Letters from ALCTS

charles wilt, alcts executive director

From the Office

Color and Harmony

Having set out my article agenda in the October column, this article is the lead in the set of six more that I will write about the various aspects of associations, art, and the transition to a creativity based environment as outlined by Daniel Pink.


Color is a complex concept: hues, shades, tints, primary, complementary, perception, abstraction, recognition, blending, theory. Then there is the physiology of color: what your eye sees and your brain processes.

Music has color, called timbre. This is the difference in the sound that musical instruments make. A flute is different from an oboe. Since I want to concentrate on the visual aspects of color, I am not going to talk about this, but rather just mention it.

You may not think of color as a concept. The interactions and relationships that create color have attributes that influence what we see: light versus dark, intense versus dull, and hue (red, green, blue). Each attribute affects the color our eyes see and how we then react.

So where does this leave us in terms of our own association? Suppose the association is a palette where the colors are squeezed out of tubes and are sitting in big blobs waiting for something to happen. What is it that we are seeing? Red here, blue over there, yellow next to the thumbhole. Or, Serials here, CCS there, PARS by the thumbhole. The colors of our association can stand alone, primary hues exuding a lightness and intensity we all know exist. But when we begin to blend those colors together on our palette, new ones emerge, different light values, varying intensities, composites of our primaries, maybe some purple or brown or rose or perhaps just black and white. However, think of the possibilities when we blend: a little AS and a little CMDS adding a little PARS, a little CCS and a little Serials with a hint of Division.

Our primary colors are our strength. Blending can only create new strengths that only add to our already rich palette.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue and Green Music, from the Art Institute of Chicago.