Reflection on Formative Feedback for Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary: Assignment 3

Formative Feedback from Cari, my tutor, followed by my reflection.


Overall Comments

A playful, varied and well-crafted body of work.

Research (including sketchbooks and samples)
Context, reflective thinking, analysis, Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
Your research throughout this module has been meticulous, from your initial analysis and deconstruction of what the section entailed (detailed in your blog) to your detailed colour mixing and careful crafting of your collages.
You’ve balanced this carefulness with some lovely playfulness. I love your response to ex.3.1, pt.2 where the stripes emerge from the frame of the fabric to meander out towards the viewer.
The yarn wraps are also really enticing – there’s a great range of textural, tactile and surface qualities in the wraps. Fibrous yarns sit next to matte and glossier surfaces, which creates a varied, dynamic aesthetic. You’ve carefully translated the colour proportions of the painting, using both traditional and non-traditional materials.
The accompanying tables where you record the material quality and source of the yarns are great – use a similar approach in future to record the ‘technical’ information, so you have a good technical resource for future inspiration.
Your handling of both the gouache and watercolour is careful and your colour mixing generally very good. It’s interesting to read your comments about the effect of the light on the accuracy of the colour. Your crafting is consistently careful with all media and processes, with your collage studies particularly well crafted.
The collages (ex.3.4) are varied and playful. You have thoughtfully translated shape, form and colour information into the 2D collage. Your use of materials to capture the different surface qualities was particularly pleasing (e.g. the glossy surface of glass compared to matte linearity of yarn). Collage #3 was ambitious but the result is really effective.
I particularly liked your translation of the Bali image into textile samples rather than flat swatches of colour.
You’ve matched the colours in found fabric samples well but they also match more than the colour – the tie-dye and diffuse colour of some samples has a sense of tropical holidays, which fit the exotic plants and acid brights within the image.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
The blog is consistently well laid out, with a good number of suitably sized and appropriately collaged photos.
You use photography well to capture different aspects of the work, e.g. for collage #2 you zoom in to capture an abstract section of colour and shape, which could be translated into a beautiful textile design.
In your contextual research, you use detailed, descriptive language to critique artists and designers use of colour and demonstrate your understanding of colour theory through appropriate use of key terms, e.g. optical mixing.
Your summary succinctly states what you’ve learnt from each designer/artist. Similarly, your review of the colour palette generators was suitably critical, both the functionality and ease of use.
The learning log clearly details the development of the work, with evaluation of successes and weaknesses. You continue to use descriptive language well to explain what you see and the connotations of colours. (e.g. “The strong contrasts gave the resulting palette quite a dramatic look, with the green and yellow adding a feel of early spring – like glimpses of green shoots and primroses on a grey day.”) Your summaries at the end of each post sum
up the work developed but are most insightful when you reflect on what you’ve learnt, e.g. the importance of tone in the collage section.
Your analysis of the yarns wraps focusses more on the process of creating the wraps and the accuracy of the proportions. I wanted to know what you thought about the overall aesthetic of wrap- how do the proportions of colours work together, do the different textures help or distract from the read of the colour, would the wrap translate effectively into textile designs? For example, I find wrap #2 less pleasing because there is too greater a difference in scale between the flat ribbons, the fibrous cream on the right and the gold braid. In contrast, I find #3 too consistent in scale. Yarn wrap #1, with its varied range of textures and surface qualities pleased my eye far more, there is greater nuance both in colour and surface quality. This is subjective, however, so I wanted to know what you thought about the palettes potential as useable colour palettes.

Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Your colour book very simply but crisply presents the best work. You’ve been selective, careful to present only the best work, and the consistent presentation on a white ground means all the focus is on the work itself. The written descriptions are simple and discrete. Your introduction clearly articulates what you’ve learnt and why you’ve chosen these pieces. Well done! I like the cover but I pondered whether the title square could have better reflected the contents by using some aspect of an aesthetic contained within rather than the rainbow palette.
Your written reflection and self-evaluation against the assessment criteria are thorough and critical. I’m really looking forward to seeing how you develop your use of colour in the next two parts.

Suggested reading/viewing
– Here are a couple of artists/designers whose use of colour excites me:
o Sanne Schuurmann, especially her colour magazine:
o Margrethe Odgaard, particularly her Color Diary Japan:
o Raw Color:
o You may have seen this 1692 example of a colour book online but it’s worth sending again even if you have 🙂

Pointers for the next assignment
• Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.
• Ensure you reflect on the overall aesthetic / visual read of your work as well as on the technical aspects.
• Continue to develop colour palettes with gouache and watercolour using the methods you have in this module. Reflect on what mood they communicate to the viewer.

My reflection on the Formative Feedback, above.


Cari mentioned my thorough research (analysing the course and assignment work on the Learning Log (LL), and in the colour mixing and collage making. A playful approach; enticing qualities in the yarn wraps; good use of technical records; careful handling of paint, and colour mixing generally (!) good. Careful crafting in different media; variety in collage work (especially use of materials linked to surface qualities of source image); selecting appropriate textile samples for an image found in a newspaper.

The LL is well laid out and appropriately illustrated. The contextual research demonstrated understanding of colour theory and learning from the studied artists and designers. Development work is set out and evaluated clearly.

The colour book showed my best work in a simple format, demonstrating good selection skills and consistency in presentation; the introduction and simple labelling were good.

Written reflections and self-evaluation against the criteria were appropriate.

Needs Work

More reflection on what I have learnt in each exercise. For example, yarn wrap exercises concentrated too much on creation and not enough on the overall aesthetic of the wraps (analysis of the proportions, textures, possible translation into textile designs) and potential for using the finished wraps’ colour palettes. Two of the wraps showed too much or too little variation in scale.

The title square logo on the cover was not appropriate to the contents of the colour book.


To Do [My updates added in square brackets]

  • Continue to keep technical information tables and samples for future work [ongoing]
  • Translate detail of Collage #2 into a textile design [Textile Design here]
  • Continue to include evaluations and connotations for work (eg colour palettes) [ongoing]
  • Reflect on the learning achieved from each part of the course. [ongoing]
  • Consider the aesthetics, visual read and potential for the work created, as well as strengths/weaknesses. [ongoing]
  • Add some thoughts about the yarn wraps’ potential as useable colour palettes. [edited section added after summary to Yarn Wrap article]
  • Make a new, more appropriate title square and back page logo for the colour book.
  • Develop my use of colour in the next two parts of the course. Continue to make colour palettes in paint for work created. [ongoing]
  • Research Sanne Schuurmann and her colour magazine [Colour Research]
  • Research Margrethe Odgaard and her Color Diary Japan [as above]
  • Study Raw Color [as above]
  • Look at the 1692 colour book [as above]

Assignment 3: Self Evaluation: Performance Against Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials – use of usual and unusual materials, eg, recycled paper used in the monochrome collage; found/made linear media in Yarn Wrap #5.
Techniques – colour analysis, colour palette reproduction in paint, collage, designing, laying out and assembling a colour resource book (CRB).
Observational Skills – used in all of the exercises, eg evaluating textiles for colour palettes, painting watercolour stripes of glass arrangement.
Visual Awarenessselection of glass arrangement; and Old Master subject; seeing potential in a simple scene, for collage.
Design and Compositional Skills – selecting the size, layout, covers, cover decorations, labelling font as well as the subject matter and running order, for the CRB, and assembling the piece.

Quality of outcome

Content – selection of material to be included in the CRB.
Application of Knowledgeresearch on the use of colour palettes and proportions of colour by certain designers fed into my choices for colourful textiles to analyse and the colour palettes selected for collage work.
Presentation of Work – the CRB is arranged in a logical manner, following the learning from the exercises during the coursework for Part Three. I chose to put the Ex 3.3 watercolour analysis of a glass arrangement following the other painted work, leading into the work on linear media, as it felt like a more natural ‘flow’ from painted work to yarn wraps to collage. (Illustrating my learning about colour analysis/reproduction to effects of lighting/proportions of colour, then introducing texture, the importance of tone, value and saturation with the collage work and grey studies and ending with image analysis with found colours (felt pens and textiles)).

Demonstration of creativity

Imagination – eg, coming up with a CRB that fit the criteria of being simple, well presented and expandable.
Experimentation – eg:- trying different lighting effects, backgrounds and compositions with the glass arrangement; using software to suggest ways of altering the collage in colour and through pixellation.
Invention – making and using ‘found’ linear media for Yarn Wrap #5; using different types of paper media (shredded, crushed, sanded/holed, cellophane, painted, magazine print etc) in the collage work.
Personal Voice – choice of colour palettes (often bright!), subject material (eg, for the collage: cat cushion, textile scraps, yarn) is starting to reflect me and my interests.


Reflection – evaluating and reflecting on my learning and what it means for my future work is starting to become ingrained in my practice. Visual evaluation (eg, revision of Assignment 2, and cat cushion drawing) have led to new ideas.
Researchstudying designers and collage artists was extremely useful grounding for this Assignment. I also followed up on my Tutor’s advice for reading (Kleon, 2012 and Tellier – Loumagne, 2005) and this led me to a more wide-ranging study of knitted fabrics and contemporary knitting.
Learning Log – I have recorded a selection of my research, course and assignment work and reflections in my learning log blog.




Kleon, A. (2012) Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative. New York: Workman Publishing Company.

Tellier-Loumagne, F. and translated by Black, S. (2005) The art of knitting: Inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces. London: Thames & Hudson.

Assignment 3: Colour Communication: Written Reflection

What have I learned from observing and developing materials and textiles?

  • The importance of tone, value and saturation in conveying a likeness, or an altered version of a subject.
  • The importance of lighting on colour perception.
    increased confidence in selecting colours from subjects
  • The value of imposing constraints when selecting a palette to work from, lending a particular mood/feeling/cohesive look to a piece.
  • Adding proportion and texture to a colour palette with linear media, and how choice and placement of colour can enliven a palette.
  • The usefulness (and limitations) of using software to alter, or select a palette, from an image.
  • How to analyse and reproduce perceived colours in an image/composition using various media.

Strong points of my work

Accuracy of selected gouache palettes derived from textiles; the extended stripy textile in gouache; and some of the collage and yarn wrap work (as selected for the book). See also Summary of this article.

Weaker aspects of my work

General sloppiness, eg, with labelling, smudges on white card etc. Painted gouache was too stripy and not opaque. Numerous attempts to mix correct colours in gouache samples. Tendency to exaggerate colour saturation. Watercolour studies of glass composition showed a lot of mixing between the stripes of colour.

New skills

Working in gouache for the first time, producing opaque, flat colour was a challenge. The yarn wraps were a new exercise for me. I found them useful in representing colour, proportion and texture.

Potential work in future based on this project

I have started to analyse some of my ‘images for inspiration’ to generate colour palettes for translation into paint and textiles. I am working on an image of fishing crates on a harbour wall to be turned into an abstracted image.

Assignment 3: Colour Communication

My approach to this Assignment was to select the work, mount it, label it, decide upon the order of the contents, make a cover, introduction and contents page, and finally to assemble it.


I began by laying out the Part 3 Coursework and evaluating the pieces to see which I felt were my best work, and which also told the story of my development in colour analysis over the course of the exercises. I picked out a few pieces that I had made in addition to the coursework – studying chromatic greys and analysing images for colour.

I had a mixture of pieces in both portrait and landscape format, so decided to use a ring bound portrait format that could also be viewed in landscape. It allowed the book to open out flat, and could accommodate future additions to the book.

Layout & Space

Initially, I had thought that A4 size would be suitable, but some of the pieces were slightly too large. They would have looked crowded on a small page and would have required holes to be made through them, so I opted instead for A3 format and ordered some plain white card for mounting on. I used loose ring binders and decided to make the covers from mount board, but with a textured, cream covering.

I made a couple of samples to see how much texture to give the cover, and whether it would need coating in paint or gesso. I preferred the bottom sample, as it gave me the opportunity to add more decoration to the covers. I used a coating or two of gesso to add strength to the tissue paper and to give a matt cream finish.


I made a few sketches of possible logos for the front cover. I wanted something simple, but colourful to echo the contents and my own preference for bright colour palettes. I noticed that I could make a sort of face out of the letters, but decided that the cut-out letters with the bright ink behind them (sample seen at bottom right of sketchbook) were most appropriate to the contents. I made a sheet of ink shapes on watercolour paper, and cut out the letters in a courier font (to match the labels I had made for the inside pages).

[It is hard to know why I prefer the brighter colours, except that perhaps – growing up in the 1970s and 80s – there were lots of bright colours around in toys, clothing, wallpapers and household furnishings, also on TV: adverts, and pop videos – that have filtered into my consciousness.]

For the back cover, I considered using a photograph I had taken during the coursework, showing my paint palettes, but decided, for consistency, to add a logo similar to the ‘COLOUR’ one, but featuring my initials.



My approach for the coursework and assignment has been to read the coursework thoroughly; to draw out the main points from the text to underline what is required; to assemble the necessary materials and equipment and then put my  best efforts into completing the exercises.

I have developed the work by supplementing the coursework with research into collage makers; working with chromatic greys in exercises from Hornung, 2012; and selecting images to analyse for colour using felt pens and textiles. I have kept a note of linear media used, experiments, and an evaluation drawing of one element of the collage (the cat cushion) which led me to wonder about creating a series of work on ‘childhood toys’ or ‘favourite possessions’. These struck me as an autobiographical indicator of the owner’s personality.

The process of making the colour resource book has been one of decision-making: what to include?, which font to use for labelling?, which font size?, whether to number the pages or not?, how to lay the work out on the page? etc etc. It has been an enjoyable, if somewhat nerve-wracking experience.

Here are a few images of the colour resource book that I made. I thought that a similar storage/presentation method might work well for the dozens of loose sketchbook pages I have, even though they vary greatly in size.




Hornung, D. (2012) Colour: A workshop for artists and designers: A workshop for artists and designers. 2nd edn. London: Laurence King Publishing.


Research & Reflection: Collage

Two artists whose work I admire greatly are Picasso and Matisse. I was lucky enough to see an exhibition of the latter’s work in Newcastle a year or so ago: Henri Matisse: Drawing With Scissors

Henri Matisse, The Snail 1953


For me this colour palette and arrangement of shapes is uplifting and very pleasing to the eye. The complementary colour scheme with a wide variation in tone from cream to black is perfectly balanced, yet appears at first glance to be a quick and simple picture.



Henri Matisse Nu Bleu II 1952 Lithographic reproduction (from original paper cut out)


The piece above is so restrained, yet its subject is completely recognisable, using only simple forms and two colours. The artist has abstracted the most recognisable aspects of the figure and has captured an expressive pose. It suggests to me that I do not need to use a complicated colour palette to make an arresting image: coming back to the idea of introducing constraints.

On the website, I see that his method of making the paper cut outs began by cutting shapes freehand with small scissors, before pinning them to the wall and considering the eventual composition for a long time before arriving at the finished artwork. This reminds me of my Tutor’s advice to stand back and take an overview of work in progress, to see the ‘whole picture’.

I saw some of Picasso’s collage work at the Musée Picasso in Paris, many years ago.

Pablo Picasso Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper, 1913


The artist has used a simple palette, appearing to use materials at hand. An interesting aspect of this piece is the way objects have been depicted at their most recognisable angles: the guitar from above and the wine bottle from the side. A small amount of drawing adds clues for the eye to complete the image: the frets on the guitar and the label on the wine bottle, for example.

In a completely different style: I found a book by Gloria Vanderbilt in a second-hand bookshop yesterday. Unfortunately, the book was in too poor a condition to keep, but I managed to salvage some images from it. I like her bright naif style and simple ‘icon’-like shapes. All the images in the book are black and white, but her signature seems to be to use gingham checks and lace in a number of her pieces. She also intermingles these with old photographs, commercially-produced scrapbook images (flowers, butterflies etc), and found objects such as paper doilies, food packaging and greetings cards. Sometimes she adds drawn elements, such as a face, or squiggles representing wallpaper. I can see Matisse’s influence in some of her plant shapes. I like her simple approach, with an emphasis on making an arrangement that is pleasing to the maker’s eye.


Gloria Vanderbilt Fishes and Objects, Table Setting (scanned black and white print versions)

Source:- (Vanderbilt, and Lewis, 1981)


These three collage makers appeal to me because of the simplicity of their images; their methods of making recognisable shapes that represent the objects depicted at their most recognisable angles (a technique that the Egyptians also used). The edge of a table or a fish tank is represented by a simple edge, drawn line, or shape. The forms are often abstracted and require the viewer to pause and interpret them, which I believe adds to the pleasure of viewing an artwork.



Vanderbilt, G, and Lewis, A A (1981) Gloria Vanderbilt’s Book of Collage. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Inc.,U.S.



Coursework Part 3: Research Point 2: Generating Colour Palettes With Software

Adobe Color CC

This software allows you to create colour palettes from a colour wheel. You can choose to apply a ‘rule’ to your palette to set constraints on what can be chosen (eg, ‘complementary’ or ‘monochromatic’. If a rule is picked, the selection dials hold the relevant pattern (as you choose one colour, the dials will rotate to match your chosen rule). The selection disks on the end of each dial can be moved in and out to vary the tint or shade. Alternatively colours can be ‘tweaked’ by using the sliding indicator bars beneath the selected colour palette, altering the RGB levels and saturation level.

In the example below, I chose to make a ‘custom’ palette based on imagined autumn leaf colours. You have to register with Adobe to save, tag and publish (ie share the palette on Adobe’s Explore section).


Another option is to ‘create from image’. You can upload a photograph or scanned image. Five selectors appear on the uploaded image, which can be moved around the image to select the colours you want to appear in your palette. As well as this custom option, you can also select the colour mood: colourful, bright, muted, deep or dark and the programme will automatically pick out relevant colours from your image. These selections can still be altered by dragging the selectors around the image. Hold down the selector to see an enlarged version of the selected area.

I uploaded this image of my socks on the washing line. A delightful subject.


This is the palette I came up with using the software.


I found this a fast and easy-to-use programme. Having signed up with Adobe, I now have a small library of my saved palettes or ‘themes’ to refer back to. On the downside, you are limited to a palette of five colours and proportions of colours are not represented.

Adobe have an app called Adobe Capture CC, that I have installed on my mobile phone. With the app you can “create color themes, shapes, brushes and looks…”.

When ‘colors’ is selected, it brings up the same library of my ‘themes’ as saved in the Color CC software, so the programmes are linked and, as the name suggests, it enables you to ‘capture’ elements from your environment with your mobile phone camera and manipulate and save them for future use. It could be quite useful for saving inspiring colours, patterns and textures when out and about.

MudCube Colour Sphere

This programme has options for limiting your palette:-

  • ‘Harmony’ (pick from ten options including:- neutrals, clash, five-tone, six-tone etc, which all seem self-explanatory).
  • ‘Vision’ (nine options including:- Protanopia, Deuteranomaly, Achromatomaly. These all seem to be linked to medical conditions where, for example, Protanomaly is “deficient color vision in which an abnormally large proportion of red is required to match the spectrum” (quotation source:-, so for that example, the palette generated will be lacking in red.
  • ‘Quantize’ (Spectrum, Websmart, Websafe are the options, limiting the range of colours you can pick from to fewer and fewer colour variations).

Sliders allow you to alter the hue, saturation, luminance (value) and RGB (additive colours, used in many monitors, for example) or RYB (subtractive colours, used when mixing paints, for example).

Hex numbers are generated for the selected colours, which enables exact reproduction of the selected colours. (Hex numbers contain six digits indicating the intensity of red, green and blue in any colour, from #000000 for black up to #FFFFFF for white).


Here is a six-tone palette generated using the programme.

This felt like a more professional programme to use, with more flexibility and up to six colours in a palette possible. You can save any palette you make to one of three software packages (Illustrator, Photoshop or Palette Creator (colRD), or save the URL for future reference.) On the downside, you can’t import an existing image and the multiple options make it more complicated to use than the Adobe programme.


The ‘Discover’ section of this website has images and colour palettes, single colours, gradients and patterns shared by its users under the Creative Commons licence (ie anyone can use the items for any reason). Other users can save the shared palettes to their own collections.


This rather bilious palette was made using colRD. One nice feature is that, when you select a colour from your palette, the programme suggests other similar colours that you could swap for it (seen at bottom right of the screenshots).


Here is a gradient palette, also from colRD.

To date I have been unable to get a validation email for this site, despite numerous attempts over two days, and signing up with two different email addresses. Another problem (possibly caused by my slow internet connection) is that when I try to import one of my own images, the website immediately tries to upload my entire library of Picasa images, which is enormous, and it fails to complete and I would not want to upload all my images in any case. So it has been a very frustrating experience trying to use this software, and I would not return to it unless the coursework requires it.

Colordot by Hailpixel

This simple software allows you to build a palette on your monitor screen (or an iPhone). You select colours by moving your cursor from side to side to select a hue; up and down to select a value; and by scrolling to select the saturation level.

Click on a colour to save it to your palette, at which stage you can delete it or fine tune it using RGB or HSL parameters. (HSL stands for hue/saturation/lightness (value) and it uses cylindrical co-ordinates to represent RGB  points within the cylinder. The link takes you to Wikipedia’s explanatory diagram. It is also noted that the colour renditions are device-dependent and can therefore vary between devices, which is a potential problem area when you require a precise colour rendition. HSL is used in computer graphics.)


I managed to form a large palette using this software, captured in a screenshot, above. I was not clear on how to (or if it was possible to) export the palette, but it can be saved as a url. On the plus side, this software is easy to use and allows a large palette to be selected and saved.

Color Hunter

This simple-to-use programme allows you to upload an image and it automatically generates a five colour palette (with Hex codes) from your image (example shown at left, below, taken from an uploaded image of autumn trees with a blue sky). You can toggle your palette between vibrant and dull settings, and save it to your favourites, if you sign up with the company.

Another alternative is to search for any terms you like, and the software searches Flickr users’ images to find matching terms. From these images, numerous palettes are generated. The example shown at right, above, was generated with the search ‘Derwentwater Keswick’ and ran to seven pages of alternatives.

This software was fun to use, but somewhat limited in usefulness. You can’t alter the palette generated or choose which colours it picks from the image. The site is covered in adverts, which some may find irritating. allows users to generate palettes (using a basic or advanced interface), patterns, colours, palettes from uploaded images, etc, and has a forum for sharing and discussions.

The palette generators looked useful and there are examples of patterns made by other users to browse.


This site, although it has some useful tools, felt a little commercialised, with some users uploading adverts to generate palettes from, for example.

Paint Shop Pro 8

I have this software on my pc, and used it to select a palette from an image taken from a Hiroshige woodblock print “The Naruto Whirlpool” First I made a set of empty squares, then I opened the image, and used the ‘dropper’ tool to select colours from the image and then used ‘flood fill’ to add them to the second file of blank squares.

Hiroshige image source:-

It was a painstaking task and is now performed more quickly with the online programmes discussed above, which will also keep a note of the Hex codes in some cases.

Potential Problems and Solutions

The potential problem with using additive (on screen) compared to subtractive (printed or painted) colour selections was highlighted for me by printing the images above. The printed results, gave far brighter (more saturated) colours than appear on screen. It is therefore important to know how your palette will be reproduced and used. Will it be on a website, or printed onto a textile, for example? Trials and adjustments would need to be made to ensure consistency. There are websites such as Rapid Tables that give conversions between different colour notation systems. Differences can also occur between devices with their differing ways of handling colour.

Another factor is the perception of colour by each individual – the journey between the eyes’ receptors and the brain add another layer of filtering to the perceived colour.

Pantone Color Institute helps companies with colour trend forecasting, brand colour development, etc, and they produce colour standards and colour guides to ensure consistency (paid for services).


Of the online resources that I have tried, I will return to Adobe Color CC and Mudcube Colour Sphere because they offer the most logical interfaces and useful outcomes.



Hornung, D. (2012) Colour: A workshop for artists and designers. 2nd edn. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Websites:- Accessed 04/11/16 Accessed 06/11/16 Accessed 06/11/16 Accessed 06/11/16 Accessed 05/11/16 and 06/11/16 Accessed 04/11/16 Accessed 05/11/16 Accessed 05/11/16 Accessed 06/11/16 Accessed 06/11/16 Accessed 06/11/16 Accessed 06/11/16




Coursework Part 3: Research Point 1

In this research, I will look at the work of a range of textile artists and designers and consider the way in which they control colour in their designs; and whether they have a ‘signature’ use of colour.

Marie O’Connor was one of my previous research subjects so I will not repeat that work, but will analyse a couple of her artworks/designs.



Marie O’Connor. No titles for work given on artist’s website.


This artist uses colour in an amusing and bold way: to define forms and patterns that sometimes entirely obfuscate the wearer of her clothing (example above). The top artwork shows repetitions, and a mixture of real objects and two-dimensional shapes which find echoes in each other, but toy with the viewer’s perception of what is in front of them.

Marie seems to use predominantly black and white, but in some of her work both chromatic and pale, muted tints are added to the palette. The backgrounds (as shown in the images above) constitutes a large proportion of the colour, with the small, distinct, colourful forms highlighted by it. The colours are, on the whole (her digital work being the exception), distinct and separate, rather than being blended. Red seems to be a small, but prominent ‘highlight’ in a number of the designs. I think that her use of colour in her clothing is successful in redefining the perceived shape of the body, and in re-directing the focus of the viewer. In her artwork, it leads the eye over the work, trying to find patterns, repetitions and variations of colour and form. I feel that the colour and design are interdependent: the artworks and clothing would not have the impact that they do without each other.

Eduardo Paolozzi formed the company, Hammer Prints Ltd, with fellow artist, Nigel Henderson in 1954. They designed textiles, wallpapers, ceramics and homewares until 1975. Designs were based on a variety of sources, such as:- Victorian transfer prints, botanical and marine illustrations, wood rubbings and children’s artwork. Designs (eleven or more) were silk screened onto the textiles, papers and other objects.


Eduardo Paolozzi, Hammer Print Textile, Portobello

Source:- A40/7/13


Eduardo Paolozzi, and Nigel Henderson, Hammer Prints, Screen printed cotton twill furnishing fabric, Barkcloth, c 1954


The Hammer Prints designs illustrated here, are complex and detailed. I think that the artists chose simple colour palettes to accentuate the modernity of the artwork, and also because it is suited to the silk screen printing process. The company was working at a time when pop culture and mass production were being embraced. Other textiles and wallpapers that I have seen, designed by these artists, might be printed onto a coloured background (green or red or brown), but the modern, graphic feel, that is their ‘signature’ remains the same.

The Portobello pattern has more of the grey background fabric, balanced against a more sparse white pattern. It looks ‘softer’ and gives the eye more of a chance to rest and investigate the individual motifs in the pattern. The Barkcloth pattern has a much more equal distribution of white and black, giving an intense, overall pattern. I feel that the colours chosen are ideal for the designs: any greater number of colours would have taken away from the pattern and striking impact of the designs. I think that the design is dominant over the colour in these pieces: I think they would be adaptable to a number of colour combinations: red and white, or yellow and black, for example.

Voyage Decoration is a company that sells luxury wall paper, wall art, and textiles for soft furnishings.


Voyage Decoration, Myanmar Samui curtain fabric, 100% silk/embroidery


This gorgeous textile is an embroidered silk design with medium and light muted greens contrasting with muted purples and pinks, with just a touch of orange/red to give a spark of liveliness; and the dark eye of the peacock feather adding another focal point. This range seems to be inspired by both Asian embroidery and crewel work. There are five colour variations for the textile: some are paler and appear to have more analogous palettes with fewer contrasts giving a more subtle and restful appearance. The textile featured here has a balance of light and dark colours, and green and pink/purple giving a varied and lively feel, which I find very successful. Because the colour palette can be varied so much with this design and still work successfully, I think that the design is dominant.


Voyage Decoration, Country 3 – Hedgerow – Autumn, 53% linen, 47% cotton print


This design features 10 or more colours in the palette. I think that it must be a digital print derived from original art work. When seen in the repeat on their website, this pattern has waves of colour: autumnal shades of reds, greens and browns, contrasting with areas of soft pinks and misty purples. These colours are set on an off-white background, which, I feel, gives the fabric a vintage/cottage chic vibe. Regarding their signature use of colour: the company has a number of different collections: some have more formal patterns with a focus on texture and a limited colour palette. But many of the prints have a painterly look to them, with lots of blended colour that reminds me of watercolour paintings. I think that their use of multiple colours in the palette of a textile, like the one illustrated here, works well in making a product that will mix and match with a wide variety of other textiles, wall papers and furnishings. The design of this piece is as important as the colour: the images of autumnal subject matter requires a certain colour palette, although the pink/purple areas are unusual in a more traditional autumn palette of reds, greens, browns, oranges etc.

Marimekko is a Finnish design company, founded in 1951. The company sells clothing, accessories, textiles and tableware.


Maija Isola for Marrimekko, Pieni Unikko 2, printed cotton


This four-colour, smaller flowered, version of the Marrimekko iconic textile designed in the 1960s, Unikko (poppy), is bold, fun and joyful in its simplicity of design with a bright, contrasting use of colour. Five other colour variations are available (although, I personally prefer this one). The company seems to favour limited palettes of contrasting colours, or monochrome (black and white) treatments of the designs. In this design, one colour (the two shades of pink) dominates, but is offset and accented by the golden yellow and black and white background. I think that the colour and design are interdependent (although other colour variations exist, this variation is still on their best sellers list).


Aino-Maija Metsola for Marrimekko, Tuppura, printed cotton


This design has a palette of 8 colours and comes in three colour variations, one greys/pinks and another darker values (greys/blues/khaki/pink/red). It is one of the new designs on the website and is reminiscent of folk art paintings. It has a higher number of colours in the palette than other textiles on their website. Again, the shapes that make up the design are coloured in bold, flat colour, with the small overlaps forming new colours, but there is no blurring of colour. The strongly contrasting dark blue background makes the lighter colours more vibrant. Different values of reds (red, pinks, peach), blues (dark blue, and denim blue) and yellowish browns fight it out with the strong stripes and florals of the design, making the design and colour palette interdependent.

Mary Katrantzou – is a Greek-born designer of womenswear with a focus on digital print. She has an interest in the way that printed textiles can be made to change the shape of a woman’s body.


Mary Katrantzou, Theia Dress, Look 4 Spring/Summer 2017


This dress features strong contrasts of orange and purple, with a printed pattern inspired by classical Greek imagery in black, white, brown and golden yellow. The use of digital print allows a wide palette, but the effect seen from a distance is of an orange dress with purple arms and black pattern. I think the use of unusual patterns, digitally printed in contrasting palettes such as red and blue, with black is this designer’s signature.


Mary Katrantzou, Look 17 Spring/Summer 2017


This striking outfit consists of a polo-neck, long-sleeved top printed in black, white and yellow, with a ?perspex chain-mail dress over the top. The chain-mail dress has subtle patterns printed in shades of brown and black, with an orange ‘hem’. The see-though aspect of the dress allows the bright top (and the wearer’s body) to show through, adding another layer of interest to the look.

Some of the pieces in the designer’s collection have a 1960s, psychedelic feel to them; some have Bridget Rileyesque op art effects. The collection is quite varied as to colour palettes and proportions of colours used, as can be seen in the two examples here. The first outfit has more plain, bold areas of colour, whereas the second outfit has overlapping, clashing patterns and materials. So I find her work hard to make generalisations about. I think that her use of clashing colours and patterns, combined with the digital printing gives the clothing a modern, young feel to it. I think that this is another case of colour and design being interdependent.

Wallace Sewell is a UK company featuring the work of designers: Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell. They design accessories such as scarves, and textiles which are used in furnishing and even on public transport seating. Their work is inspired by Bauhaus paintings.

An example of a Bauhaus painting.

K VII 1922 by L?szl? Moholy-Nagy 1895-1946

László Moholy-Nagy, K VII 1922, Oil paint and graphite on canvas



Wallace Sewell silk scarves inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe artworks, for Tate Modern, 2016


The designers have analysed the work of artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, (in a way that I feel is very relevant to the coursework I am about to undertake), and have used her colour palettes and proportions of colours used, as inspiration for their scarves. Looking at the scarf on the top left of the image above, there seem to be 10 – 12, or more, different colours woven as either weft (greens, blues, black) or warp (reds, pinks, browns) in the scarf, and these form stripes of colour that yield more subtle variations where they cross. At a first glance, blue and red are in the largest proportions, with touches of green, pale yellow and brown providing contrast and variety. Although the colours are kept in distinct lines within the textile, there is a great deal of interplay where they intersect, and in the proportions of each colour used. The designers’ signature is stripes, checks and/or blocks of colour. Personally, I prefer the colour palette shown on the scarf at right above, as the left hand one is too busy for my taste (with the muted reds, blues, greens, black and yellow all vying for attention.)


Wallace Sewell, Barcelona Stripe Cushion, 50% wool/50% cotton


The larger image of a cushion on their website appears to consist of a palette of six autumnal shades, forming stripes and blocks of colour. In some areas the warp and weft are different colours giving rise to subtle variations of mixed/marled colour providing further variations from the original palette. Ochre and reddish brown dominate the earthy palette, with small highlights of red, black, grey and pink. I think the use of colour in this piece is very successful and works well with the design. I am sure that the colours could be varied with other palettes (for example blues, or greens, or pastel tints, or monochrome blacks, greys and whites), so I think that the tonal design is more important than the colour.

Cole & Sons – design and manufacture wallpaper and wall coverings. They were founded in 1875. Their archive comprises around 1,800 block print designs, 350 screen print designs, many original drawings and wallpapers, representing styles from the 18th – 20th centuries. Their collection is historically important, containing designs used in both Buckingham Palace and The Houses of Parliament.


Cole & Sons, Caledonia, Eriskey wall covering, river grass fibres set onto dark slate background


This highly textured wall covering features a natural grass with all its variations in colour (and shape) highlighted by the dark slate background. A very simple colour palette, relying on just two colours (although there is a variation in the shades of brown in the grass). The designer has used roughly equal proportions of brown to dark grey. I really love this combination and think that the blue grey of the background perfectly accentuates the warm browns of the natural material. I think that colour works perfectly and is an integral part of the design.


Cole & Sons, Whimsical, Punchinello wallpaper


This simple diamond pattern, evoking associations with the harlequin costume, has been rendered in six colour palettes by Cole & Sons. The version illustrated here has seven colours, with the shades of turquoise/sea greens closely situated on the ‘colour wheel’, the warm, pale greys and the dark grey giving a marked contrast, but no vivid colour clashes. In this variation, the dark grey dominates, with the greens next in proportion, and finally the pale greys. It gives a restful colour combination, despite the geometric pattern. The design works equally well in other palettes, so I feel that it is more important than the colour palette.

This company has numerous collections, with many of the wall coverings in subtle, ‘liveable’ colours such as muted greys, greens, blues, creams etc. There is usually a vivid and interesting ‘feature’ design that would probably be used on one wall only, in a room. Their signature use of colour seems to me to be a mixture of traditional and modern (‘something for everyone’), but with subtle colour palettes that can be enlivened with bright, ‘eccentric’ patterns with vivid colour palettes by those who like them. The colour palettes are made to mix and match, with some examples showing the top half (of a wall) in one wallpaper, divided from a different, but matching pattern below, with a border strip, again in matching colours. This method allows customers to produce many variations from a set of colour co-ordinated options.

Norma Starszkowna is a Scottish-born textile artist, now living and working in London. She is renowned for her exploration of printing and dyeing techniques, and for her politically-inspired textile works.


Norma Starszakowna, Hinterland, 2004, 18 panels, with digital print, hand painting and embossing on silk organza


The artwork was commissioned for display in the Scottish Parliament.

Norma has used colour to represent her own interpretation of Scottish history. For example, the colours of blue, green and brown represent sea and landscapes; and more abstract connections are made, with the bright colours standing for education, science, medicine, etc. The colour has therefore been given an emotional and/or literal connection with its subject matter. She has been able to produce a wide range of colours in the artwork by using digital reproduction techniques. The colour seems to be intimately entwined with the design of this piece.


Norma Starszakowna, Diasporas, 2005, Screen printed silk organza, heated treated latex rubber


The artist focuses on the textural effects that can be achieved by the dyeing and printing processes that she uses. This piece, investigating the history and memories embedded in walls and buildings, has a subtle background palette of muted and blended areas of pink, brown and black, evoking the subject matter. A bright highlight of red draws the eye and mimics a pamphlet nailed to a wall (one of her childhood memories). Graffiti-like words and cracks or lines, can also be seen. The artist works with colours linked to her memories and to the actual subject matter (walls, in this case). The signature use of colour seems to be layering and blending, sometimes with a distinct highlight of pure colour, as seen in the piece above. Of the artworks I have seen, the artist seems to tend towards an earthier palette of browns, greys and blacks, with some red. The colour and subject matter/design is interdependent in this piece.

Paul Smith – is a British designer, who opened his first shop in 1970. His designs are described on the company’s website as “unmistakable Englishness augmented by the unexpected”, and include garments for men, women and children, and household goods.


Paul Smith, Women’s ‘Wildflower’ Print Cotton Shirt, current collection


The design of poppies, cornflowers and buttercups is rendered in a palette of triadic primary colours: red, yellow and blue, set against a white background. On closer inspection, small proportions of pink, orange and purple are included. The colour is used in a realistic way and is integral to the design. Personally, I prefer the design seen in close-up detail, because it all blends (optically mixes) when seen at a distance. Enlarging the pattern would overcome that effect.


Paul Smith, Boys’ 7+ Years Wool-Cashmere Striped Beanie Hat, current collection


Perhaps best known for his striped shirts, the designer continues his signature stripes using seven colours of yarn in this hat. It features a complementary colour clash between red and green, with a mixture of primary (yellow), secondary (green and purple) and tertiary colours (eg, dark turquoise), and some muted colours (such as the green). This makes for a visually interesting mixture, leaving the eye jumping from light to dark tones to vivid clashes of colour. The interaction between the colours leads you to think that there are more colours than actually appear in this garment. The varying width of the stripes allows for optical mixing of the thin stripes, adding to the illusion. There is yet another interaction between the cool (light grey, dark turquoise) with the warm (red, yellow, brown) colours in the palette.  I think that this design and colour palatte are interdependent and very successful.

Vlisco – was founded in 1846 in The Netherlands. It designs, produces and sells textiles, predominantly to Central and West Africa. The company (and its sister companies) have 2,700 employees, (900 in The Netherlands and 1800 in Africa). The company encourages its customers to name some of the textiles and to share their stories related to the company’s textiles. The company calls colour its “obsession”, with indigo being their most important dye. Also, “…colour is an integral part of our craft, which fuses with design to create wonderful optical illusions and eye-catching new looks. The combinations we use can entirely alter the appearance of one design creating several new visual designs.”


Vlisco, One Nation textile, embellished wax fabric, 100% cotton


This printed textile mimics traditional batik textiles. The symbols are iconic Vlisco designs and are surprisingly large in scale. A dress featuring the textile, shows just three of the figures on the front of it. The colour palette features analagous green and turquoise blues, paired with muted ochre yellow and black. Small proportions of indigo blue and white are seen in close-up. The’grey’ at the front of the plinths is made up of tiny dots of black on a white ground (more optical mixing). I find this design quite fascinating and different to traditional European textiles: the large ‘realistic object’ motifs and batik-like patterns with strong contrasts, are what I think accounts for this. I feel that the design dominates this textile, and the colour palette is secondary.


Vlisco, L’Oignon, 100% cotton, printed textile


The vibrant colour palette uses three shades of yellow contrasted with black and white. The signature ‘crackle effect’ is present in the diagonally placed patches of colour in the background (white paired with one of two shades of yellow) forming a subtle background pattern to offset the bold black and white ‘onion’ motifs in the design. The proportions show more of the yellows, followed by black, then white. At a distance, the eye sees the black motifs and solid areas of golden yellow, then the ‘batik’ areas with white and yellow can be seen as diagonals forming a secondary pattern in the design. The design is the more important feature of the textile, with a second choice of colour palette of pinks/purples and black being available. I think that this palette of yellows with black is the more successful of the two, as it shows greater tonal contrast.

Ptolemy Mann – This designer set up her studio in 1997. She designs and makes wall art, housewares and furnishing textiles. Her signature use of colour is based on hand dyeing and weaving.


Ptolemy Mann, Ikat Lampshade (Gold, Teal Drum), current collection


This textile-covered lampshade appears to consist of yellow and teal in equal proportions, separated by a thinner greyish-white band. On close inspection it can be seen that each colour is made up of streaks of pure and muted colours (for example the white-grey area contains warm chromatic grey (pinkish) mixed with white, and cool (bluish) chromatic grey). I think that this design has been digitally printed, and mimics (as its name suggests) the woven texture of Ikat weaving, (in which the yarns are tie-dyed before weaving). The subtle colour mixing gives a secondary pattern to the design and brings more interest to the piece than plain stripes alone.


Ptolemy Mann, Circle #08 / 2011 / 60cm Diameter


Ptolemy’s hand-woven artwork in the Ikat tradition features strong stripes of colour with the typical feathered overlap where the yarn changes colour. She has used rich, warm, saturated oranges and pinks (in the same quartile of the colour wheel), contrasting with dark, cool purple, black and greys. Personally, I very much like this colour combination and feel that the contrasts play off against each other well, while not overpowering the feathered sections. The largest pink section has more subtle colour variations with the warm, dark value in the centre transitioning to a cooler, darker violet at the bottom. I think that the design dominates this piece, with the tonal contrasts being more important that the colour palette used.

Kaffe Fassett is an artist and designer, whose work in painting, knitting, patchwork, and textile design is world-renowned. Handling vibrant colour palettes and designing vivid patterns is his métier.

Kaffe Fassett, GP158 Rolled Paper Fabric Design in Black and Pastel variations, Fall 2016 Collection


This design comes in six different palettes, all evoking different moods, and getting the most out of a single design, as it will appeal to a range of customers with their different end uses for the textile. Each fabric contains 8 colours, including the background. The designer has worked here with strong triadic contrasts in different values. The result is an exciting, fun combination that will mix and match with many other textiles in a patchwork quilt, for example. His signature use of colour is to use a fairly large palette (I have counted 7+ in the fabrics of his that I own) of contrasting colours, sometimes scattered uniformly over the pattern, as in the example here. In other designs, much larger, bolder motifs are used, but still with a large palette of complementary colours. The design can then be varied with a different proportion of a main hue, or a different saturation or value of palette to form several variants.


Kaffe Fassett, GP128 Chard, in Autumn variation, Fall 2012 Collection


This is one of my favourites of his fabric designs, featuring large proportions of orange and violet in different levels of saturation, with chocolate brown and golden yellow. The orange and purple secondary colours provide an (almost) complementary contrast. The muted mauve background recedes, while the vibrant large areas of colour on the leaves and stalks advance. There is a strong tonal contrast. This design is available in five colour palettes, so I think that the design is more important than the colours used: however, Kaffe’s colour choices are, I think, particularly successful.

Two short YouTube videos of Kaffe’s thoughts about colour and design can be found here:-

Summary: What can I learn from these artists about their use of colour palettes and how to control colour in a design?

The same design can be rendered in different colour palettes, giving a different mood and feel to the textile. Colours may reflect changing fashions (with reference to trendforecasting); the seasons; colours found in the natural world; different cultures; modern or traditional outlooks; different emotions, etc.

Marie O’Connor – A wide range of colours (from bright primaries to pastel values) can be combined. Colour can bring focus onto a particular form in the composition. A black, grey or white background makes the colours ‘pop’ and unifies the whole arrangement.

Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson – a complicated and detailed design may be more striking with a simple palette. White or black can be used against a variety of backgrounds to change the impact of a piece.

Voyage Decoration – unexpected colours (eg, pink and purple in an ‘autumn’ palette can make the design more adaptable in use. The same design can look quite different in mood in a paler, simpler palette.

Marimekko – I find this company’s designs very appealing, with their combinations of bold, bright, flat colour combined with simple shapes and patterns.

Mary Katrantzou – explore clashing patterns and bold colour palettes. Digital print allows a larger range of colours in the palette, compared to traditional techniques such as weaving or printing.

Wallace Sewell – I like their use of simple patterns in woven textiles (stripes and blocks of colour), and admire the chenille cushion range in particular. I am less keen on the muted, muddy colours (chromatic greys) and clashing colour schemes in some of their pieces. The woven textile allows for optical mixing of colours where the warp and weft cross.

Cole & Sons – use of natural materials; ‘mix and match’ patterns and palettes; inspiration from a variety of modern and traditional sources.

Norma Starszakowna – linking colour to feelings and memories, evoking subject matter with realistic colour palettes. Exploration of layering and blending subtle colour palettes, with a bright highlight to draw the eye of the viewer.

Paul Smith – use of optical mixing, using different proportions of colour; mixing warm and cool, light and dark, primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Taking care with which colours are next to each other in a design.

Vlisco – use a colour paired with white to produce a ‘lighter’ area using the same colour palette. Consider scale in the design (eg large motifs or areas of colour); using strong contrasts in colour (black and white with another colour).

Ptolemy Mann – pay attention to tonal contrast within a design. A bold design (stripes, for example) can have more subtle secondary patterns.

Kaffe Fassett – be inspired by design motifs to be found all around you. The same design can be rendered in a variety of colour palettes to achieve a different outcome and ‘mood’ to the fabric. A large palette can produce a striking and vibrant design, however, some muted tones provide a restful contrasting background, or place for the eye to pause in an otherwise bright design.



Hornung, D. and James, M. (2012) Colour: A workshop for artists and designers: A workshop for artists and designers. 2nd edn. London: Laurence King Publishing

Stevenson, F. and Steed, J. (2012) Basics textile design: Sourcing ideas: Researching textures, colors, structures, surfaces and patterns. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA.

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