Friday, August 26, 2011

Coordinating Complementary Colors

Walt Disney's Fantasia, The Pastoral Symphony

Do you know where your preferences for color come from? Do you embrace the colors of your past, or avoid them and explore new possibilities?

I started to think differently about color choices recently, when I was confronted with some old memories of the role complementary colors used to play in my artwork and crafts. I had borrowed a copy of Disney’s Fantasia from the library, and hoped that my bead helper would enjoy the movie as much as I did when I was young.

Watching it again, I was momentarily stunned by the memories it gave me of using color. I can clearly remember a running theme with almost anything I made, where I would create copies of the same design, and use different sets of color until all possibilities where exhausted. I kept up this habit until a few years ago, when I was making daisy chain friendship necklaces in all kinds of flower palettes - the classic white and yellow daisy, purple and yellow violets, and yellow and brown for Brown-eyed Susans, among others.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say that Fantasia had a lot to do with this trend, particularly The Pastoral Symphony chapter, or Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. The mythical story that the creators paired with the symphony has romantic overtones, and throughout the scene, creatures in a variety of colors pair off together.

Walt Disney's Fantasia, The Pegasus Couple

The first example of this complementary color theme is the Pegasus family. The female is a traditional winged horse in white, and her eyes are blue. Her mate is midnight black. The animators could have given him eyes of any color, but they chose red, making him the exact opposite of the female. This use of opposites inspired the concept of pairing: make one bracelet in red and blue, and the next one in green and yellow.

The Centaurs inspired a slightly different way of using color. The combinations of skin, hair and coat colors created a desire to make copies of designs in as many palettes as possible, with only minor variations. A slight change in bead shape or size, while sticking to the same pattern, allows for endless design possibilities with very little risk. I was especially fond of the zebra Centaurs, which provide a great example of how not just color, but style or pattern, can be folded into a basic design for a totally new look.

Walt's Disney's Fantasia - Bacchus and the Centaurs

I’m not sure why these color concepts departed from my design methods. Perhaps it is because I rarely have time to make the same thing twice, and new ideas are always forming. Recalling these old ideas has rekindled that creative spark, and a new lust for color combinations. I may just have to start repeating myself more often, if only to place two identical but complementary pieces side-by-side.

Do you like to make multiple variations on the same basic design?

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and Walt Disney Productions
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  1. Loved this post! Just came back from a trip to see my grandchildren and watched Cinderella with them. While they sat entranced, I was wishing for a freeze frame to capture the stunning colors. The aquas and browns of servant Cinderella. The creams and corals of her stepsister-ruined dress (which we all agreed was her best look!) And, of course the silvery blues of her fairy-godmother-supplied ball gown! They could all be translated into fun looks today. And yes, often when I'm working on a piece I'm alreay planning how I will change it up the next time.

  2. It's amazing how many ways we can find inspiration! I definitely enjoy making the same design with different color combinations and/or different bead variations.

  3. One of my favorite movies and I never thought of using it as color inspiration. You are the bomb!

  4. A wonderful post, and very inspiring in itself.


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