Nature's Palette: A New Book Expands the Landmark Guide to Color for Artists and Naturalists with 800 Rich Illustrations
Prior to the proliferation of photography-based reference guides, naturalists and scientists relied on elaborate taxonomic descriptions to identify flora and fauna. One of those invaluable materials was Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, a universal catalog originally arranged by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1814 and updated with more detail by Patrick Syme just a few years later.
The rich volume, which was the preeminent guide for artists, zoologists, botanists, and others working with pigments and the natural world throughout the 19th Century, is filled with hundreds of simple swatches and notes on where the various shades can be found around the globe. The head of a golden pheasant, for example, is King’s Yellow, while Hepatica flowers are Berlin Blue and some speckles in iron ore are Greyish Blue.
A forthcoming volume published by Princeton University Press celebrates the 200th anniversary of the chromatic catalog with a 288-page expanded edition. Introduced by Patrick Baty, Nature’s Palette: A Color Reference System from the Natural World pairs Syme’s 110 simple swatches with more than 800 illustrations of the animals, plants, and minerals detailed in the descriptions. The resulting book is a comprehensive visual compendium that ranges from large renderings of red coral to full-page charts spanning fine-grained marble to smoky quartz.
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In “XXXX Swatchbook,” Evelin Kasikov (previously) explores all of the variables of CMYK printing without a single drop of ink. She catalogs primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, two-dozen combinations showing how rotation affects the final pigment, and a full spectrum of rich gradients. In total, the printing-focused book is comprised of four base tones, 16 elements, and 400 swatches of color entirely hand-embroidered in 219,647 stitches.
The original idea came from Kasikov’s desire for a reference tool, one similar to loose sheets of Pantone swatches, that she could share with potential book design clients interested in CMYK embroidery. During the next six years, though, the project evolved into the uniquely comprehensive artist book it is now.
“XXXX Swatchbook” features three-dimensional color studies in the style of precisely arranged halftone dots employed in four-color printing. “I use cross-stitch technique to replicate this. It’s a very simple idea,” Kasikov says. “I prepare the image in InDesign or Illustrator, then pierce the design onto paper and stitch with CMYK colored threads. Of course, my ‘print resolution’ is very low, about 3-4 lines per inch compared to 300 in print.”
Stitched with varying thickness, the swatches use conventional screen angles—cyan 105˚, magenta 75˚, yellow 90˚, and black 45˚—to produce a wide range of colors and gradients, all of which you can view on the artist’s blog. Each French-folded page features geometric patches of thread, alongside hand-written details about the CMYK values shown. The spine of the book also reveals a vibrant gradient spanning magenta to cyan.
“XXXX Swatchbook” is founded on Kasikov’s earlier “CMYK Embroidery,” a project that grew out of her MA studies at Central Saint Martins and was influenced by her background in advertising. Merging the two into the broader project of graphic stitching grew organically and offered an outlet to create a piece that was the artist says was “valuable, timeless, and trend-less,” in comparison to the more transitory projects of commercial work. “When you add tactile qualities to graphic design, it changes perspective. The structure of color can be touched. The printed image becomes three-dimensional. A flat page comes to life so to speak,” she writes.
Kasikov splits her time between Tallinn and London, where she’s working on a project called Small Hours. Centered around a theme of silence, the collection features still-life photographs with freehand dots stitched on top in a pointillist style. Follow the ongoing project and find a larger archive of Kasikov’s book designs and embroidered works on her site and Instagram. You also might enjoy Tauba Auerbach’s RGB colorspace atlas. (via Present & Correct)
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French illustrator and author Isabelle Simler deftly renders the liminal time surrounding dusk through a poetic exploration of Earth’s rarest color. The Blue Hour winds through the natural world on a journey to spot the pigment, from a bluejay resting on ice-coated branches to robin’s eggs to midnight skies and ocean depths. Simler focuses on “this time of day, when daytime animals enjoy the last moments before nighttime animals wake up. This in-between where the sounds and smells are denser and where the bluish light gives depth to the landscapes.”
Arranged like a color chart, Simler’s richly cross-hatched drawings display myriad nuances in time, species, and scenery of our ocean-blanketed planet. Because the pigment isn’t naturally occurring—plants, insects, and animals that appear blue are simply reflecting that portion of the spectrum rather than emitting it—the illustrations spotlight the uncommon specimens that populate the world with indigo, turquoise, and azure.
The Blue Hour is available on Bookshop along with a few of Simler’s other illustrated titles. Currently, she’s working on Topsy Turvy, a book that focuses on mimetic insects, which you can follow on her site and Instagram. (via Brain Pickings)
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For Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, pastel backdrops and numerous shades of orange, blue, and pink directly connect to the Black subjects depicted in his oil paintings. The artist, who was born in Ghana and now resides in Portland, uses a range of bold hues to engage with emotions. “Through time, I have formed a unique language through color, one that serves to communicate directly to my audience,” he tells Colossal.
With skin rendered in shades of gray, each subject helps to establish the contours of the textured piece. Through the style and color of their clothing, distinct poses, and facial expressions, Quaicoe reveals their personalities, of which he writes:
When I first see my subjects, whether in real life or in photos, I see in them their resilience, their power, their inner strength. These are the character traits that arrest me, that jump out at me and grab my attention… My subject’s attitude is very important to me. I try to put myself in their place. See what they see, experience what they experience, be who they are.
When painting men, Quaicoe inserts softer elements, like in his recent works “Fur in Black” and “Kwame Asare in Stripes.” “When I paint male figures, I typically incorporate floral elements into the painting as a means to subvert the overall masculine energy of the work,” he says. “These questions—what’s makes someone read as a man, or manly—and how this comes down to societal expectations is something I try to engage within my work.”
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Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone makes the relationship between color theory and human action tangible. His latest kinetic sculpture, titled “Subtractive Variability Manipulable 3,” features three translucent slides that shift to create hypnotic gradients. In cyan, magenta, and yellow, each piece visualizes the variances of subtracted color when affected by human touch.
In a statement, Panton said he “evokes a spirit in his work that feels like a collision between an analog past and a digitized future, where human beings and machines will inevitably glitch alongside one another in a prism of neon gradients, geometric shapes, optical patterns, and jagged grids.” Many of his colorful works appear pixelated in the physical form of a mural or sculpture.
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Swirling patches of fur and bespeckled eyes characterize the emotive dogs in Marina Okhromenko’s digital illustrations. Hoping to capture varying degrees of joy, devotion, and adoration, the Moscow-based illustrator depicts twelve dogs wearing different expressions, each distinguished through their eagerness and the intensity of their stares. One pup curiously pushes its nose through a pale blue gap, while another’s tongue hangs from its mouth as it pants.
In an interview with Adobe Create, Okhromenko talked about her lifelong love for experimenting with color combinations. “As a child, my favorite toy was a kaleidoscope—you take and mix different colored pieces, and the result is always beautiful. A similar aesthetic in my work is my unique voice,” she said.
Okhromenko is also the publisher of ORE Lab, a notebook design company. The expressive portraits were created as part of ORE’s project called arTTask, which connects art with productivity, an intersection that’s one of Okhromenko’s current obsessions. “We are seeing this more and more as high-tech companies decorate their walls and surrounding spaces with interesting illustrations. In our environment, we call this neuro-office,” she said. “I’m interested in how to design a personal space to combine the simplicity of minimalism with the beauty of fireworks.” To keep up with the illustrator’s vibrant projects, head to Instagram and Behance.
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