once I realized I was not familiar with the trees in my new home, I experienced a strong urge to get to know them. One usually has a conversation with the person one wants to get to know - but just talking to trees was limiting. The concept of dialogues with trees encompasses a greater range of potential communicative activities.

The “Home” dialogue began with pre-mordanting the bed sheets in salt water. The sea is two kilometers from where the four trees are growing.

The pre-mordant bed sheets were wrapped around the tree trunks and secured with jute twine.

Douglas-fir. The four wrapped trees were left for approximately a year while the staining on the bed sheets took place.

The new moon is a time of growth and an ancient way to mark time. I conducted color studies of a feature on each tree every month on the day of the new moon. I explored the identified colors in a sketchbook then selected natural fiber threads in those colors.

I began by stitching in situ a band of running stitch in the selected colors. As the temperatures dropped and as I worked further up the bed sheet, this proved impractical. For the next eight months I took the bed sheet off the tree, stitched the band while inside, then re-wrapped the tree again.

“Home” will be exhibited in “Continuum” at the "World Of Threads Festival" Oakville, November 2nd - 17th, 2012, with the other B.A.(Hons) graduates’ work. “Continuum” will go to Sudpfalz, Herxheim, Germany, February 16th - March 9th, 2013. “Home” will be different each time it is shown as I continue to stitch the changing colors of the trees until October 2013, when the bed sheets will be completely covered with stitch.

Title of Artwork: Valuing Women’s Work.
Materials: Cotton, porcelain, steel.
Size: 62” (deep) x 81” (wide) - installation size varies, dependent on table size.

“Valuing Women’s Work” is the result of another dialogue. A hand-embroidered tablecloth was laid under a maple tree just before the leaves began to fall. In a delicate, composted state the tablecloth was preserved using museum conservation techniques.

After careful washing and ironing it was stitched to a support cloth, another tablecloth. The work speaks of nurturing life-sustaining cycles taking place inside the home and outside in our planet home.

Title of Artwork: Succession.
Materials: Cotton, wool, polyester, nylon, wood.
Size: 96” (high) x 60” (wide) x 36” (deep).

“Succession” explores two exciting concepts I learnt via scientific research that was stimulated by my dialogues. At a molecular level our blood has the same structure as a trees’ chlorophyll - the difference being iron makes our blood red and magnesium makes chlorophyll green. This work visually expresses our physical interconnectedness with trees.

The other vital concept is the flow of these life forces in a cycle of birth-growth-decay-death-birth... - a cycle that must not be disrupted if life is to continue. I felt knitting with the ability to unravel and re-knit was the most appropriate technique to express this concept.

I am continuing to get to know my new home as I work on a number of other dialogue projects. Nature’s creativity inspires my explorations while art and science help me to see and understand what is in front of me.

Lesley Turner is a trained teacher with a B.A.(Hons) Embroidered Textiles 1st class, Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom and a B.A. in Geography, Otago University, New Zealand. She is a licentiate member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and a Master Knitter of Canada. She has been awarded City and Guilds of London Institute certificates in hand embroidery, machine embroidery and design and a Certificate in Visual Design from the University of Calgary. Lesley works in the textile medium with a focus on stitch as a mark maker. She has exhibited across Canada, in the UK and in South Korea. She is a member of Articulation and the Surface Design Association. She is an instructor in Fine Arts Textiles at the Victoria College of Art, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

For Lesley's Full CV - visit: L. Turner's Full CV

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Costumes of the Ballets Russes
Wearable Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

There are a number of posts centered on the costumes of the Ballets Russes. For your convenience I have listed them below:
Costume Designs by Léon Bakst
Costume Designs by Alexandre Benois for the Ballets Russes

The National Gallery of Australia has a significant collection of costumes of the Ballets Russes. Between 10th December 2010 and 20th March 2011 the National Gallery of Australia exhibited its renowned collection of the Ballets Russes' costumes designed by such artists as Picasso, Matisse, Gris, Bakst, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Braque and de Chirico. The exhibition integrated design, music and dance.

They also published a valuable tome with the exhibition, namely: Ballets Russes – Art Of Costume, R. Bell (with essays by C. Dixon, H. Hammond, M. Potter and D. Ward), National Gallery Of Australia, Canberra (2010). It is well written and gives a concise history of the Ballets Russes as well as giving life to some 150 costumes and accessories from thirty-five productions of the Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev and Colonel de Basil’s Russes de Monte Carlo.

The revived post-Diaghilev Ballets Russes reached Australia in 1936 giving performances by the various touring companies of Wassily de Basil. Below is just vignette of the exhibition and of its accompanying publication in order to give you a sampler of a truly unique experience.

A Brief History of the Ballets Russes
The story of the Ballets Russes stems from the interest of one man its founder and director Sergei Diaghilev - a Russian émigré - who lived in Paris, self exiled from Russia. Diaghilev’s Saison Russe (translated "Season Russia") began with the ballet Le Pavillon d’Armide. It brought together the talents of choreographer Michael Fokine and prominent dancers such as Anna Pavola and a teenager named Vaslav Nijinsky.

Poster of Vaslav Nijinsky in 'The Spirit of The Rose' (1911).

The presence of so many of the Imperial Russian female stars and the overt physicality, athleticism and bravado of the Russian male dancers, brought an authority and a dramatic atmospheric that restored the status of ballet to the stratosphere of the arts. The costumes designed for these performances, allowed freedom of movement, but emphasised an opulence fitting for a royal court performance.

Diaghilev’s Russian troupe returned to Paris in the following years. In the 1912 season, Diaghilev commissioned scores for new works from contemporary French composers, establishing the Ballets Russes as a Western European and internationally focussed company associated with the musical avant-garde. This growing repertoire of successful ballets enabled Diaghilev to plan for more regular programs in Europe and elsewhere.

Cover of the official program for Ballets Russes, Theatre National de l’Opera, Paris (1910).

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Diaghilev’s largely Russian émigré group returned to Russia. In 1917, Diaghilev met Picasso, which generated a new Ballet Parade that brought together the Ballets Russes and Cubism. Picasso married one of Ballets Russes' dancers, namely - Olga Khokhlova - which bought Diaghilev into Picasso circle, therefore widening his clientele for his work.

By the end of 1923 the Ballets Russes had returned to a permanent base in Monte Carlo due to the financial support of Pierre de Polignac. In Paris in 1925 Diaghilev met and signed up George Balanchine and several other recently arrived Soviet defectors. The company’s work in the latter 1920s was a reflection of the interest in French music held by Diaghilev’s younger troupe of choreographers and dancers.

On the 19th of August 1929, aged fifty-seven and in the company of old friends Misia Sert, Coco Chanel, Lifar, and Kochno, Diaghilev died of blood poisoning.

Sergei Diaghilev, New York (1916).
Photographer: Unknown.

After his death the Ballets Russes were largely run by two opposing personalities - Rene Blum and Wassily de Basil. By 1934 they had serious disagreements on the direction, strategies and priorities of the company. De Basil favoured an international touring company, whereas Blum favoured a Monte Carlo based company.

In 1935 Blum had inaugurated his Ballet de Monte Carlo, hiring Fokine as choreographer. In 1936, a Russian-American banker Serge Denham acquired it. This company eventually found its way to the USA.

M. Fokine and Mme Fokina in 'L’Oiseau de feu' (1911).
Photographer: August Bert.

On the other hand, de Basil’s companies toured the world. In particular they toured Australia three times and with the out break of World War II a ten week tour "down under" resulted in an eight month sojourn, allowing the company to develop its work and become a fabric of Australia’s theatre and dance scenes. Some of the troupe returned to Australia, such as Irina Lavrova, who returned as a dancer, choreographer and influential teacher, eventually founding the Australian Ballet in 1960.

The Collection
When the National Gallery of Australia was established, one of its tenets was to celebrate modernism and to show how arts across all media contributed to an understanding of its influence.

The exhibition presented the Gallery’s well renowned collection of costumes from Sergei Diaghilev’s and Wassily de Basil’s Ballets Russes. The Gallery started its purchase of the costumes in 1973 and as the collection grew, it has now become the most important group of works in the Gallery’s International Decorative Arts and Design Collection.

National Gallery Of Australia (2007).
Photographer: Unknown.

The Costume Designers
Leon Bakst (1866 – 1924).
Leon Bakst started his career as a book illustrator and painter, achieving only moderate success. From 1898-1904 he was Diaghilev’s art assistant. He then ventured into designing both sets and costumes for various theatres in St. Petersburg.

In 1909, Bakst was invited to design productions for the first 'Saison Russe' in Paris. He continued working with the Ballets Russes becoming artistic director in 1911 until 1919. Bakst designed more of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes' productions than any other artist associated with the company.

Costume for a Syrian woman in 'Cleopatre' (1909, 1930).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Costume for 'Chiarina' (1910).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Dress in 'Columbine' (1942).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

From Left To Right: Costume for 'Shah Shahriar' (1910-1930s) and costume for a dancing girl in 'Odalisque' (1910).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Tunic for blue god (1912) (see below).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Nijinsky as blue god in 'Le Dieu Bleu' (1912).
Photographer: Unknown.

From Left To Right: Costume for a friend of 'Queen Thamar', for 'Queen Thamar' and for 'Lezghin' (1912).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Cape for a lady (1914).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Costume for a lady in waiting (1921).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Alexandre Benois
Alexandre Benois was a moderately successful painter. From 1896 he designed costumes for stage productions that were not realized. Beginning with the Ballets Russe’ Le Pavillon d’Armide in 1907, he become one of Diaghilev’s chief theatre designers for nine productions. He spilt with the company in 1924.

Cloak for a harpist (1919).
Designer: Alexandre Benois.

Natalia Goncharova (1881 – 1962).
Natalia Goncarova initially concentrated on lubok prints, iconic paintings (folk art), embroidery and fabric design. She was first commissioned by Daighilev in 1913 and she later joined the company in 1915 in Lausanne Switzerland, where she designed Liturgie. After de Basil’s reformation of the Ballets Russes, Goncharova was commissioned to create new designs for the 1937 Covent Garden productions. She later designed opera and ballet productions in London and Paris.

From Left To Right: Costume for a female subject in 'King Dodon'; for a peasant girl in 'King Dodon', and for a nursemaid in 'King Dodon' (1937).
Designer: Natalia Goncharova.

Juan Gris (1887 – 1927).
His initial success was as a painter. He made significant contributions to the Cubist movement, becoming a leading collagist, particularly with paper-college from 1913. Through Picasso, Gris was introduced to Diaghilev and so to the Ballets Russes. In 1922, he began to design for the company, with costumes and sets for 'Les Tentations de l Bergere' (1924). By May 1924 Gris produced his final collaboration with Diaghilev.

Costume for a Countess in 'Les Tentations de la Bergere' (1924).
Designer: Juan Gris.

Florence (1908 – 1984) and Kathleen Martin (1903 - ?).
De Basil commissioned both sisters to design the costumes for the Australian production of La Lutte Eternelle (1940).

Costume designs for 'Obsessions' (1940).
Designers: Kahleen and Florence Martin.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Self-Directed Critiquing
Art Practice

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

In the “communication age” where the internet, mobile phones and text messaging is commonplace, the mere thought of self-analyzing one’s artwork appears almost heretical. No one would disagree with developing a network of artistic friends and independent critics to give constructive feedback on any work of art in the embryonic stage, especially since the final act of exhibiting one’s artwork ensures that external opinions will be freely given - whether you like it or not! Nevertheless, continuous self-assessment, as the artwork evolves from “mind-to-hand-to-object” is what defines us to be human beings. After all, monkeys can paint, but do they desire their artwork to be destroyed after it is completed (as Kafka had desired with respect to his manuscripts).

Let us define an artist as a self-directed learner; that is, a person who is capable of conception, implementation and evaluation. You may doubt that you have any or all of these abilities. Whatever is your level of expertise, you will be surprised to learn that psychologists (e.g. Bergen and Dunn – “Psychology and Education”) argue that these abilities are innate in all of us. I will attempt to unlock the latter by describing to you how I approach my own continuous self-analysis of my ArtCloth works.

To begin with, before embarking on any piece of ArtCloth I have comprehensively researched the concept that I wished to develop. I have also mapped out the techniques that I shall employ to develop the concept. Often I draw a “rough” of the ArtCloth and do numerous experimental swatches to test whether the techniques I have chosen are viable. I never forget that a “rough” is just a “rough”; that is, it might not work when scaled to the size of the finished artwork; for example, “roughs” are usually on A4 or A3 sheets, whereas my ArtCloth pieces are normally anywhere from 4 meter (length) x 1.5 meter (width) in size.

Above is a water color rough of Winter Bolt - one component of a disperse dye quartet - The Four Australian Seasons.
Note: Initially there would be six cloud wavelets superimposed on the piece to further stress the concept of winter. None of these appeared on the finished artwork (see below) since they seemed - in my emotive state - as being too contrived or too artificial in scope.

Freed of all of this pre-planning, I then set about producing the first stages of my ArtCloth in a “Zen” mode; that is, the Zen Masters - as outlined by D.T. Suzuki - have felt that: “Man is a thinking reed, but his great works are done when he is not calculating or thinking”.

In other words, I let all my research seep into the body of my sub-consciousness and do my artwork in an non-thinking but reactive mode. It is important to note that a "no mind" state is not a mind that is in a coma. It is a reactive state of intuitive feel rather than conscious thought. You often hear sports people confess that on a particular day they were in the "zone"; that is, they were in a "no mind" state.

In my "no-mind" mode, the critical but unconscious questions that seem to come back to me from time-and-time during reflective pauses in the stages of the “implementation” period are as follows:
(i) What assumptions am I making about the artwork unfolding before me?
(ii) What should be known and/or not known to the viewer about the concept?
(iii) Is the artistic framework becoming too dogmatic in the viewers mind and do I want to transmit this?
(iv) Is there a strong focus within the piece?
(v) Are the techniques delivering my intention? (Note: this may not be my original intention but instead my Zen "no-mine" intention).
(vi) Are the colors working and interacting they way I want them to?
(vii) If the colors are not interacting, do I desire such an imbalance?
(viii) Is there a balance between objectivity and subjectivity in the piece?
(ix) Is the composition becoming over crowded, too simplistic and/or imbalanced?
(x) How does the integrity of the piece hold from a different viewing point? For example, I often view my very large ArtCloth pieces (4 meter x 1.5 meter) some 3 meters above the piece itself.

These questions are not consciously imposed or addressed. Rather they encapsulate how my "no-mind" reacts to my artwork as it slowly unfolds before me. Let us just say that these are streaming responses that are fleeting in nature and so do not take hold on my consciousness in a forceful manner, but imperceptibly and incrementally influence my "no-mind" reaction to my artwork. After all, is not the sub-conscious just streaming thoughts that are so diluted that they cannot take a strong hold onto our conscious state.

Finally, once the complexity of activity has ceased, I make myself a cup of tea, sit down, sip it and feel emotionally drained and sometimes - but not always - I feel satisfied as I view my finished artwork.

Title: Winter Bolt - Four Australian Seasons.
Technique: Hand painted and heat transferred using disperse dyes on satin.
Size: ca. 1.50 (width) x 2.00 (length) meters.
Held: Artist Collection – not available for purchase.
Note: The cloud wavelets are not present in the finished artwork due to my Zen "no-mind" directing the artwork instead of me slavishly following the rough. You will note that in my "no-mind" state I have darkened the background of the artwork as the eye descends and thinned out the liquid sun (that is in the form of a bolt) both elements of which I believe indicates - in a more subtle manner - a wintery feel.

My ten unconscious musings may not be yours, but that is okay. Sit down and look at all sorts of artwork that you know has “worked” and distill from these pieces the criteria that make them “work”. Engineers do it all the time when reproducing electronic devices that they have not designed themselves – it is called “backwards engineering”. Hence, once you know your criteria, then you are in a position to re-work your own pieces in order to fashion them to be much stronger pieces of art than previously conceived.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Naming of Colors[1]
A Trivial Color Classification System
Art Resource

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

This is the eight post in the "Art Resource" series, specifically aimed to construct an appropriate knowledge base in order to develop an artistic voice in ArtCloth.

Other posts in this series are:
Glossary of Cultural and Architectural Terms
Units Used in Dyeing and Printing of Fabrics
Occupational, Health & Safety
A Brief History of Color
The Nature of Color
Psychology of Color
Color Schemes
The Naming of Colors
The Munsell Color Classification System
Methuen Color Index and Classification System
The CIE System
Pantone - A Modern Color Classification System
Optical Properties of Fiber Materials
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part I
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part II
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part III
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part IV
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part V
Protein Fibers - Wool
Protein Fibers - Speciality Hair Fibers
Protein Fibers - Silk
Protein Fibers - Wool versus Silk
Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Cotton
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Linen
Other Natural Cellulosic Fibers
General Overview of Man-Made Fibers
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Viscose
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Esters
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Nylon
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Polyester
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Acrylic and Modacrylic
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Olefins
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Elastomers
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Mineral Fibers
Man Made Fibers - Other Textile Fibers
Fiber Blends
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part I
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part II
Melt-Spun Fibers
Characteristics of Filament Yarn
Yarn Classification
Direct Spun Yarns
Textured Filament Yarns
Fabric Construction - Felt
Fabric Construction - Nonwoven fabrics
A Fashion Data Base
Fabric Construction - Leather
Fabric Construction - Films
Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins
Fabric Construction – Foams and Poromeric Material
Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns
Weaving and the Loom
Similarities and Differences in Woven Fabrics
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part I)
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part II)
The Three Basic Weaves - Twill Weave
The Three Basic Weaves - Satin Weave
Figured Weaves - Leno Weave
Figured Weaves – Piqué Weave
Figured Fabrics
Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements
Crêpe Fabrics
Crêpe Effect Fabrics
Pile Fabrics - General
Woven Pile Fabrics
Chenille Yarn and Tufted Pile Fabrics
Knit-Pile Fabrics
Flocked Pile Fabrics and Other Pile Construction Processes
Glossary of Paper, Photography, Printing, Prints and Publication Terms
Napped Fabrics – Part I
Napped Fabrics – Part II
Double Cloth
Multicomponent Fabrics
Knit-Sew or Stitch Through Fabrics
Finishes - Overview
Finishes - Initial Fabric Cleaning
Mechanical Finishes - Part I
Mechanical Finishes - Part II
Additive Finishes
Chemical Finishes - Bleaching
Glossary of Scientific Terms
Chemical Finishes - Acid Finishes
Finishes: Mercerization
Finishes: Waterproof and Water-Repellent Fabrics
Finishes: Flame-Proofed Fabrics
Finishes to Prevent Attack by Insects and Micro-Organisms
Other Finishes
Shrinkage - Part I
Shrinkage - Part II
Progressive Shrinkage and Methods of Control
Durable Press and Wash-and-Wear Finishes - Part I
Durable Press and Wash-and-Wear Finishes - Part II
Durable Press and Wash-and-Wear Finishes - Part III
Durable Press and Wash-and-Wear Finishes - Part IV
Durable Press and Wash-and-Wear Finishes - Part V

There are currently eight data bases on this blogspot, namely, the Glossary of Cultural and Architectural Terms, Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff, A Fashion Data Base, the Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins, the Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns, Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements, Glossary of Paper, Photography, Printing, Prints and Publication Terms and the Glossary of Scientific Terms, which has been updated to Version 3.5. All data bases will be updated from time-to-time in the future.

If you find any post on this blog site useful, you can save it or copy and paste it into your own "Word" document etc. for your future reference. For example, Safari allows you to save a post (e.g. click on "File", click on "Print" and release, click on "PDF" and then click on "Save As" and release - and a PDF should appear where you have stored it). Safari also allows you to mail a post to a friend (click on "File", and then point cursor to "Mail Contents On This Page" and release). Either way, this or other posts on this site may be a useful Art Resource for you.

The Art Resource series will be the first post in each calendar month. Remember - these Art Resource posts span information that will be useful for a home hobbyist to that required by a final year University Fine-Art student and so undoubtedly, some parts of any Art Resource post may appear far too technical for your needs (skip over those mind boggling parts) and in other parts, it may be too simplistic with respect to your level of knowledge (ditto the skip). The trade-off between these two extremes will mean that Art Resource posts will hopefully be useful in parts to most, but unfortunately may not be satisfying to all!

The Naming Of Colors - A Trivial Classification System
There are only eleven basic color words that are pure hues in the English language, and they are: red, blue, yellow, green, violet, orange, pink, grey, black, white and brown. Strictly speaking, grey, black and white do not have characteristic wavelengths. They are either the lack of color (black) or a combination of all visible colors (white) or a blend of the two (grey). Yet there are literally millions of colors. Computers yield some sixteen million and the human eye can distinguish more than any machine.

The use of colors in ceremonies dates back 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. In the Ice Age bodies were buried in red ochre. Furthermore, the bones of the dead were painted red. It was speculated that the flow of red blood was recognized to be the difference between life and death and so the use of red ochre was therefore an acknowledgment of inducing life after death.

The pre-historic cave paintings near the medieval village of Santillana del Mar in Northern Spain and those in Lascaux in France yielded images of bison, wild pigs, deer and horses. These images were painted in five colors: strong red earth, black, brown, orange, and yellow ochre. It was not until about 4,500 B.C. that we first encounter blue (in the so called Haaf culture in Mesopotamia). In Egypt, malachite green was used as a pigment in cosmetics and then in ceramics. A wealth of different colors appeared in that era. The Sumarians (Babylonia) introduced such hues as blue stone, lapis lazuli, etc. The Phoenicians discovered purple, which they made from a kind of welk and used it to dye their cloths. The use of contrasting colors, such as yellows, light blues, reds and blue were employed in the Golden Age of Greek culture (600-400 B.C.)

The industrial revolution ushered in a vast array of different colors, which were thought in an analog world would never be repeated again in terms of scale and acceleration. And then came the digital age. Now a simple $500 device will produce approximately sixteen million colors.

The purpose of a color name is to communicate the appearance of a given color in order to enable us to think in that color. Hence, a color name must be so characteristic of the color’s appearance that others will readily envision it.

Since objects and substances in our environment were the source of colors, these were historically used to name colors. Such was the case with the words of blood and red, the oldest color name found in most cultures. White and black are also of ancient origin - often being derived from concepts of light and dark as symbolized by day and night. From the Sanskit candra (light) came the Latin candidus (white). The Russian belyi (white) is derived from the root bhe (to lighten). The English white is derived from the German xwitaz. Similar - black and dark - share common origins. The German schwarz is related to the Nordic sortna (to darken) etc. The word yellow is also of early origin in many languages, usually derived from the same names as fruits, straw, gold, fire or bile (e.g. German galle).

The word green and blue developed at a much later date, perhaps because the materials necessary to form these pigments were not readily available until much later in history. Green is naturally related to growth and greenery. Blue, strangely enough is often derived from the word pale or yellow, which perhaps reflects the sky, which is often a pale blue at dawn and at sunset a yellow or pale yellow.

Names of the second order colors in history - the first order being red, yellow, green, blue, white and black - are words such as beige, blonde, grey, brown, golden, lilac, magenta, olive, orange, purple, rose, ruby, turquoise and violet. These color names were independently construed and so characterize specific colors.

When basic color names are combined with one another, they designate intermediate colors such as yellow-green, blue-black and golden-blonde. As more hues became available the general color names were varied by the addition of modifiers resulting in such terms as light blue, pastel green and deep black. The addition of suffixes – especially the use of “ish” – became useful in describing changes, which take place in a gradual color shift (e.g. yellowish green or bluish green etc.)

Another larger group of color names were directly derived from specific metal elements (e.g. copper, platinum blonde etc.) In everyday speech auxiliary words were used before the proper color name for its designation (e.g. radiant orange red, a strong blue violet etc.)

The naming of colors constitutes the most simplistic and trivial classification system used even to this today. As it evolved historically, concomitant with the development of the structure of local language, it is necessarily devoid of a systematic and universal approach.

For a comprehensive list of trivial color names see - Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins. The following is a list of common sources from which color names were derived.

(i) Color Names Derived From Plants: For example, apricot (yellow), lemon yellow, grass green, hazel, and rose red etc.

Lemon (or Citron) Yellow (pigment) (CI - 3B8): Barium yellow. The color of the peel of the ripe lemon. Also a general term use for pale yellow shade, rather than a designation for a pigment of any particular composition, and often applied indiscriminately to pale chrome, zinc, or cadmium yellows and others. See the Glossary remarks under primrose yellow. French: citron (1598).

(ii) Color Names Derived From Minerals And Metals: For example, alabaster, amethyst (violet), copper (red), malachite green, and platinum blonde etc.

Amethyst (Violet) (CI - 15C6): The color of amethyst, a semi-precious stone, which may at times appear bluer than the color shown here. From the Greek amethystos, meaning "without intoxication", since the stone was considered protective against drunkenness (1572).

(iii) Color Names Derived From Man-Made Products: For example, chocolate (brown), faience blue, bottle green, and wine red etc.

Chocolate (Brown) (CI - 6F4): The color of pure chocolate made from cocoa without addition of milk.

(iv) Color Names Derived From Fauna: For example, beaver, canary yellow, mouse grey, fox, and butterfly blue etc.

Beaver (CI - 5F4): Beaver-colored as the fur of the animal. The name beaver is derived from the word brown. The Anglo-Saxon word beofor (beaver). The name castor is used synonymously with beaver (1705).

(v) Color Names Derived From Geographic Names: For example, Berlin blue, Copenhagen blue, Naples yellow, Pompian red, Spanish green etc.

Berlin Blue (CI - 21F7; pigment): Prussian blue; term used especially in France. Made from inorganic pigment - ferric ferrocyanide. It was discovered in 1704 by Diesbach in Berlin and by Milori in Paris in 1704. Other names are bronze blue, Milori blue, Paris blue, steel blue. The English Prussian blue and Berlin blue date from 1724; Milori blue and Paris blue from about 1800.

(vi) Color Names Derived From Natural Phenomena: For example, aurora, spring green, sky blue, fire red, and fog etc.

Aurora (CI - 10B4): The color of the sky at sunrise. As this color depends on the hour, atmospheric conditions and other factors, it is subject to many variations. Latin word for dawn - aurora.

(vii) Color Names Derived From Miscellaneous Subjects: For example, calypso (red), and infrared etc.

Calypso (Red) (CI - 9A8): Same as cinnabar, vermilion, China (or Chinese) red (or rouge), and scarlet. A name used for cosmetics and textiles etc. probably derived from the West Indian music. Also, a botanical name for an orchid whose color varies from white, purple, pink or rose to yellow.

Trivial color classification systems - such as color names - are fraught with ambiguity. What may appear to one person to a purplish-red may appear to another to be a reddish-purple. It is often impractical in this digital age to dial up a color based on such a trivial classification system, since it is not systematic but rather whimsical (i.e. historical) in nature. To keep on inventing new names for new hues in this digital age is therefore impractical just because of the sheer complexity and extensiveness of the available colors at hand. If we persisted with such a system, the second law of thermodynamics would prevail - chaos would reign!

Hence, more systematic and universal classifications color systems needed to be invented and some of these will be covered over the next few posts in the Art Resource series.

[1] A. Kornerup and J.H. Wanscher, Methuen Handbook Of Color, Polotokens, Forlag, Copenhagen (1978).