Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Using complementary colours

click photo to enlarge
We've been choosing flower seeds for the garden recently. One of the locations we have to cover is a small section of fence behind which are our refuse and recycling bins. In front of the fence is a small square patch of ground that in recent years has grown squash, tomatoes, and various kinds of flowers. Last year we grew a Chilean Glory Vine up the fence, but this year we are trying something different. We'd never grown that particular plant before, but we both concluded that it was inappropriately named - "Glory" it wasn't! In its place we'll have Thunbergia alata (Black-eyed Susan) and Ipomoea tricolor (Morning Glory - "Heavenly Blue"). We hope to have the complementary colours of yellow/orange and blue on display at the same time.

Complementary colours have figured in the work of many painters. Perhaps the best known in this respect is Van Gogh. In a letter to his brother Theo, speaking of his painting of the "Night Cafe" he says, "I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four citron yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most disparate reds and greens...." Red and green are, of course, complementaries, and like all such colour pairings, their juxtaposition makes each appear more vivid and vibrant. Van Gogh is best known for his paintings of sunflowers. He made many studies of vases of these blooms, including some that are orange. Where he paints them this colour he often uses a complementary blue background, as in this example.

Our current living room flowers are orange chrysanthemums, and when I came to photograph them I searched out a piece of blue paper paper for the backdrop. I have a particular liking for the combination of orange and blue, especially a "kingfisher" blue, and have sought it out before in a photograph of cockerel feathers, and used it in an arrangement of Chinese Lanterns (Physalis franchetii).

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro, (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off