Transcript: Curator Jennifer Swope Describes the Color Wheel

JENNIFER SWOPE: I think of the color wheel as a model or a diagram of all the colors we can see. The color wheel is really well designed for teaching about color, because it breaks things down into primary and secondary colors, and really shows you how colors combine, or the basic colors, what we call the primary colors, which are red, yellow, and blue, are combined to make the secondary colors, which are green, orange, and purple.

And then we can see their relationships to each other, because they’re in this neat wheel. On the color wheel, complements lie across from each other. So a pair of complementary colors consist of a primary color, like blue, and a secondary color, like orange, which lies across from it on the color wheel. And it’s not just a complement because it lies across from it on the color wheel, it’s a complement because of its components. Orange is made from yellow and red—together they make orange, and the complement of orange is blue, there’s no blue in orange.

So, if you think about what are the two basic components of green—blue and yellow. No red, so red is the complement of green.

So when those colors, together, let’s say if there are two complements, and they lie next to each other, and they’re both of equal brightness or intensity, the edge where they meet, has a little zing or what we call a vibration, and this quilt is a perfect example of that. In fact, it’s actually hard to look at this quilt, for any length of time. You find your eye kind of getting uncomfortable and moving away. But you should try, because it’s worth it.