Mosaic Leaf Brooch Exercise

We’re still on Chapter Eight of Polymer Clay Color Explorations. looking at contrast and proportion.  The Mosaic Leaf Brooch Exercise is something I would have never tried on my own and the results I got surprised me.  I didn’t like what I thought I would like and background colors that looked blah to me perked up when I incorporated them into the brooch.

I started out making a Skinner Blend with my palette colors, cut out strips, laid them down on a sheet of mud  and  indented the strips to mimic tiles.   After baking, I grouted or back filled the pieces with randomly chosen colors of clay and added clay bezels.

For the “grout”, I chose ecru,  “sunlight” left over from the Log Cabin Pin project, black,  and light blue.  For the “bezel” colors, I chose orange, red, light green, and a darker turquoise green.

Look at the effect the background color has on the “tiles.”

The brooches on the left (see below) have essentially the same color tiles as the brooches on the right.  But they look different simply because the background colors are different.  There’s lots of information in chapter eight explaining this phenomenon and giving examples and illustrations.

The second brooch from the left reminds me of Halloween candy.  What was I thinking?  I’m not sure I like it but when I chose the colors, I was sure I’d love it!  The brooch on the far left reminds me of a fall harvest and I think it’s much more interesting.  The brooch on the far right  makes me think of a summer ear of corn (which I can’t have right now because I just had dental surgery and my mouth is packed with dressing and stitches!)    It’s amazing how altering the background  and bezel color can change feel of the piece.  Not only has this exercise showed me  how colors affect those around them; it has also  given me examples of how  one can use color to communicate.

On another note-

I mistakenly went from Chapter Seven to  Chapter Nine, a few weeks ago.  My next post on my journey through Polymer Clay Color Explorations will be on the second half of Chapter Nine which explores the effect that texture has on color.  I really enjoyed that exercise, so stay tuned.

A Trip Back to Chapter Eight: Contrast Tables

OK, I goofed.  I skipped my posts about the exercise and project in  Chapter Eight of Polymer Clay Color Explorations.  Well, this has been a rough week.  What can I say?

Chapter Eight covers  “Exploring Color Composition: Placement and Proportion.”  It is worth your time to try the proportional and contrast table exercises in this chapter.  Now that I am working on the  collage box in the last chapter in the book, the exercise makes more sense than ever.

First, I mixed eight colors from my collage.

Collage with the colors I mixed on top

Then I sheeted the colors and laid them on a sheet of mud.  The size of the color samples is determined by the proportion of that color in the collage. I eyeballed it.  So, why is the placement of the colors important?   The appearance of a color is affected by the colors around it.  We all know this to some extent, but it helps to mix the colors and study them.  At least it helped me.

You  see how each color contrasts with another by laying out  strips of all the colors across the proportionally-sized color samples.  Take a look  at the picture below with  the balls of color on the left and the baked proportion and contrast tables on the right.    The contrast table allows  you to see how each color works with every other color at a glance.  It’s much harder to do this with the balls of color.   I can see how making the tables would be useful  to audition colors for a project.

I will probably be making more of these contrast tables so I have more control over what my final project looks like, rather than my usual Hail Mary method of color placement.   Of course, a little luck never hurts, either.

My next post on my journey through  Polymer Clay Color Explorations will cover the project from Chapter Eight that puts the principles of the above exercise to work.


Pattern Samples and Bracelet

I’m up to to Chapter Nine in Polymer Clay Color Explorations,  “Exploring Pattern and Texture in Your Colors.”  The first  exercise entails  making 3 x 3 inch polymer clay pattern swatches  based on your collage and using them as veneers in a bracelet.

I made  lots of color washed sheets and ended up not using most of them.  I did use the one you see  above which  is also embellished with  simple canes like the ones you see below.

There aren’t many patterns in my collage except for the hobnail style pottery and the pattern on the seahorses.  I didn’t have much to imitate,   so I spent a lot of time auditioning checkerboard patterns, cut out shapes and randomly applied pattens.  I stuck with the  random patterns and shapes.  When I tried to get too precise, my work ended up looking sloppy.

Simple canes on solid backgrounds

Since I used random patterns, my bracelet is different on each side.  I would not normally make this style bracelet, but I found it an excellent design to use for learning how to combine different patterns and color combinations into a cohesive piece using my color collage as a starting  point.  It was fun to make the swatches and try different combinations.

Trying Color Scale Triangles

Here are  pictures of some more of my latest forays into Polymer Clay Color Explorations.


The advantage of making color scale triangles is that you get to see a bigger sampling  of the colors you can mix with your primaries — the eggplants and the browns, for example.  I know I don’t usually mix these colors except by accident.    After I finished a couple of triangles, I was struck by how appealing some of these colors can be and how in the color mixing I had been doing, I had been limiting myself to “safe” predictable colors (like white and a touch a green makes mint).  The color scale triangles let me see the  nuances that emerged with each color combination.

This exercise is more than academic.  Since it requires you to document your color mixtures,  you come away with a concrete idea of how you got every color in the triangle. The practical application is that when you want to mix a particular color- say something you saw in a magazine, and the exact color is not in your triangle, you have a good idea of what colors you need to start with, and what  to add to the mixture, to get the shade you want.  Amazing!

These two triangles are similar, but the one on the left uses slightly different blue and magenta primaries than the one on the right.

This is a “color wheel” that I mixed with my primaries going from my yellow to my blue,  my blue to my magenta, and my magenta to my yellow.  The colors in the middle of all of the scales are made of 1/2 of the base color and 1/2 white.

My primaries are: Yellow-1/2 zinc and 1/2 cadmium with a pea of white, Magenta-3/4 fuchsia and 1/4 medium red with a pinch of white and Blue: 7/8 ultramarine and 1/8 cobalt with a pinch of white.

Watch Maggie Maggio’s excellent video on mixing color scale triangles for a thorough explanation of the exercise.

Color Scales Are Addicting and Surprising

When I tackled the color scales exercises in Polymer Clay Color Inspirations, I learned that they are addicting to make and yield surprising results. I mixed three color scales  for  each warm and cool packaged Premo color using  the yellows (cadmium, zinc and fluorescent) as my light colors. The cool colors were  ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, turquoise, sea green, green, and fluorescent green.  The  warm colors were  alizarin crimson, medium red, cadmium red, florescent red, fluorescent pink, fuchsia, purple, violet, and orange.  I also mixed a black and white color scale (or value scale), for the heck of it.

And boy, I got some surprises!  I used to love cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue, but after mixing the color scales, I found that mixtures made with zinc yellow and cobalt blue  produced colors that were more attractive to me.  I had hardly ever touched fluorescents before, but I learned that they can produce vibrant colors that don’t look gaudy.

I also discovered,  much to my delight, that purple, violet, and fuchsia mixed with the yellows produce some yummy shades of caramel and chocolate.

After completing thes exercise I ended up changing the mixtures in my personal palette.  Before, my blue was  1 oz ultramarine blue with a pea of fuchsia and white;  my yellow was  1 oz cadmium yellow with a pea of fuchsia and white;  and my magenta was  1 oz fuchsia with a pea of white.

This is my improved personal palette:  blue:  7/8 oz cobalt, 1/8 oz ultramarine, and a pea of white; yellow:  ½ oz cadmium yellow and ½ oz zinc yellow and a pea of white;   magenta: ¾ oz fuchsia, ¼ oz medium red and a pea of white.  I’ll use this to complete my first color scale triangle.  Stay tuned.

I am beginning to get an idea of the colors can do.

More Fun with Color Collages

I forgot to include the twisties and turnies made with the green and purple Skinner Blend in  last week’s post. So, here they are. The inside of the blend is .75 oz zinc yellow and .50 oz green that I tinted with a smidgen of white until I got the color I wanted. The purple is .75 oz purple and .25 oz ultramarine blue.

It’s a lot easier easier to test mix colors in small batches. I’ve started working with clay sheeted on the pasta machine’s thickest setting and cut with a 3/4 inch Kemper cutter. I can divide the squares and make tiny test samples while still keeping track of the proportions. It saves time and clay.

And Now on to the collages!  In Polymer Clay Color Inspirations, Maggie Maggio and Lindley Haunani suggest taking  a few of your collages, cutting them into strips and then  reassembling them into a strip collage  to get the overall feel of the color combinations.        I did my cutting and pasting on my computer and the exercise gave me a new perspective on the colors I chose. All this information is still piling up in my brain and I’m not sure where I’m going with it yet. But it’s fun and interesting

Here are some examples of my strip collages.

I wanted to examine the relative values of my color choices so I made grayscale versions of the collages. To see what my collages look like in grayscale, press here.

Collages and Color Choices

In my post on Clayathon 2010, I mentioned that I continued to work through Polymer Clay Color Inspirations while I was there.

I went armed with a notebook filled with collages I put together in a collage making frenzy a few weeks before. I’m not going to mention how many I made, but I had so much fun experimenting with different colors and palates that I will probably die with collages.

I read the Ruffle Spiral Brooch project and started making Skinner Blends. Then I decided to diverge from the book and started making twisties and turnies from the colors I mixed to go with the collages. I don’t plan to do anything with them; I was simply trying to stretch beyond my color comfort zone and see if I could mix colors that looked happy on the collages. Here are the results.

Here are a few of the Tasting Tiles I made.    Betcha can’t make just one.

I’ll put up more pictures of the exercises as I work my way through the book.