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Colour study part ii: Yellow

Updated: Oct 11, 2018

Mellow Yellow's mellow


I am doing an in-depth look into colour based on the plants and animals in my garden over the course of a full season. From the freshness of early Spring, through the hot reds and golden grasses of Summer, Autumn's colours of old age to the neutral tones of Winter, we'll look at natures colour palette and how there are several ways to get from one colour to another, how light and shadow can change a colour, tints (colour plus white), tones (colour plus grey) and shades (colour plus black) and the importance of colour associations and harmonies.

To study the historical, geographical and emotional value of any colour is a book in itself, so to say yellow symbolises happiness and optimism is a little lacking. Thinking of all things yellow in nature, you get warmth and nourishment: the Sun, lemons, bananas and honey, all of which are excellent names for shades of yellow. As humans we have a deep love for yellow ever since our ancestors discovered gold and its qualities. Our belief in yellow is shown by the yellow ribbons worn or tied around trees in support of a cause,


solidarity or to remember a tragedy or historical event. A pure, 'New York taxi' yellow spectrum runs from the yellow side of lime and the yellow side of apricot, but there are also tints and shades of buttermilk, mustard, sunflower, canary and buttercup to consider!

Whilst in the garden looking at bright, lemon yellows, (a cool greeny-yellow), the shadows started as lime green and got darker to an olive green. However, mustard yellow, (a warm orangy-yellow), had shadows starting with burnt orange through to rust colours. I also noticed from a cream yellow, the shadows became beige then milky coffee in colour! From this research we can go from yellow to any other colour, eg yellow and purple: Yellow-buttermilk-cream-lightest grey-lilac-lavender-grape!


The simplest colour schemes is the monochromatic, which is the pale to dark spectrum of any given pure colour, from the inside of the colour wheel to the outside eg buttermilk, yellow to soft caramel. (One of it's furthest lighter shades of buttermilk, works well as a warm, vintage white substitute for every colour, though getting from purple to orange will make a grey brown when mixing liquid colour, but this can be prevented by adding the first hint of orange once the purple is virtually white). A complimentary colour scheme incorporates the opposite of yellow on the colour wheel, which is purple (think of crocuses!) and finally an analogous colour range includes the colours either side of yellow, which is orange and green, which makes me think of tropical pineapple fizzy drinks!

Here in the UK, yellow roses are a sign of friendship and sunflowers are recognised as support for cancer. If you think of pure yellow with soft pink and light green, you get Spring, but shades of those colours mustard, burgundy and forest green gives you inspiration for a traditional Christmas. If ever I use yellow, it tends to be cream to buttermilk and mustard to soft caramel. I avoid the lemons and cool shades, as with most colours, because my preferred colour palette are tones, or as I call them 'dusty' colours, eg olive greens, steely blues and earth tones of greys and browns. The only time I use pure yellow in wool is for the centre of daisy flowers or the occasional wreath when I am recreating a vibrant feel and of course, pom pom chicks at Easter. However, shades and tints of yellow have been important aspects of my colour palettes for Autumn and honey pom pom draft excluders and wreaths.

Research sourced from:


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