ArtWrite 9/30: Julie Maren
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
I’ve been obsessed with Julie Maren since I launched ArtWrite. Her work got me thinking about how to approach writing about color, so that's the topic of today's post.
There's a world of color names that goes far beyond the seven that make up the rainbow (ROYGBIV, in case you forgot). Retailers use them so you can choose the upholstery for a couch or to buy a sweater.
To come up with your own color names, the most obvious place to begin is the natural world:
I bought a banana-colored coat.
He painted his room; and the color he chose looks like the inside of a rotten avocado!
Deborah's hair was the color of a dried-out palm frond.
The nutmeg dress clashed with her cactus-colored stockings.
The master of color naming is Farrow & Ball, the British paint company. In addition to turning to nature, they use concepts, cryptic references, and invent words for their “carefully curated palette.” Here are a few examples, and you can see more on their color list.
Before working with an ArtWrite image, download Farrow and Ball's palette of colors, or get some paint cards from the hardware store. Cross out the names then come up with your own colors names. Have fun and be sure to invent some new words.
Using the categories below from the natural world, brainstorm color names (kind of a reverse-engineered 10,000 Pyramid). Be as specific as possible. Orange, clementine, tangerine, or kumquat? Granny Smith, Golden, or Red Delicious? (This would be an easy game to play in the car with kids).
Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
Plants/flowers: bougainvillea, hyacinth, daisies, sunflowers, etc.
Fruit (flesh/skin): all berries, apples, citrus. etc.
Dairy: eggs, milk, goat cheese, yogurt, etc.
Herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano, etc.
Vegetables (flesh/skin); zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, etc.
Animals/Fish/Birds/Reptiles :chocolate lab, horse, goldfish, etc.
Trees/ Leaves: aspen, oak, maple (spring v fall), bark, acorns, etc.
Water: beach, mud, sand, clams, coral, etc.
Gems/Stones: rubies, emeralds, etc.
There's more to describing colors than simply naming them. Take a look:
I watched the old woman drive away in her car.
I watched the old woman drive away in her red car.
I watched the old woman drive away in her candy apple red car.
Does your perception of the old woman change when you learn that her car is red? What do you think of her when you find out she drives a car that is candy-apple red? (In fact, she shouldn’t even drive away; she should slam on the gas and zoom off).
Description of color can be a characterization tool. It can suggest a character's interests, mood. feelings, sense of humor, or background (culture, socio-economic , education). A good example is Holden Caufield's hyperbolic description of Ackley, his roommate: "I never even once saw him brush his teeth. They always looked mossy and awful." Pure Holden.
Let’s go back to the old lady’s car, make it yellow, and see how different narrators might perceive the same color:
I watched the old woman drive away in her Playbill yellow car.
I watched the old woman drive away in a yellow car that matched Lebron’s jersey.
I watched the old woman drive away in a car the color of a rubber duck.
I watched the old woman drive away in a yellow submarine-colored car.
I watched the old woman drive away in a car the color of a #2 pencil.
I watched the old woman drive away in a yellow car, a yellow that the automotive industry should declare illegal.
I watched the old woman drive away in a car that looked like a pina colada.
I watched the old woman drive away in a yellow car that looked like it had jaundice.
Brain-storming associations of colors could be another good warm-up before beginning an ArtWrite.
Note: You can learn more about Julie and how she hand gathers the materials for her work in next week's newsletter (see link at top to subscribe).