3 Places to find Color Inspiration for the Abstract Artist

COLOR--arguably one of the most exciting parts of painting. The possibilities are seemingly endless and if you can master color theory, it can compensate for other skills you may be developing. I was asked recently by some followers on Instagram, where I look for color inspiration for abstract painting. I thought it would be fun to sit down and actually pull together some of the touchstone places I often look to and share the activities I do in my sketchbook explorations!

Touchstone #1  |  Nature

Obviously nature is every artist's biggest muse. I was reminded of this by my friend Deepa. I love the pink sky she shared on my feed in a recent Instagram takeover where she took us around Amsterdam and showed us her favorite places. She talked about how it's the simple things that capture our imagination and notes, "there are times when I look around and understand why the Dutch masters painted what they did". From botanicals + blooms to landscapes + sky, there is always beauty in nature. 

Photo by Deepa Paul

Photo by Deepa Paul

Sketchbook Exploration: Take a nature walk and pay attention to the seemingly ordinary. Look at the leaves on a tree, stones on the ground, or clouds in the sky with fresh eyes. Try to capture something unexpected in your sketchbook with words or line drawings. Look at things from different angles and a child-like perspective. 

Touchstone #2  |  Design Magazines

One of my favorite places to look for color combinations are design magazines. They are full of beautifully curated items and gorgeously decorated spaces already arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. Some of my favorites are House Beautiful and Elle Decor. Using the concept of design seeds, I like to pull color directly from the pages and watch how beautifully my color palette will fall into place. 

Photos cut from the July/August issue of House Beautiful | Scissors from Rural Residence

Photos cut from the July/August issue of House Beautiful | Scissors from Rural Residence

Sketchbook Exploration: Grab a few of your favorite magazines and tear out pages and photos that speak to you. Paste them in your sketchbook and use your favorite art medium to pull out colors directly from the photos. This is also a great way to practice your color mixing skills!

Touchstone #3  |  Words

You may be wondering why I would look to words for color inspiration, but trust me--It's one of the most exhilarating places to look if you are open to it! Here's a fun fact: Did you know I have a Master's degree in Education with a focus in Literacy Studies? It's during my courses here that I deepened a love affair with words and I learned to use literature as my muse in art. Before starting a new painting or series of work, I often write a lot about a piece of literature I am currently reading and even pull words directly from the pages. For example, I just finished the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I pulled the title for one of my works directly from this text. The Candy Merchants Smile naturally developed into a bright and and candy-colored abstract piece that now has a home in sunny Oakland, CA. 

Photo by Megan Hall

Photo by Megan Hall

Sketchbook Exploration: As you read a new book or other piece of literature, keep a notebook or journal nearby to jot down words or phrases you find interesting. Try to match colors to the text in a creative way. I found it interesting that the word Alchemy describes the seemingly magical process of turning base metals into gold. Don't be surprised to see more and more metallics/gold and silver leaf-- in my newer works! 

So there you have it! Three awesome places to look for color inspiration. Want to dive deeper? Join me and Artist, Hillary Butler for ABSTRACT ART 101 and learn about composition, painting techniques, and color palettes!! We only have space for 12 people and there are only 7 seat left. Grab yours here!!

Photo: Courtesy of Hillary Butler Art

Photo: Courtesy of Hillary Butler Art