Color done well is captivating. Color done badly? It's just bad. Or drab.
Yet a color tweak may be all it takes to turn up a piece's vibrancy and magic.
An eye for color is both intuitive and learned.
Kaffe Fassett has spent a lifetime experimenting. The septuagenarian is exuberant with color in his embroidery, knitting and fabric designs.
He's known for bold florals, fruits and vegetables, and geometric shapes -- in sweaters, knitted coats and needlepoint.
The author of 15 books, his latest, "Kaffe Fassett Quilts: Shots and Stripes," goes minimal with vibrant swaths of color, a simplicity that's a stretch for him.
A Londoner for 40 years who was born and raised in California, Fassett eschews conventional color rules, although he subscribes to a few intuitively.
"I left art school the minute the color wheel came out," he says. "I thought that was the work of the devil."
When Fassett talks about harmony and "bounce," his language is as energetic as his artwork.
"Pick up one color and stick it next to another and see if you get a bounce from it," he says. "Colors can either dampen each other or they can light each other up."
During his quilting workshops, he recommends using myriad shades of the same color to create depth and harmony.
"Whenever possible, you have 10 shades of something rather than just one," says Fassett, who is inspired in part by faded, antique carpets.
Also, stick to a color theme but make it "pop" with little surprises of a different color. That ensures a piece won't become muddy or drab from a color theme's overuse.
In quilting and other textile arts, mix up the fabric patterns -- use both large and small prints -- to add interest.
Betina Fink, an oil painter for 25 years, teaches art classes -- including one about color -- at The Drawing Studio in Tucson, Ariz.
Her main advice: Don't use too much color in your artwork.
"It will all start to cancel each other out," she says. "There's more impact in your artwork when you use a limited art palette."
Finally, avoid using white to lighten and black to darken a color, Fink says; each mutes colors.
Instead, lighten and darken color with another that's near it on the color wheel. For example, lighten orange with yellow. Darken orange with red.
This same color advice can be used elsewhere in our lives -- when planning a garden, decorating a room or dressing for a night out. Likewise, get color advice from your surroundings.
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