Paint Chip Poetry Workshop at ReCreative Denver

This workshop hosted at ReCreative Denver is a series of activities where visual and verbal ideas play off one and other based on color samples of paints from the hardware store. One of the concepts we considered was the origin of these names- companies of use a familiar object from nature combined with an iconic color, “Dune” being a sandy brown evoking a sense of rhythmic shapes and open spaces. Other name choices may convey a deeper or double meaning like “Passion Fruit” being both a recognizable object with familiar hue and also a lusty emotion. Other paint names can be arbitrary yet still set a mood, like “Flamenco”, “Coquette” and “Dreamville”- as these words and colors are laid out onto a page they can tell a longer story or take on composition interpretations when viewed from afar.

In our first exercise, we selected several paint chips and took them around the neighborhood for a photo essay…

exude confidence
water splash

Back in the studio we read through a few poems about color from Christina Rosesetti and Marge Piercy as well as having a short discussion around Kandinsky’s essay “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”. In the chapter “The Psychological Working of Color” he writes…

To let the eye stray over a palette, splashed with many colors, produces a dual result. In the first place one receives a PURELY PHYSICAL IMPRESSION, one of pleasure and contentment at the varied and beautiful colors. The eye is either warmed or else soothed and cooled. But these physical sensations can only be of short duration. They are merely superficial and leave no lasting impression, for the soul is unaffected. But although the effect of the colors is forgotten when the eye is turned away, the superficial impression of varied color may be the starting point of a whole chain of related sensations.”

Next we drafted our own poems from the paint samples, creating collages on paper- I made one for our friend Mary who’d slipped on the stairs that morning (she’s feeling much better now). My dad had tagged along that afternoon and he was delighted to utilize a book of poems his mother had read to me when I was little.


Dad matched his colors with a poem by Countee Cullen called “The Unknown Color”. I’m so delighted he found this since it wasn’t one I’d heard before and it was a lovely way for us to remember Loretta who loved to share books with both of us.

The Unknown Color

I've often heard my mother say,
When great winds blew across the day,
And, cuddled close and out of sight,
The young pigs squealed with sudden fright
Like something speared or javelined,
"Poor little pigs, they see the wind."