Albers and the Birth of the Color Board


Joseph Albers, a Yale Professor famous for his color field paintings, wrote a book of lessons for the aspiring colorist called The Interaction of Color.  The pocket edition is inexpensive, and the only supplies he advocates are swatches of solid color from paper and printed publications.  I am always amazed how much can be learned through the company of a book-- it is like going out to tea with a master of his craft-- only he is the one doing all of the talking.  Above you can see my humble beginnings-- a pile of scraps, my pocket edition, and some experimentation with mounting color swatches.

As I began to search for color swatches (per the book's instruction), an idea for a project began to emerge.  The color swatches from magazines were especially flimsy, and I realized I would need a strategy to keep track of them.  The swatches were easy to handle when mounted on foam core, and if they could be organized on a flat surface, they would be easy to locate.  This was a bit of a departure from Albers' exercises, since many of his experiments require the swatches to lie flat.  However, it would be a wonderful hands-on resource for my design and illustration work, along with more formal inquiries into color relationships.  The amount of work involved was sizable, but I hoped it would be equally rewarding. 

Here's a picture of the progress in mid-stream:

2012-5-22The Making of the Color Board.jpg

I set out to create a giant color-board: over one thousand chips of color hand-punched from magazines, paint chips, paper swatches, and samples.  Each piece was mounted on foam-core, which was then cut down to size by hand.  My vision for this board was to create an organized, hands-on resource for composing and analyzing color combinations.   

The project itself was a departure from Albers' book, but interfaced nicely with several of the class projects he prescribed-- several of the projects in which I was most interested, for example, "transposing" colors from one hue to another in a way that is analogous to music.  My hope is that the board will be amenable to all kinds of applications, furthering my knowledge of color and resulting in some useful input into my finished work.  

Above is the Color Board- a magnetic white board hosting a collection of colored swatches: a direct, hands-on way to build color palettes.


Melissa Carmon