Trend Meets Color in Tokyo’s Famed Harajuku District

Trend Meets Color in Tokyo’s Famed Harajuku District

Tourists visiting Tokyo's Shibuya ward near the Harajuku Station may find themselves wondering if they have suddenly stepped out of the world and into a carnival of beautiful performers all in the split of a second. It does seem so, as the area is frequented by young Japanese teenagers who express themselves with such startling vibrance it can't help but remind one a bit of Noh theatre.

Harajuku kids, as they are called, have been called the modern geisha of today, and rightfully so. Their culture has been most famously documented in a series of photography books called Fruits by Shoichi Aoki, including small interviews and tidbits of information about the kids and their lifestyles.

The most oft-asked question seems to be: Why do they do it? There is no conclusive reason, although the simplest answer seems to be: Why not?

colodio.jpgimg by colodio

The emergence of the colorful dress seems to have been around since the 1980's, when Sundays at Omotesandō and the street that passes through Yoyogi Park were host to a gathering of bright costumes while the street was closed to traffic. The street was reopened in 1990 and the gathering seemed to die down at that time, but has since popped up sporadically in other locales, specifically the Harajuku Station area. Should you tour this area, you may also see what are called Visual Kei. This refers to a trend of Japanese musicians dressing flamboyantly -- think the hair metal era, but with vivid color replacing the ubiquitous black clothing. Visual Kei are also well known for favoring an androgynous look, which is a very popular look among Harajuku boys. The Japanese band Dir En Grey are the most iconic representation of this fad's origin.

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Arguing Color Hues with Van Gogh

Arguing Color Hues with Van Gogh

It started as a simple exercise, a cure for writer’s block, copy a Van Gogh. Practice discipline in painting, work on mixing complex colors, capture vintage tones, and learn from the best. But, it is now late afternoon, the natural light is starting to fade and I,well, I am arguing with Van Gogh. “Why Vincent? Why? What color is it?”

It never is just ‘green’ or ‘blue’ with Van Gogh. Its more colors than one could possibly imagine, more hues than those contained within the range of my modern palette, more subtle variation of tone than my amateur skills are capable of; more madness than I care to explore. Oh Vincent…
Photo by Jim Chou

His lines are simple, his subjects relatable, and despite his over popularity with the makers of screen savers and dorm room posters, Van Gogh had something I believe no other artist has ever managed to replicate for me: an internal color palette that is uniquely his, wonderful and frustrating.

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Colourcodes by Atelier | Olschinsky

Colourcodes by Atelier | Olschinsky

"Display your soul by colourcode."

German designers, illustrators, photographers, painters, musicians and paper toy makers, atelier | olschinsky, have a new line of colorful toys that allow you to, as the makers say:

Express yourself by matching colours – each colour code stands for a certain spiritual condition. Create your colourcode the easy way! it comes to you ready for assembling.

These motley, animated and vibrant toys truly display the designers' humour, appreciation for color and fantastic sense for composition. They also have a corresponding line of buttons that can interact with your colorcode.

If you can't, or just refuse to deal with the currency exchange and overseas shipping, you can still download backgrounds for your computer, and at least let everyone at the office know your current spiritual condition.

You can find the coloucode toys along with other colorful toys at their store.

The Colourcodes:

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Interview with Ron van Dongen: Photographer

Interview with Ron van Dongen: Photographer

Ron van Dongen and Riley portrait 

Ron van Dongen
Location: Portland, OR
Originally hails from: The Netherlands
Education or training: Masters in Health Science and Biology

It was the beautiful red book titled Effusus sitting on a coffee table that first captured my attention and then my heart. For most of the rest of the evening, Ron van Dongen's photographs of flowers had me spellbound. Each image was striking with detail and seductive, sensual colour.

Since that evening, I've been lucky to have met Ron on several occasions and he graciously took time to share his approach and photographs with us.

CL: What is your background?

van Dongen: I grew up in the heartland of floral agriculture in the Netherlands, and later studied Biology and Health Scinece at the University of Delft. Despite my involvement with plants, I’d never thought they would become a subject matter for photography. Digging in the dirt and watching a plant’s life cycle in its own environment was, and still is, more rewarding than isolating it and documenting it on film.

Ron van Dongen’s, Iris douglasiana ‘N. Erickson’

CL: How did you get started making photographs of plants and flowers?

van Dongen: About fifteen years ago, while I was working as a floral designer and going to college, a friend predicted I would one day photograph flowers as a primary occupation. I thought the idea was ridiculous.

As a photography student, I was obsessed with the human form, and in my youthful ambition to be taken seriously, found flowers too frivolous a subject matter. I was determined to become a portrait photographer.

While I did photograph plants occasionally, it was only done to practice my 4x5 camera skills without burdening live models with my limited technical ability. When the flower pictures drew attention, I would respond by saying they were only meant as an exercise.

During the following few years, I built a portfolio of body and face photographs. These images were all taken in the studio with simple strobe lighting. I worked exclusively with Polaroid 55P/N for its instant results. Mostly high in contrast, with the light skin tones against black back drops, the pictures had a dramatic, but often static effect.

In a subsequent project, I photographed white bodies on white backdrops. In this series the light tones were meant to symbolize death and mourning. The white-on-white imagery created a feeling of eerie serenity but also of distance. As the project progressed, this concept changed to a more visual observation; it takes effort to see where a white-on-white image begins or ends. This ambiguous pictorial quality literally forces the viewer to draw in closer and examine the whole image area. It makes the imagery more challenging and dynamic.

Simultaneously, I applied this idea to floral still lifes, using a 4 x 5 Sinar F1 camera. Although visually similar, the botanicals lacked the emotional tension and heaviness of the figure studies. Another difference was the circumstance in with I photographed them; at home using only natural light.

In the attempt to market my work to galleries and magazines, it was the flower portfolio that was consistently singled out. I chose--albeit reluctantly--to devote my time exclusively to photographing the botanical form.

Ron van Dongen’s, Tulipa ‘Flaming Parrot’

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Dexia Tower: An Exercise in Interactive Architecture

Dexia Tower: An Exercise in Interactive Architecture

Think you can't find beauty in a bank? Think again. The Dexia Tower, located in Brussels, embodies just that. Thanks to the creativity of LAb[au], a Belgium based digital design lab, the Dexia Tower has become infinitely more than just a home for paperwork and numbers.

The tower itself went up in 2006, and since then has been host to a variety of fantastic light shows. The third tallest building in Brussels has a lot more going for it than just height, however: Of the building's 6000 windows, 4200 of them contain an installation of 12 light bulbs, each housing 3 LED's (a green, blue and red) that can be combined to form a complete palette of color. The result is a tremendous canvas that can display anything from letters to geometric designs. Seem wasteful? It isn't --recent tests show that the tower uses 1/3 of the electricity that Paris' famed Eiffel Tower uses, thanks to a highly efficient energy saving LED lighting system.

pierre-j.jpgimg by Pierre J.

The tower is currently exhibiting a show called "Who’s afraid of Red, Green and Blue?" which is shown in the picture above. In a two month collaboration with the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, the tower exhibits the temperature of the following day using color. The color code follows a naturally coordinating scale, with violet symbolizing -6° or colder and warming through the color spectrum, red being at the opposite end and symbolizing +6° or warmer. The result is beauty with something useful below the surface, and while there is much to be said for beauty and art all on their own, the function of the Dexia Tower's current show lends a lovely depth to the spectacle. Hit the link below to see this stunning exhibit in action.

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The Art of Color: Rothko Meets Web2.0

The Art of Color: Rothko Meets Web2.0

I've always liked the artwork of Mark Rothko. They are simple enough to enjoy with only a passing glance, but powerful enough to absorb large amounts of time considering the emotions and meanings behind the colors and how they interact with each other.

I share a similar appreciation for the hundreds of color palettes that are uploaded to COLOURlovers on a daily basis. They can be quickly appreciated as you scroll by them, but some of will jump out and grab you on personal level. And the ones that grab you could be the ones that another person scrolls on past... These little palettes become mini-artworks that can express emotion and ideas.

As basic as color is, it is a very powerful form of expression.


"Rothko's work is characterized by rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth, composition, and scale; yet, he refused to consider his paintings solely in these terms. He explained: It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing."
  Mark Rothko - National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

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Taking Chess Beyond Black and White

Taking Chess Beyond Black and White

There's an age-old debate in the Chess world over whether Black or White is the "superior" colour. Because White makes the first move, White wins an overwhelming percentage of the time. But what if both sides were Grandmasters? Would there still be a colour advantage, or would every game end in a stalemate? The Surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp found his own way to break free of this philosophical "gray area." In 1920, he invented a colour version of his favorite board game in an attempt to turn Chess into an artistic activity.

Duchamp's colour choices weren't arbitrary. Indeed, as Duchamp expert Francis Naumann points out, the colour of each piece served as a "continuous visual reminder of its movement and strategic power." Duchamp's two Rooks were light blue and dark blue. The Bishops were light and dark yellow. As the Queen is a combination of the Rook and Bishop (in terms of power and movement), she blended blue and yellow to form light and dark green. The Knights, sharing no characteristics with other chessmen, were light and dark red. Kings were white and black, and pawns were also white and black.

Naumann notes that Duchamp compared the black and white game of chess to a "pen and ink drawing," likening chess players to painters who created black and white artwork out of pre-existing forms. "Extending Duchamp's analogy," Naumann suggests, "we could then say that playing on the chromatic set would be the equivalent of drawing in color."

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Organizing Bookshelves By Color

Organizing Bookshelves By Color

Bringing color into a living space isn't just about painting the walls. It's also about paying attention to the way the objects in a home relate to one another. A full spectrum of color resides on most bookshelves, but it takes a good eye to make an average shelf into a work of art.

If you're really lucky, you can find a complete set of color-coded books at a thrift store. A few collections that come in a colorful series: Wallpaper's City Guides, many of the old color-coded Penguin books, and World Book Editions. For inspiration, check out the Rainbow of Books Flickr Group.

colorful_bookshelves.jpg by Chotda

How to Organize Your Bookshelves By Color

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Landmark Color: The Eiffel Tower’s True Hues

Landmark Color: The Eiffel Tower’s True Hues

Located in the City of Lights, the Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most familiar structures and one of the most treasured symbols of France. Weighing a total of 10,100 tons and rising 324 m (including the flagpole) the Eiffel Tower has survived and been protected through the years because of paint. Paint, it seems, “is the essential element in the conservation of metal works”. [Gustave Eiffel]

Well, I don't know about you but when I think of paint, I immediately have a coloring urge.

What Color is the Eiffel Tower?

colors of the Eiffel Tower
by Bret Arnett

Monsieur Eiffel chose to paint the Tower red after it was erected and since then the Eiffel Tower has changed colors several times transitioning between red-browns to mustard yellows back to red-brown and more recently, variations of brown.

According to the official Eiffel Tower website, the most current colour is labeled Bronze though others have labeled the current colour Milk Chocolate Brown or Brownish-Grey.

(Left: The layers of paint and colors of the Eiffel Tower through the years. You can find this on the first floor of the Tower.)


Which Color is the Official “Bronze”?

Eiffel Tower Photo by absolutwade
by absolutwade

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Hot New Car Colors from the 2008 NAIAS

Hot New Car Colors from the 2008 NAIAS

While the overall "color of the year" for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit may be "green", and for good reason, there are a few new colors, and the comeback of a few classic colors as well, that will soon be seen at your local parking lot or drive-thru line.

The auto industry is known for sticking to standard hues from year to year - which is still a big step compared to Mr.Fords 'one color for all' Model T, and his motto: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black,” and while the general colors remain the same, it is the shades that are continually becoming more and more interesting every year.

Recently, the colors used on automobiles have been made up of multiple color layers added together with translucent layers making each color increasingly more complex. Look at a car from one angle the color might be "scorched penny" but as you move your point of view around the car the color moves along with you changing drastically from that bright orange to nearly black.

DuPont 2007 Global Automotive Color of the Year

img by ripismoney

After seven years in first place, silver ran into tough competition this year with white/white pearl rising to the lead color choice for vehicles in one key region and two countries. In North America, white/white pearl, silver and black/black effect are in a virtual tie for first, with white/white pearl narrowly taking the top spot, according to the report issued by the company’s Automotive Systems business. White overcame silver in Japan and is the decisive leader in Mexico, more than doubling the popularity of gray.
-DuPont Reports Global Color Popularity Ratings for Vehicles

So, while the car industry never strays too far from the popular colors, the growing 'niche' color market is something for a color lover to excited about. In recent years the niche market has seen bright saturated oranges and greens. Imagine what might come next, I'm hoping for patterns, but we will just have to wait and see.

Some of My Favorite Colors Popping Up at the NAIAS This Year

red lexus roadster
img by TheWongFamilyPictures

img by ripismoney

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