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Past Palettes: Analyzing Color with Swatches and PANTONE Studio

As I continue to conduct research as a Painting graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I've taken a deep dive into the role of color in my work and have found a recurring pattern of sunset and sky-inspired color choices. This color palette runs deep and reflects my thematic interests:

"I am particularly interested in sunrises and sunsets, both for their stunning colors...and for their symbolism as beautiful moments of transition...through-lines between the subjects of loss that I have addressed in recent years and the bright, colorful paintings that I am still drawn to making...I am reminded that perseverance and optimism can be found on the other side of grief, and that the darkest parts of nature are intimately related to the most beautiful ones. Day inevitably leads to the setting of the sun and to darkness, but the sun still rises, and the transitional moments are spectacular."

-Graduate Painting Proposal

I've taken to investigating this with a series of small works in my studio, experimenting with color swatches for reference. Home Depot was always a magical place for me as a kid, and my home improvement-savvy parents would often take me along with them. One of my favorite parts - besides the lighting section with its variety of chandeliers - was pulling out color samples with names like Dream Dust, Rare Orchid, and Harbor Mist. I always found them poetic and would use them as bookmarks that suited the mood of what I was reading...for me, poetry and vision have always been linked.

In addition to this realization, I have also begun to discover avenues for added complexity in this color palette:

"In my recent and upcoming works, I’ve been exploring the concept of a sunset/sunrise inspired color palette as a metaphor for transition – the moments between light and dark we experience in our lives, and how these fleeting but beautiful moments shape us. However, until recently, I’d only been thinking of these transitions in literal black and white terms. My drawings have explored light and shadow in charcoal, while my paintings have been firmly planted in prismatic color. But there are shades of gray beyond those we encounter between black and white, and they hold great potential for the expression of subtle emotion. Faded memories with a tinge of color, departed souls who leave behind flickers of feeling…chromatic grays embody these concepts."

-Blog Post: "Pops of Color and Shades of Gray: Color Theory with Chin-Cheng Hung" (read here)

In my upcoming studio work, I hope to experiment with the use of chromatic grays to unify my achromatic In Memoriam Illustrated series with my more colorful paintings. It's also been helpful to consider past works and re-evaluate their palettes using PANTONE Studio, an app which isolates the essential colors within an image:

Each of these palettes has a clear link to sunset tones, and each could benefit greatly from the inclusion of more complex muted colors and chromatic grays. Going forward, I hope to complete a number of small studies investigating this hunch. To follow along, check back soon in the Painting Studio section of my blog. Thanks for reading!

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