101 Color Wheel Series

101 Color Wheel Series

My watercolor series, 101 Color Wheels shows a major departure from my pre-pandemic work depicting representational form to a more abstract minimal use of shape and color. The color wheel has three main elements to it; color, circle, and wheel. When combined these elements represent order, balance, and unity. Their beauty inspires a peaceful mindset whether it be experienced during the act of looking at one or making one. 

Color has been written about, debated, and theorized for thousands of years in how we see it, experience it, and use it in art. The soft, soothing circle symbolizes wholeness, simplicity, and stability – the Greeks even referred to it as ‘the perfect shape.’ In many cultures the wheel is used for medicinal or meditative purposes. Combining all three, the color wheel moves beyond simply being a tool for artists to help better understand color as an element of art.

The majority of the pieces in this series are abstract in style and focus mostly on color, line, shape, and texture. Some of the pieces are expressionistic – taking on the energy of my mood, thoughts, or reaction to what was going on in the world around me in that particular moment of art-making. A small portion of them are attributed to my illustrative training and are made up of symbols or forms familiar to the viewer such as hearts, flowers, or the sun. In these ways, the color wheel has now become an integral part of my visual lexicon.

I explored a range of hues from bright or muted tones [saturation], to tints and shades of each color [values], to warm or cool colors [temperature] and sometimes I experimented with metallic, neon, or used them interchangeably. I specifically chose handmade papers to paint on because of their unique texture that peeks through the transparent layers of watercolor to add an extra element of visual interest.

The two main events that were catalysts of the development of this series were the viewing of Hilma af Kilnt’s exhibition, “Paintings for the Future” in 2019 at the Guggenheim and the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown one year later. Hilma af Klint’s life works displayed throughout the spiral galleries of the museum ranged from scientific illustrations and portraits to large-scale abstract paintings that dealt with expressions of the cycle of life, to channeling the afterlife through symbols sparked something inside of me like never before. Geometric fields of shapes danced upon her canvases and the patterns pigments make when added to water became the focus of her later work. This visual experience was a pivotal moment that helped navigate my art practice to embody a more profound, personal understanding of and communing directly with the divinity of pure color. Secondly, the shelter-in-place restrictions steered me to invent online art classes. Creating lesson plans for an introductory art course reminded me of the importance of the color wheel. The reintroduction to this technique was like a homecoming, a journey back into my art training, and a way to embrace my artistic and ancestral lineage.

Diving deeply into the work of color while painting this series, along with collecting books on subject, filling journal pages, teaching color courses, creating digitized versions, and documenting the process of painting through video, all played an integral part in forging a new way of seeing, using, and interacting with color in the world around me. In a shattered world filled with chaos, frustration, injustice, and sometimes absolute despair – for me, creating this series of color wheels has served as a tool for transformation.