Primary colors balanced with neutrals… for a modern art quilt or painting

Color palette with some primaries from breakfast fruit plate, July, 2012, kgt

After a bicycle ride I started to make breakfast and couldn’t resist putting these juicy citrus fruits on a blue plate to grab a photo. How many true primary colors can we pull from the scene? Our eyes don’t always distinguish real primary colors from toned ones as well as we would think.

The photo shows the blue primary is true in the photo, and the yellow as well. Pure colors. However, check out the true primary red swatch and pure green below the below the main swatch lineup from the photo. The red strawberries in the photo are not true primary red we see on an ideal color wheel. Artists learn it’s often better to use toned colors for harmonious and pleasing effects as seen by this kind of study. (All those grays in the images are important for the overall image harmony, by the way.)

This swatch collection forms a balanced palette:  many neutrals and less saturated hues surrounding those bright primaries allow our eye to rest and absorb it all in a pleasing way. That’s what nature does!

Toned sketch for a modern art painting or modern quilt, photoshop, July 2012, kgt

I’ve been exploring the creation of a “modern quilt”. This “new” movement is partly inspired by the early Amish designs (that I love!) which were very abstract in nature. While my design here could easily become a painting, I’m not crazy about the tedious process of making hard-edge paintings. I’d much rather enjoy working with fabric and sewing it up. However, these specific colors would be very hard to find if looking for solid fabric colors in the stores. Hand dyed fabrics?

Hmm.. Perhaps this sketch should be considered the first in a process, leading to a quilt with changes made along the way to the final end. I should stay open to ideas about finding fabrics.

Or it could also become a painting that did NOT have hard edges, but much softer ones, many more textures. That does interest me too! Yes, the lower part of the sketch looks like a watery fade to the bottom edge, done on purpose.

Intrigue. As a painter who also makes art with fabric, I can’t let this sketch drop off the radar too soon. Print it out, note to self, and put it up in a predominant place.

What do you think? Painting or textile art? Tone down the primary colors even more? Always love to hear your feedback, friends.



You can see what developed from this original design if you see my May 30, 2013 post called “Sunset Over Water: A new art quilt is finished!”

Update, November 2014:

Sunset Over Water was featured as a pattern in McCall’s Quilting November/December 2013 issue. It also was developed as a kit for purchase.


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4 Responses to “Primary colors balanced with neutrals… for a modern art quilt or painting”

  1. Lisa E. Says:

    Surfing the blogosphere and came upon this post. Love your sketch. Definitely make a quilt out of this! Or have you already made it?


    • karen Says:

      I have it in the works, and Kona has all the colors. The actual construction is not very difficult, the main challenge being to keep all the colors organized. Thanks so much for your comment, Lisa.


  2. Judith Rona Says:

    I don’t think keeping the colours organised is challenging. If you think of your composition as alternating sets of vertical stripes, and if you work in sections, it isn’t hard at all.


    • karen Says:

      Thank you for your comments Judith. While I was working at McCall’s Quilting magazine, my design was approved to be a pattern in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue. You can read more in my more recent post of May 30, 2013 in the archives of this blog.


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