Welcome to the second post in our Playful Color Month series. In our first post we discussed My Top 9 Symptoms of Color Trouble. Many of you chimed in with raised hands, saying “me too”; it’s good to know I’m not alone in experiencing trouble with color.
So now we know what symptoms we may experience or feel when we are having color troubles. Today we are going one step further to reveal the two main root causes of our color trouble symptoms.
Before we go on, I want to remind you and myself to take this with a grain of salt. There is certainly a time and place for us to use curated color kits or to use one fabric line or to walk away from a project, etc. I certainly make room in my schedule for these projects because sometimes I just need to sew on something where I don’t have to think creatively.
But for those times where we do want to invest our creative mental energy into playing with color, knowing the symptoms and the root causes of color trouble is really going to help.
The 2 Root Causes of all our Color Ills
I’m going to keep it really simple, because working with color is vast. There are two main culprits causing our color ills: 1) inexperience working with color theory and 2) color mindset issues. I’ll discuss each more in depth in a little bit.
But first I want to share some of my personal color challenges and color challenges you all have shared anonymously with me. As you read through these challenges, consider whether the challenge might be caused by either or both of these two causes.
My color challenges
Here’s a few challenges I personally encounter in my work. Perhaps you might experience the same issues?
- Sometimes I think maybe I go too crazy with color.
- I could do a better job with using my values (light, medium, and darks).
- Did the fabric/color I choose as a quick fix hurt end result? (Sometimes I could be more patient…)
- Self flagellation – The color didn’t turn out how I thought… therefore I can’t do it. And I’m a horrible person… (I can be really hard on myself!)
- I’m only good at working with rainbows not in other color palettes.
Your color challenges
A few months ago, I invited my newsletter friends to fill out a survey. In the survey I asked, “What are your top 1 or 2 questions are about Color Theory or using color in quilts? What do you struggle with? Anything specific you’d like to see me teach?” More than 200 people responded! Here’s a few problem areas shared anonymously:
- “I always find it hard just to start. What do I start with?”
- “I struggle with values – how to make good ombré blends and making prints work with each other”
- “putting colours together to make the quilt move and look interesting”
- “Making bolder choices with color in my quilts”
- “How to not be ruled by fabric manufacturers season by season or dictated to about trending colors? can color be left up to your eye and what is pleasing or do you have to carry around a color wheel? thx”
- “lack confidence in my colour choices”
- “I think that i am too structured; i would like the confidence to feel more free and bold with using many different colors together.”
- “working with prints, I don’t get it.”
The 2 Root Causes of all our Color Ills
As you read through the listing of color issues, did you think the issue might be cause by either or both causes: 1) inexperience working with color theory and 2) color mindset issues? Some are clearly one or the other, but some issues are caused by both.
Inexperience with Color Theory
When I say “inexperience” I mean either not being familiar with color theory or being familiar with color theory but no “on the job” experience.
Here’s a not so secret secret. I don’t naturally know so much about color. I know so much about color because I’ve spent years studying color theory and many quilts and books and patterns and articles applying my knowledge of color in real life.
And to be perfectly honest, if you spend time learning about color theory and trying things out on your own or in a workshop, you’ll know a lot about color too. That’s good news! (And if you don’t want to invest time using color theory, no worries, I’ve got you covered there too! No need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.)
Let me give you an example from my list. In most of my work, I typically stay in the same value range (remember value refers to light, medium, or dark). I tend to stay in the medium range and there’s lots of dazzle potential to explore. I’m excited!
Many of us (all of us. It’s all of us) carry mindset type issues. It’s just part of being human. A mindset issue refers to any habits of mind (typically negative) formed by previous experience.
In our creative lives, color is a prime target for mindset issues because color is one of those things that seems like it should be easy. Color seems easy because we often see a finished and polished product. We don’t see the work and time that went into cultivating the palette. And often we don’t see the blocks that didn’t make it into the final quilt top. But when we inevitably experience color trouble, we might form a bad mental habit (e.g. Color is hard and I can’t do it.).
Our mindset issues are holding us back! We need to recognize and free ourselves from our mindset issues.
Mindset issues can be tricky to tease out and can be really personal. Let me give you an example from my own experience. I mentioned above that sometimes I feel like maybe I’m only good at rainbow quilts. Sometimes I feel like I’m only good at color when it comes in rainbow form. My advice to myself is “rainbow quilts are your comfort zone, so when you’re outside of your comfort zone, of course you’ll feel challenged. And it’s ok to feel challenged and frustrated. But you shouldn’t give up just because you feel challenged.”
My Nostalgia quilt features a color palette that is out of my rainbow color comfort zone. It’s not even in my jewel tone comfort zone. As the 9-patch blocks went up on the design wall, I struggled to stay committed to finishing that quilt. But I’m so glad I did!
Don’t let your mindset issues hold you back! We need to recognize and free ourselves from our mindset issues because there are greener pastures beyond our comfort zones.
The Takeaway Message
The main point of this post is even the most experienced of us will encounter color issues. The trick is to identify the trouble trouble and figure out whether the issue stems from 1) inexperience or lack of color theory knowledge OR 2) if it’s stemming from a mindset issue. (Or both!)
Once we know the root cause of our color trouble, we’ll be able to move toward a solution.
Again an example from my experience. I almost gave up on this beautiful quilt because I couldn’t get the color right right away. I was really frustrated. I had set myself up with Netflix and a glass of wine, expecting to have a nice evening. And it just wasn’t happening!
I walked away from the project. But then remembered my own advice recognizing that my frustration stemmed from my expectation color should be easy. I went back and worked a bit more. And finally the colors started falling into place. When I first started out, I wanted to have the red center square be a hot coral. And for whatever reason, the coral wasn’t working; red worked best! Once I got past the mindset of “this should be easy” mindset, my first log cabin blocks were born.
The Playful Color Month Goal
Again, my goal for you this September is to start you on the path away from “Color is hard and I can’t do it” to “Color is hard, but I have some tools to work with Color.” (I love that gif!)
The good news is as you learn and work Color seems like a thing that should be easy, but it can be surprisingly hard! But it doesn’t always have to be mind numbingly hard. As I’ve worked with color and experienced challenges, I’ve noted a good many quick tips and tricks that can help me generate a color scheme very quickly. As we go through the rest of September, I’ll be sharing a few of these color tricks and tips.
Schedule of Events
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As a reminder here’s the schedule of events and please remember this plan is a bit fluid because of my life transitions. (I just can’t wait to be perfectly settled to share this awesome stuff with you!)
The 2 Root Causes of Color Mistakes (You are here!)