Search form

Color: in space/time

[Project Narrative] [Instructional Narrative]

Project Narrative

Part I


Capture three 30-second photographic exposures with the RGB LED light wand in the photo studio. Make exposures that exemplify each of your three assigned color characteristics (see below).


Part II


Working in groups of four, use at least 60 of your classmates’ collective RGB LED long exposure images to create a time-based piece that reveals connections between adjacent images in the sequence. Your choice of sequence could be based on color relationships, similar imagery, etc.


Instructional Narrative

While subtractive color mixing has always been a standard of the art foundations curriculum, the advent of digital technologies necessitates a specific project based on the concepts of additive color. Color: in space/time attempts to give students a real world understanding of the concept of additive color.


Students that intend to apply to an Art and Design major in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are required to enroll in ARTF103 Design I, a course taught by two faculty, which is comprised of workshops in color, communication (two-dimensional design fundamentals), and craft (three-dimensional design fundamentals). Both faculty team-teach the color workshop for two and half weeks. Then, half the students participate in the communication workshop with one faculty, while the others participate in craft with the other faculty. After 11 class sessions of 2 hours and 40 minutes each, the students switch to the workshop they have yet to take.


In the color workshop, students study the visual, material, and psychological/emotional nature of color. The theory of color is covered through the study and practice of perceptual phenomena, including contrast, temperature, hue, value, and saturation. Students work in paint as well as digital media to understand additive and subtractive methods of color management.


Project Brief


Part I


Capture three 30-second photographic exposures with the RGB LED light wand in the photo studio. Make exposures that exemplify each of your three assigned color characteristics (see below).


Part II


Working in groups of four, use at least 60 of your classmates’ collective RGB LED long exposure images to create a time-based piece that reveals connections between adjacent images in the sequence. Your choice of sequence could be based on color relationships, similar imagery, etc.


Context


This project required the fabrication of a battery powered RGB LED light wand with buttons corresponding to each color. The tri-color LED contains diodes that emit red, green and blue light that can be turned on in any combination. Using the RGB LED wand, the primary additive colors can be used alone or mixed instantaneously (holding multiple buttons at the same time) or over time (holding single buttons at different times but overlapping the colors in space, which becomes visible in the final photographic exposure).


The additive color project was assigned concurrently with other more traditional subtractive color exercises: Painted color wheel, Painted tint/shade gradient (100% black to 100% color to 100% white), Painted tone gradient (color + gray), Painted saturation gradient (100% color to 100% gray), Painted chromatic neutral gradient (color + complementary color), Painted value scale (100% white to 100% black)


Create a collection of 60 color swatches (20 corresponding with each assigned color characteristic) by mixing the primary colors in paint as well as collecting existing examples of color from print sources (photographs, magazines, etc.) and manmade and natural found color sources. 


All exercises in the color unit were based on randomly assigned words from three lists of color characteristics: color schemes, temperature, and emotion.


1. Color Schemes: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, Analogous, Complimentary, Split complimentary, Monochromatic


2. Temperature: Hot, Warm, Neutral, Cool, Cold


3. Emotional: Natural, Violent, Happy, Sad, Effervescent, Discordant, Safe


Goals


This project aims to:


Highlight differences between additive and subtractive color methods. Our incoming foundations students generally have experience in traditional 2D media (drawing and painting). They also usually have a familiarity with digital image making/alteration but have, in effect, skipped ahead—using very advanced software without studying the fundamentals of how digital or additive color works. With a greater knowledge of how additive color works, students will be more sophisticated in their use of color across all media.


Introduce alternative methods for image making. In foundations teaching, it is important to concentrate on basic techniques and concepts of art and design, but it is the additional charge of the foundations instructor to expand the possibilities of methods, techniques, and concepts in the field.


Explore the implications of color and its effect on tone, content, and narrative. In this project, students only have 30 seconds and three colors of light to create an image. Students learn quickly how their simple compositions and color choices can influence the meaning in their images. When the students use their classmates’ images in part II, they need to interpret other students’ choices of composition and color to fit within a broader narrative.


Introduce time-based media. Our foundations program serves many areas in art and design, so it is important for each assigned project to be relevant to several areas of potential study for the student. With this in mind, and the increasingly ubiquitous presence of work involving moving images in all areas of art and design, it is essential to introduce some simple time-based image elements to the curriculum. With this element of the project, students are forced consider how, over time, images relate to each other and how images can be sequenced to create a narrative.


Collaboration. Students work together in both the photographic process and the creation of the time-based sequence. This introduces the students to cooperative working methods often used in many fields of art and design. In this project, students assist each other technically on their individual long exposure photographs. Additionally, they work together to create a single time-based piece where they have to agree on the overall theme of the piece and how to achieve it through curating and sequencing their images.


Process narrative


Class 1


Lecture on additive and subtractive color: Using images, students are introduced to the visual, material, and psychological/emotional nature of color. Topics include: the color wheel, color schemes, tint/shade, tone, saturation, value, etc. Introduction of projects: This project is assigned concurrently with several other color exercises, so all of the projects are outlined and students can work on them in whatever sequence they chose.


Class 2


Long exposure photography: In small groups, students use the photo studio and the RGB LED light wand to create their images. One student operates the camera, one operates the lights, while the third makes their image with the RGB light source. To make their images, students stand in front of black backdrop with the room completely darkened, move the light wand, and change the colors over a 30-second exposure.


Class 3


Image sequencing: Working in groups of three, students are provided a PowerPoint file including all the images made by the class. In our case we had 40 students with three images each, for a total of 120 images. Within the PowerPoint file, students were instructed to edit the total number of images down to 60 and arrange them in a particular sequence to create a narrative. Students were allowed to alter the timing and to change the scale and placement of individual images, but were discouraged from using elaborate transitions.


Class 4


Critique: In the critique, students watch each completed image sequence and discuss their reactions to individual images and the sequence. The critique brings up opportunities to discuss how images can operate differently depending on their placement within a larger sequential/narrative context.


Resources + References


Supplies + Equipment


  • RGB LED light wand

  • Room capable of being completely blacked out

  • Digital camera capable of 30-second exposures

  • Digital presentation program (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.)

  • Computer capable of running a digital presentation program

  • Projector (optional)

Related Works + People


  • Erwin Redl’s “Matrix” installations of LED lights.

  • Jaume Plensa’s “Crown Fountain” in Chicago’s Millenium Park.

  • Jason Salavon: Chicago-based artist using digital compiling methods to compress time into a single image.

  • Scott Burns, Emeriti Faculty in the Department of Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: The RGB LED light wand was fashioned after his prototype and parts list.

Contributor(s): Stephen Cartwright and Brad Tober

Updated date: 07/31/2015 - 20:44

Software: photoshop

Other Software: powerpoint, keynote, other presentation

Other Hardware: RGB LED light wand (see Wand link for parts), Room capable of being completely blacked out, Digital camera capable of 30-second exposures, Computer capable of running a digital presentation program, Projector (optional)

Links, related art/design: