I hope you all realize that “leothecolorman.com” is tongue in cheek. Getting a domain name using the word color is next to impossible, so “leothecolorman.com” it is. This is not a course in color; however, it is a venue to discuss the use of basic design and color in my work.
I began studying design and color in the 1950s. After four years in the Navy during the Korean War, I attended the Chouinard Art Institute, in Los Angeles,
on the GI Bill and the Disney scholarship. The iconic William Moore was teaching what I have come to know as the Bauhaus foundation course. Johannes Itten launched the course in 1919. Although there are a number of color systems available, Itten’s 12-approach to color is one of the best. It has the virtue of being simple and direct.
He defined that approach in his tremendous book The Art of Color. (Van Nostrand Reinhold, publisher.) After Itten left the Bauhaus, Paul Klee and eventually Kandinsky taught there. The Nazis closed the school in 1933 and, by coincidence, that was the year I was born.
When I entered Chouinard in 1954, Bob Winquist was also teaching the color and design course. I was a frog in the right puddle at Chouinard and ‘caught on’ to the difficult course. Bob had flown some 36 missions as a belly gunner in B17s, over Germany and didn’t always feel like coming to work, so he would ask me to fill in. As a result, I was a regular instructor during my final year and four years after graduation.
I got hooked on teaching but my time in the classroom was sporadic because I went into the design business at Studio Five with three partners. If you go to leomonahan.com, you can see the rest of my business bio, which includes the sequence of events in my paper sculpture career as an illustrator and in fine art. What is fine art, you ask? The late Neil Boyle, an illustrator and fine art painter, as well as my classmate, colleague, and close friend, said “Fine-art is an illustration with a frame around it.”
During my teaching years at Chouinard, USC, Disney Imagineering, CalArts, and the Chouinard Foundation Art School, I must have assigned or painted hundreds of boring, very technical color wheels. I figured that there must be more dynamic possibilities for the color wheel. So over a couple of years I designed and painted 24 paper sculpture color wheels with a different subject each time.
I’ve sold all but six in shows. I’m amazed at what people will buy because I was just having fun, with what was for me, an original concept.
Along with other work, I will show and talk about each of my color wheels as blogs go by. The Faces logo for this blog is one of them. This one was a briar patch, but I had to finish it because I liked the concept. The six faces are tinted primary and secondary colors. The circular head-pieces are tinted color wheels, each head having a different color in the center and moving out through the spectrum. This was a ‘measure thrice, paint once’, proposition. I really had to focus to know where I was in the process.
I cut each shape with an x-acto knife then masked and painted them with an airbrush without once making a mistake. Designing it was interesting but the finish was just pick and shovel work. At this time in my life, I don’t think I’d do it again. I’ve moved to the world of loosey-goosey.
One of my favorites is “Color Whales,” because I do love a pun. Six Killer Whales are arranged in a circle with their bellies painted in tinted primary and secondary colors, yellow, red, blue, orange, violet, green, to contrast with the black bodies. As we go along, I’ll talk about the many ways of neutralizing color; tinting is one of them.
Not to be a smart ass or anything, but if a designer can’t draw, well, you’ll have a helluva time using a computer to make these shapes in dimension. As an illustrator, I’m a designer, but knowing how to draw has never been an impediment. Cranky old fart that I am, I love computers and use them daily but not to make art in dimension. During the 45 years that I operated design studios, it was pastel and marker comps, illustration, photos, paste-ups, color seps and film, film, lotsa film. Also, someone pointed out to me that computers don’t have ideas. You have to get your own ideas and use this fast idiot to develop them. What took us days or weeks now takes seconds to accomplish.
These blogs will be about the basic design and color theory that I taught and use in my images. I’ll only describe my work because, as an ‘excrementist’, I don’t know shit about how others think. So it goes…welcome.
In the next blog I’ll show another color wheel and will explain the complex color ideas in an illustration of birds that I did for a German paper company…. leo