Since I started decorating my own papers with geometric designs (as well as decorating geometric designs) I’ve been flummoxed about color combinations. Some of the decisions I’ve made have been truly horrible. Sometimes they’ve not been so awful, but, even then, it takes way too long to come up with color combinations that look good to me.
I suppose I could take an on-line class about color theory, but somehow I’m just not drawn to do that just now. Abode has a palette-sharing site, but it’s not supported in the version I use. Recently, having spent way too much time having way too little success, it finally occurred to me to try out dipping directly into the palettes of painters who use color in a way that sing to me.
I probably wouldn’t write about this if I could do this only in Adobe Illustrator, since this info would be totally useless to most people. I noticed, though, that more and more people in my circle are using Inkscape, which is a free graphics program, and it turns out that dipping into the palettes my favorite painters is even easier to do in Inkscape than Illustrator.
Here’s what to do in Inkscape. Find a painting you’d like to dip into. Save it to your computer. Drag and drop it into Inkscape. Select the shape or area that you want to color. Press F7 or choose the eyedropper tool (second to the last tool from the bottom on the left side) and click on the color on the painting that you want to use. That’s it.
To do this in Adobe Illustrator, it’s bit more complicated. Place the image into the Illustrator file, then vectorize it in Image Trace. I generally use the high fidelity photo setting in image trace. This separates the painting into regions, which if you zoom in really closely looks abstract and totally cool (in Inkscape, getting this close just looks blurry).
Just like in Inkscape, to harvest the color use the eyedropper tool, which has the key shortcut “I”. I’ve been using the live paintbucket tool (k) to fill in the areas that I want to color, but, like Inkscape, choosing the shape then the eyedropper works too.
Now, I just want to mention that even though this is the best method I’ve used to choose colors digitally, there’s still a bunch of trial and error. But instead of me doing trail and error with millions of colors, I’m using this more limited palette. Works for me. Am having lots of fun with this.
Harry O’Malley just pointed me towards http://www.colourlovers.com/, which looks like the internet’s free version of Adobe’s Kuler. Yay! Another color resource! (I can use all the help I can get.)
You are likely familiar with the fact that the game of dominoes is played with tiles that are like two squares on top of each other. Much to my delight and surprise, about a year ago, mathematician Justin Lanier enlightened me to the fact that this rectangle, which is twice as long as it is wide, has a specific name and that name is DOMINO.
(pause. paste in Matt Vaudrey’s reaction…
…ok, continue with post)
This may not seems like such a grand reason to celebrate, but, over the past year, by being able to pull this definition out of my back pocket, both my teaching and my structural problem solving have improved and deepened. There is something about calling something by its proper name that has value.
For decades, with thousands of children who have done bookmaking with me, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get students to decorate their books using geometric shapes in a meaningful way. A meaningful way means, to me, getting them to really understand and exploit the characteristics of the shapes. Thousands of children for decades means I can try out one idea after the other, attend to nuance, and maybe even figure out a thing or two.
I’ve known for a long time that starting with squares can help reign in the chaos of making decorations for books. I actually use to cut out and distribute piles of squares to students so that they could work with squares.
Yeah, I would spend hours cutting little squares out brightly colored card stock. Even now it’s painful looking at these squares, remembering those late nights of cutting cutting cutting… and then the students would want to smear glue all over their books and sprinkle the squares like candy on them and, when the glue dried, half of the squares would fall off because the gluing was sub-prime. Ok, I’m sort of exaggerating: Many turned out beautifully, but I still didn’t feel like the kids were getting the most out of the activity: they weren’t making the connection that I was hoping for with the square.
Eventually I realized that I could give students the double-square shape, though at this point I didn’t know that it was called at domino. I show students how to line up two of these double-square perpendicular to each other, from which they cut “on the line” that separates the colors, and snip, snip, they have four squares. If they cut the square again, this time by eye, they have scaled down rectangles, and they can then cut these in half to make baby squares. Yes, baby squares. These are young children and young children like baby squares. I also talk to the about rotating the square, cutting it from point to point to make two triangles, and then cutting the triangles in half to make baby triangles.
Now just this year, during this teaching season, I have a made a point to introduce the double-square shape by name. The students I work with are shape savvy: they know what a rectangle is and they know that the square is a special kind of rectangle, but their eyes light up when I tell them a that a double-square shape is a special shape too, a domino. Does it make a difference for them to call it by name? I answer that with a resounding YES.
It’s been like night and day. Students seem to honor the shape and special qualities of the domino. I know this because, with the hundreds of students that I’ve worked with this year, I saw, for the first time, the overwhelming majority of students being at ease with the idea of working with just the shapes that I talked with them about. There was so much less arbitrary cutting of paper, so much less just slapping down whatever shape that emerged from a hastily cut paper strip.
Across the board, with the introduction to the domino, students approached this part of the project with a sophistication that I had never seen before.
Instead of having to wade through photographs to show the type of work that I think is most valuable to show, I am finding it hard to choose between all the interesting work that these students are making.
I look at these and I can sense that the student is connected to the underlying structure. If you don’t know what I mean by that, just look again at these photos.
It seems to me that I even have metric which tells me that this is not just something I’m imagining. One of the other techniques that I show students is how to make paper spring. This is a challenge for most students, but a worthwhile one, as they love how it gets used in their books. Though not a domino shape, it is made by having an awareness that the two strips of paper they start with are of equal width, and I show them how to weave and rotate the strips down into a square.
After first showing them the techniques of decoration with the domino it was astounding how quickly the students understood how to do the spring.
In fact, in each class, these parts of my presentation went so quickly and smoothly that I kept checking my notes, thinking I had missed some part of the lesson because there was so much extra time.
Needless to say, I have much respect for the domino.
For the last few months I have been casually, now more seriously, studying a folded paper structure in Chinese Folk Art, called the Zhen Xian Boa. My plan is to write a number of posts on this structure. It’s not hard to figure out that part of my fascination with the structure is that, from beginning to end, there’s the domino.
Last night 15 people showed up at the library for a couple of hours to make patterns based on lines and circles. I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect but that didn’t keep them from showing up. A brave bunch. The participants were tweens, teens, and adults. There was at least a 50 year gap between the youngest and oldest: it was quite wonderful to have this group all in one room, as each generation brings their own aesthetic, energy, and reflective questions with them.
I demonstrated two ways of making designs: using lines (which I wrote about in my previous post) and intersecting circles, which people have been exploring for many centuries. I had originally thought I would show just the circles geometry, but then considered that some people might be really uncomfortable using a compass. A few people just worked with just the lines, a few people worked with just with circles, and the rest did both.
Some people were curious about the math that went into the number patterns that I gave them, and I explained it to those who asked.
At the next workshop I will bring in my laptop and show Dan Anderson’s linear mod open processing page, as well as the tables in desmos.com to people who want to know more.
There was a great mix of approaches to this way of working.
I embarrassed myself by not having reviewed the process for making the circle patterns right before the class. I had made many samples of the “seed of life” circles patterns, but then I had done other designs, and when I started demonstrating I got quite confused. I had to go sequester myself for a bit to reconstruct the pattern.
One young man didn’t have any interest in coloring anything in. Not only that, but he decided to try out his own pattern of lines. Actually, he tried out everything he could think of, with both the circles and the lines, and ended up with a pile of papers filled with all sorts of designs. It was delightful to see him working out his own templates and number sequences.
By the end of the workshop this young man had started doing some origami, which he graciously gifted to me. I photographed (above) his crane with the work of an adult, because I so enjoyed seeing having all these young people and adults in one room, all together making art.