Color Extractions & Abstractions

Let's play a little with color.

The idea for this blog came while I was searching for the "Colors of a Place", an endeavor that is still ongoing.

Places, landscapes, cities, different parts of the world - they all have their distinctive looks, their respective colors. Landscapes are composed of different materials - rocks, earth, vegetation, etc. - each with its own colors. When we think of the Saharan Desert, we think yellow. Remembering an old forest, we see green, and so on. In order to determine the colors of a place, I searched for ways to condense the relevant colors.

Gulf Sunset Colors

The above left image is a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. We can see blue, magenta, orange, yellow, pink, but don't know which color is the strongest. The easiest way would be to step away far enough where details cannot be recognized anymore. It becomes a blur. And when strongly blurring this image on purpose, blue and orange become the dominant colors.

Painters have tried for centuries to mix the right colors to represent a location. Today, with a little help from software, you can extract complete color palettes from any given image, with the proper color description included.

Seagate Beach Color Palette

I took the color extraction a bit further and combined the original images with the extracted colors. I like the results it rendered, one side with details, the other reduced. The interplay of art and nature transforms the image and creates a very different feel.

"Moonstruck" with extracted colors.
Colors of the Desert (1-2)

Below is another approach. Instead of taking the whole image, I reduced only the background - the place - to its dominant colors and blended in the main subject. This allows me to create more awareness of the underlying palette but still provide strong context of the location. At the same time, the images become more abstract and minimalistic, a combination of visual perception and factual representation.

Colors of the Everglades (1-4)

The images shown so far still contained part of the original scene. The ones shown below have all detail removed and only the colors remain. These are some of my favorite abstractions. All were taken in Naples, and they offer much more room for interpretation than a "regular" photograph, they let you travel all over the world.

Naples Beach Abstracts (1-4)
Wiggins Pass with Sailboat

One more iteration. The inspiration for this came from the work of Julienne Kost. Instead of working with single images, I randomly selected fifty images of the same location. In this case, all were taken during a winter flight over the Northern US. I blurred each one beyond recognition (like stepping very far away from it), then cut out a representative strip, and then aligned the strips into one image. And here you have it, the colors of a US winter - my version of it.

Colors of Winter

A soft and muted color palette, with, as one would expect, lots of grey tones. The more colorful strips in the middle are some vegetation showing through the snow. The blue strips are sunlight hitting mountain tops. Compare this soft image with the livelier color palette below.

Colors of the Everglades

A composite of the Everglades reveals a surprising mix of color. The large amounts of vegetation - trees, grasses - cause the dark tones, the grays are a gift from the swamps, and the blues from sunlit waters.

What next? I looked at my hometown, Naples, Florida. What colors would describe it? Empirical research was in order. A search through various image databases showed that approximately eighty percent of Naples imagery consists of beach pictures, pier and sunset. Downtown, nature, etc. make up for the rest. This would be a good representational basis.

I selected a variety of fifty of my Naples images, eighty percent of them beach themes. The expectation was that it would render a close approximation of the local colors.

Colors of Naples

Naples did not disappoint. I find the results quite stunning, and I love the colors that Naples is producing! Compared to the Everglades, the colors are lighter and brighter. There is less vegetation in Naples and much more open space, especially when considering the the majority of the images were beach related. Sunshine galore!

"Colors of Naples" produced as 4 panels.

Creating these works is a reflection on the relationship between visual perception and being, between nature and art, between representation and abstraction, and a great way to bring out your inner child 😀.

If you have a favorite among the images shown above, please let me know. The winner will be donated for an auction at "Seen to be Seen", a "Live Art on the Runway" event, benefitting Naples Art.

I hope you liked this little journey into the colorful extractions and abstractions. If you want to see more of my work, check out my website or follow me on Instagram. Previous issues of my blog can be found here.