Cutting into Color: Matisse at the Tate


The Snail

One of the highlights of my short stay in London was visiting the Matisse show at Tate Modern on Easter Sunday. Now that I think about it, Easter was the perfect day to see the exhibit. Matisse almost died following colon surgery at the age of 71. He called the period after his near-death experience his “second life” and the cut-outs exuberantly reflect his joy in a new life.

I always thought that Matisse went to cut-outs because he could no longer paint – but the audio guide make it clear that’s a common misconception.  Once he discovered he could draw directly into color with scissors he chose to give up painting to explore color in three-dimensions.

Henri Matisse_ The Cut-Outs review – _the lesson of a lifetime_ | Art and design | The Observer

One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was a case in the corner of Room 6 –  missed by many people – with the leftover bits of paper lined up to show all the colors used by Matisse.

Easter2014 Matisse Colors

Photo Credit: Mark Carswell

Gorgeous and vibrant colors even after sixty years, the colors are supersaturated with velvety, opaque gouache.

Nothing prepared me for the emotion of seeing room after room of the cut-outs in person. I’ve seen many of the 120 images in books over the years. There is no comparison. The originals are bursting with color.


The Horse the Rider and the Clown

To see the edges so clearly – some slightly peeling away – gave each image a depth that is missing in the printed versions shown in cases below the originals. In one of his first works – Two Dancers – you can even see the tacks he sometimes used to layer the cut pieces.

Matisse Two-Dansers-detailAnother surprise was the size of some of the later pieces. Huge!

Henri Matisse - big2

Large Decoration With Masks
Photograph: Guy Bell/REX The Guardian

Henri Matisse big

The Parakeet and the Mermaid
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

And then there were the glass  scraps from the stained glass windows.


The second to the last piece in the exhibit is the full size cut-out cartoon for the last piece in the exhibit –  a stained glass window commissioned for the Time-Life building in NYC. You can’t help but compare the colors of the cut-out paper with the colors of the glass. If the original full-size cut-outs are 100% more vibrant than the printed versions – then the stained glass is 500%. Color with light! Gorgeous!

If you can’t get to London, the exhibit will travel to MOMA in the fall. Its an absolute must see!

Matisse stained glass

Matisse at Tate Modern
Guardian Article: The Cut-outs Review
The Telegraph: Video

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CMY in 3D Printing

Connex-3-Color-Pallettestratasys color chart

There are a number of companies claiming to have the first full-color printer using cyan, magenta, and yellow to mix all the colors of the rainbow in three dimensions. The color charts above are from the Stratosys Object 500.

Those triangles look so familiar! I’ve been making the same thing in polymer for years. I have to say I am a bit jealous. No, not just a bit. A lot jealous!

The excitement is palpable in even the most business like articles and news stories. Design it in the morning and “print” the prototype in the afternoon! Imagine how artists will adopt the technology. The possibilities are endless. Here’s one example – a fashion collection designed by Dr. Michaella Janse van Vuuren.





Will 3D printing take over from hands-on sculpting and designing? Only time will tell.

What is absolutely apparent however is that the digital and printing worlds embrace the RGB |CMY model of color. And the results are stunning!

Stratasys: Inquirer Article
D Systems: San Paolo Announcement

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New Inner Life of Cells

Another digitally animated film showing the inner life of a cell just came out from Xvivo in collaboration with Harvard’s BioVisions program. The first film from 2006 shows an immune cell responding to an infection. It’s a beautful short film. The colors are soft and subdued and the movement slow and graceful.

The latest video in the Inner Life series portrays the frenetic energy inside a cell with more accuracy. Its rendered in much brighter colors. Both are gorgeous!

New York Times: Watch Proteins Do the Jitterbug

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Munsell on My Wall

MunsellonWall1Over one hundred years ago, Albert Munsell, an artist and educator, developed a color ordering system based on visual perception rather than mathemetical formulas.  The Munsell system soon became the industry standard and is still used today to communicate and reproduce colors accurately.

I reference the Munsell system in my workshops whenever we talk about the properties of color.  I do a visualization exercise that I call the “tilted equator” to show students that pure hues have different values and demonstrate how colors flow in relationship to each other.

If you are not familiar with the system – Munsell just posted a pdf on their blog with photos of an original Atlas. You can zoom in and see the details clearly. I would love to own a copy of the original but the pdf is almost as good as having the real thing on my shelf.

About a year ago I walked into a shop on Alberta Street in Portland and saw pages from a 1915 edition of Munsell’s Atlas of Color framed on the wall. They were from a damaged book that the owners had purchased and carefully taken apart to salvage the pages still in good condition. I left without buying one of the pages and kicked myself for months.  I even went back and asked if they had any more but was told that all the framed pages were sold.

I visited the store two months ago and there were three more pages on the wall! They were able to save a few more pages of the book and had just finished framing them. I chose the Yellow – Blue Violet page, brought it home, and put it in a place of honor in my reading nook.

Some time last year I was invited to do a guest post for the Munsell blog. I ended up writing about a variety of color flow exercises in polymer and on the computer. The first post in the series was published on the Munsell site last month –  just about the time I brought home the Munsell for my wall.


Atlas of the Munsell Color System PDF
Munsell Blog Post Color Flow Exercises

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Color and Light at NAEA Conference

national art education association - Google Search
I spent last weekend in San Diego at my first National Art Educators Association conference. It was huge – a three-day event with over 1000 seminars, 6000 attendees, and an exhibition hall filled with booths that included demonstrations by the major art supply manufacturers, samples from companies featuring teacher resources and talks by representatives from college arts programs around the country.

I attended many informative seminars and some wonderful Special Sessions, but I had the most fun at a workshop titled “Reinventing the (Color) Wheel: Color Mixing with LED’s.

I’ve been looking for easy ways to mix color in light in the classroom and was thrilled by the creative approach of this talented team of educators from New York.

This timely workshop is a collaboration between Doing Art Together, a non-profit arts education organization, City Technology at CUNY City College, and teachers at PS 5 and Christopher Avenue Community School in Brooklyn. Its a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) project that integrates art and science and addresses one of the hot topics at the conference – how to engage students in hands-on learning experiences that combine art with technology.

NAEAlight3In the first part of the workshop, the attendees learned about the additive system – mixing colors of light.

They connected batteries with red, green and blue LED bulbs using bulldog clips, mixed the secondary colors of cyan, magenta, and yellow, constructed a mini-stage, and played with colored shadows.

The second part of the workshop was where science meets art. Each table was given an index card with a feeling word and invited to create a stage lighting design to communicate that feeling with light.  We were given all sorts of building materials, including a sheet of poster board for the curved stage,  scissors, tape, cardstock, paper cups, pencils.

Our table’s word was “sadness.”   Here’s our design:


Here are some of the other “stages.” Can you guess the feeling?



I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how color study crosses so many disciplines – from physics, optics, chemistry, biology, anthropology, and neurology, to history, poetry, art, design and psychology. I’m sure I missed a few subject areas!

The idea of a more holistic, 21st century approach to teaching color is catching on. This workshop is a wonderful example of cross-disciplinary, observational learning. The group that designed the workshop is presenting again at the National Science Teachers Association conference in Boston this weekend.  I’m curious to hear how the science teachers like the experience of using light as an art medium. I hope they have as much fun as I did.

Members of the Team
Jenn Brehm | Teaching Artist, Doing Art Together
Cheribum Cannon | Teacher, PS 5 in Brooklyn
Anja Hernandez | Project Coordinator, City Technology at CUNY City College
Jody Hilton | Science Teacher, Christopher Avenue Community School in Brooklyn
Heather-Marie Montilla | Executive Director, Doing Art Together
Rute Ventura | Teaching Artist, Doing Art Together

Doing Art Together
City Technology
National Art Educators Association
National Science Teachers Association

Feelings in the photos above: Sadness, Fear, Anger, Love

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All RGB Colors

Here are the amazing results when software architect József Fejes from Hungary responded to a geek challenge to create an image that contains exactly one bit of all the RGB colors.


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International Colour Day Crystallography

International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-1 To celebrate the fifth International Day of Colour and Light on March 21st, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology (ANSTO) assigned crystal structures to the colors of Newton’s spectrum. The banner graphically represents the structures that were selected to represent each color. Check out the ANSTO site to see why they were chosen. Fascinating choices – especially the GFP’s!

International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-2



Red – Oxygen
International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-3





Orange – Crocite
International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-4





Yellow- Sulfur
International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-9






Green- Green Fluorescent Proteins

International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-6





Blue- Azurite

International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-7





Indigo- Maya Blue
(Palagorskite and Anil)


International Colour Day 21st March - ANSTO-8



Violet –  Tyrian Purple


Link: ANSTO Crystal Stuctures for International Colour  Day

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Integrated Color Study: RGB + CMY

rgb color maps - Google Search-3

Microsoft Word Custom Color Picker

There are a gazillion color picker sites out there that allow you to manipulate the amounts of RGB (Red, Green and Blue) light to find the color you want.

You can even play with color in Word.  Just make a text box and fill it with a custom color. Be sure to print the pages to see how much difference there is between the color of light on your computer screen and the color of the inks from the printer.

The evolution of color picking systems means that there are all kinds of ways to pick the color you want and get the RGB/ hex, HSL/ HSV or CMY/CMYk codes. New apps are showing up all the time. Just do a Google image search to see a slew of pickers!

Google Chrome-1


Picking a color is one thing, knowing how to shift that color is another. Understanding that the two systems work in opposite ways is a useful bit of information. I recently found a fun color mixer site right here in my front yard.

OMSI - Explore Technology-5The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has two interactive pages for playing with color in both RGB and CMY. 

The first screen allows you to play with color mixing in light by sliding the percentage of Red, Green and Blue – the resulting color shows up in center of the overlapping colors and on the light meter.

OMSI - Explore Technology-4 To switch to the CMY system you just click on the paint brush at the bottom of the screen. The sliders on the paint tubes adjust the amount of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow to make the color in the center and at the end of the paint brush.

Hint: In the RGB system the third primary adds light. In the paint system, the third primary subtracts light.

I’ve been working on ways to show how the additive and subtractive systems are interconnected so I opened another browser to be able to line up both mixers next to each other. I mixed an Olive by “squeezing” the paint tubes and then tried to match it in light.  Here’s the result.

OMSI - Explore Technology-3

Its hard to visually isolate the colors so I would love to see the addition of  hex codes for each side. Since that’s not available, I compared the two colors in Photoshop. The RGB for the light meter color was 94, 82, 0. The right side’s paintbrush was loaded with 123, 99, 0. In hex they were #5e5200 on the left and #7b6300 on the right. Pretty close!

The Exploratorium in San Francisco has lots of crazy fun ways to play with color on the computer – but as far as I can tell they don’t have a game similar to the OMSI color mixers.

As I start to teach the two systems side-by-side, I would love to know of other sites that have interactive color mixing for both the additive and subtractive systems.  An extra bonus would include partitive mixing, maybe with spinning disks on the end of a drill!

I found this pair of mixers on the Causes of Color website:

Color mixing | Causes of Color

A big thank you to David Briggs for reminding me about the mixers on his site Dimensions of Color. 

The Dimensions of Colour-1The Dimensions of Colour

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Mark Making Workshop at the IPCA Retreat


The Nature of Mark Making: Instinctive Doodling on Polymer Clay
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
One Day Pre-Retreat Workshop
Dublin, Ohio
Cost: $85 (includes all materials & handouts)

Workshop Description

When I first started playing with the ColorWash technique, I sometimes ended up with large areas of color that felt much too bare. What did I do? I doodled away all the empty spaces. Dots, lines, and patterns filled the voids and transformed a basic bead into a unique and poetic focal bead.

In this fast-paced workshop you will mix customized colors inspired by nature using Maggie’s Mixing Map and then learn the basics of the ColorWash technique as you create a collection of color-washed sheets. The fun comes when you tear and collage the sheets into gorgeous beads.

Everyone has an instinctive doodling style. While your favorite bead is curing you will have time to play with making your personal marks using pen and paper. Then embellish one special bead and learn how to protect your drawing. Demo and instructions on sanding and finishing ColorWashed beads will be provided.

Announcing the 2014 IPCA Retreat - Arches 2014_ Building Clay ConnectionsWorkshop Registration
I’m taking registrations for the pre-retreat workshop through my teaching studio at VIA Artistica in Portland, OR.
Registration by VIA Artistica

IPCA Retreat Information
ARCHES: Building Clay Connections will start on Thursday, August 21st and run through Sunday, August 24th.
Retreat Information.


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The 2014 Flame Challenge: What is Color?

Flame ChallengeHow would you describe color to an 11 year old ?

That is this year’s Flame Challenge from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stoney Brook University on Long Island’s north shore. This is the third year for the contest dedicated to explaining complex science to 5th graders.

Alda challenges scientists to prepare a simple written or visual explanation to answer the question. After checking for scientific accuracy, the answers are sent out to classrooms all over the world for voting.  Each classroom gets five explanations and choses their favorite.  The students then get the chance to vote online for the finalists and participate via videoconference in a Worldwide Assembly to announce the winners.

The first question was “What is a flame?” Last year’s question was “What is time?” You can see the previous winners in both the written and visual categories on the Flame Challenge website.

Would your answer be different if you were addressing an art class instead of a science class? If you are thinking of sending in an answer, the entries are due by March 1st. I might do it just for the chance to meet Alan Alda!

Video of Alan Alda

Flame Challenge Alda

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