Finding Warmth in the North of Scotland

A strange thing happens to me every October. As many Scots jet off to warmer climes to get a quick blast of sunshine in preparation for the dark winter ahead, I always find myself craving to go further North. Every year I drive to Sutherland in the North of Scotland and gulp in the staggeringly fresh air, stare at the huge skies and walk through forests straight onto beaches while looking at snow capped mountains in the back ground. Yes, it really is that good and you are unlikely to bump into a soul.

Well this year I was paying particular attention to ochres, reds and oranges on my walks as I am really keen to specify a warm colour for the restaurant project I am working on but warm colours don’t come easily to me. They are not “my colours” (I gravitate to cooler hues) although I do have great respect for them and I can see when they are required.

So, where else should I begin my search but at the Glenmorangie whisky distillery where even the air around the village smells slightly smoky, malty and warm.

In the fields around the distillery you will stumble across beautiful carvings left by the Picts (a name given to them by the Romans meaning “painted people” – it is thought that they dyed their bodies with woad before battles…..remember Braveheart….!). The Picts used local red sandstone so the carvings jut out of the tufty fields almost glowing, especially when you see them in the low setting sun.

Inside the distillery the graceful swan necked copper stills stand in line looking proud of the amber liquid they are brewing which will later be laid down to age in oak barrels. Barrels with ends painted a wonderful full-on red,

….the colour of the rose hip berries growing on the sand dunes nearby,

…..and the chosen paint colour of many of the local fishing boats.

I was definitely gathering up a lot of reds to take reference from until I was caught in a beautiful snow flurry while walking up a hill behind Alness – which very quickly transported my back to my default Northern colours….

As this post is rapidly turning into a list of my holiday snaps (sorry), I shall finish up but I have found a magnificent red wool cloth (colour 623) from kvadrat ‘s wonderful Divina 3 collection which I hope to use and it certainly transports me right back to those glowing whisky barrels at Glenmorangie….

The Hues of Decay

For a paint consultant to love peeling, flaky, rusty decayed surfaces is a bit of an anomaly but I do confess I am totally drawn to such weathered features. I have tried to figure out why this should be so, surely I should be seeking out squeaky clean well maintained pristine examples of paint but no, it’s definitely the ones “in need of attention” that catch my eye.

Of course the reason I and so many others are attracted to these surfaces is because they have created their own unique colour palettes – salt, oxygen, water, pollutants, resins all acting together in an open air chemistry lab to produce a vast selection of colours that we paint consultants can match and use in projects – but generally replicate on smooth and perfect surfaces……

It’s high time I thanked my subscribers for reading and commenting on my blog – you’ve no idea how much I appreciate it. I would also like to point out that I got quite a shock yesterday when I saw my blog on a pc. I work on a mac so the colours I am looking at are much lighter and brighter than the colours on a pc. This is rather an issue as most of the time as you know, I write about colour. It would be interesting to know how many of you are pc users. If it’s a lot, I will try to lighten up my images, just let me know. I also hope you don’t find my way of spelling colour too irritating –  I know most of my readers are American and Canadian, again just let me know!

In Search of a Traditional Colour Palette

Most of the colour consultancy projects I work on tend to be at the contemporary end of the spectrum – often commercial clients looking for a sharp colour for their reception to reflect their fresh and cutting edge businesses. However, I am currently involved in a traditional project and have been looking at an entirely different colour spectrum to usual. Searching for softer broken hues was more challenging for me so I needed to find something old to seek inspiration.

One step into this disused potting shed with its earthy smells and ancient garden equipment transported me straight into the “zone”. I  decided to take a palette directly from the scene in front of me only to discover the colours look like they are straight from Farrow & Ball….

A Collision of Red and Blue

I couldn’t resist buying these crazy little turnips today because they look like someone has sprayed Pantone 16-3520 (aka African Violet) ink at them.

A hue that looks oddly synthetic with “parentage” stemming from both the hot (red) and cold (blue) ends of the spectrum, this form of purple can be difficult to work with.

However, knock some sense into this violent colour with the introduction of  a slab of grey plus a small slice of khaki and you will discover that our purple is instantly anchored and kept right under control by its sensible guards.

A Zesty Palette

If you are colour obsessed, you will already know that it can  be a fairly exhausting attribute. Gone are the days where you can take a walk with barely a thought in your head. You will be unable to stop yourself from constantly analysing colours and you will be calculating how much green is in the yellow of a petal you just spotted. Sound familiar?

Well today, Scotland has woken up to the most glorious sunshine and I intend to get out and catch some photos showing some interesting colours but first I must tell you when I was chopping some lemons for breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice the discarded net on the dining table made a great zesty colour palette…..

Now, if you have ever wondered how to pick a set of interior colours that are all tonally compatible, lookout for my next post where I will be looking at a very easy way of achieving exactly that.

Choosing a Palette the Natural Way

My favourite method of creating a colour palette is to copy nature. Take a photo of something you like and extract three colours. I find a light colour for walls, a medium tone to use on furniture or curtains and a darker colour as an accent works well. If you feel you need more variation you can simply lighten or darken any of your chosen three colours by adding a touch of black or white. It really is that easy.

One thing to consider though is what time of day do you tend to use the room? Warm colours (reds, oranges and yellows) appear darker in reduced light while blues and greens tend to look lighter.

Packing a Punch….that Flows

Flick through virtually any magazine at the moment and you will see swathes of highly saturated blocks of colour. The new season has unleashed a zealous appetite for “bolder the better” punchy, highly chromatic colours feeding our need for something new for spring.

However, you will discover that if you work with a selection of unrelated hues your brain will take a moment or two to digest the information it views. So tricky in fact that your eye will go back for a second or third time to scan the palette. This effect leaves the brain feeling a little uncomfortable and the palette feels disjointed and somehow wrong.

Don’t worry though because you can  stabilize the palette  by simply repeating one of the hues (as often as possible)  which allows the brain to make sense of your selection much faster. Repeating a hue seems to create order and allows the brain to feel at ease. It is exactly the same trick a composer uses when writing an orchestral piece. A melody or chorus will be repeated throughout the composition to give it order and allow the piece to flow.

Repeating a neutral throughout your scheme of strong hues will also serve as a unifying vehicle throughout the project and is the best way to rest the eye amongst the vibrant colours.

I find that a true neutral grey i.e an achromatic grey (one devoid of chroma) allows you to go pretty wild with your colour selection while at the same time retaining that all important sense of order.

Colour Galore!

I don’t know if it’s the rise in temperature today (well slight rise, in other words, no ice around) but I seem to be drawn to a multitude of colours today. Looking at vintage toys, traditional Japanese costumes and Charley Harper illustrations,  I guess it’s hardly surprising I am getting a sensory overload.

However, if you do find you are “coloured out”, the best cure is to take yourself somewhere green, preferably around natural foliage, a botanic garden for instance. It really does work and you can return to your colour selection with a far less frenetic state of mind ready to create a perfect palette…..but first, one more look at Dreams in Colour by David Fonseca.