Color Tips for Quilting Artists

I had the opportunity to meet quilt artist Lea McComas a few years ago when she appeared on “Quilting Arts TV” Series 1700. What a treat it was to meet Lea and look closely at the quilts she brought to the studio to illustrate her segments! She is one of the quilting artists I admire.

Fast forward to “Quilting Arts TV” Series 2300 and Lea’s return to the show. This time, Lea came to present three segments about ‘Using Color with Confidence.’ Her thoughts on the principles of using color in quilt block designs, plus the exercises she shared, were enlightening and exciting.

Here are some of Lea’s thoughts about exploring the color wheel.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Getty Images/Mervana

“In my art world, color is not just pretty to look at, but also complex and inspiring. I am endlessly discovering and exploring color. I have developed some simple activities that guide my exploration of color and allow its secrets to be revealed—and it all begins with the color wheel. A color wheel is an indispensable tool for any artist.

“Often a study of color begins with shapes that create color schemes, and most color wheels include guides that help find these basic schemes and more:

  • Complimentary – 2 colors directly across from each other on the color wheel
  • Triadic – 3 colors in a triangular form
  • Tetradic – 4 colors in a square or rectangular form

“What you will notice about each of these standard color schemes is that ‘lines’ connecting the various colors form symmetrical, geometric shapes. That is, they form shapes where a line can be drawn down the center, dividing the shape into two parts that are mirror images of one another. This concept of symmetry of shape is very important in a successful exploration of color.

“What better way to explore the color wheel than to gather your fabrics and experiment?”

Lea McComas (left) and host Susan Brubaker Knapp (right) show off color wheels at the taping of “Quilting Arts TV” Series 2300.

In the first in-print installment of Lea’s series on color, which is featured in the February/March 2019 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, she explains color theory basics and the use of a color wheel, plus provides exercises working with quilt blocks for hands-on experience. Lea suggests working with squares of fabric but colored paper is a suitable substitute to discover the principles—anything to engage your mind and provide tactile results.

A trained educator and long-time quilt artist, Lea’s encouragement and valuable tips will enhance your use of color in your own quilts.

In future articles, Lea will explore balance and luminosity, or the relative ‘brightness’ of a color, and taking the temperature—the warmth or coolness—of your fabric choices.

In closing, Lea says, “The value of these exercises is that they are simple, visual experiences focused on color and nothing else. With exploration and experience, color becomes that good friend with whom you interact effortlessly, and this frees up energy for more creative explorations.”

“Quilting Arts TV” Series 2300 will begin airing on PBS in some markets soon, and you’ll be able to see all of Lea’s segments on color confidence. The series is also available for purchase.

To read more, see future issues of Quilting Arts Magazine for part two (in the April/May issue) and part three (in the June/July issue) for more color confidence from Lea McComas. For more basics on color, read this.

Happy quilting!

Teaching others, especially quilters, has been a passion of Lea’s for some time. Her work in print and on ‘the small screen’ will inspire and educate you in your quilt-making journey.

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