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From the SCPC Winter 2012 Quarterly Newsletter

Color Theory According to the Masters by Melany Whitney, CPCP

I grew up in New York City. The buildings were grey, the sidewalks were grey, and the asphalt in the roads turned quickly grey from their original shiny black finish within a week of being poured. When it snowed, that white fluffy stuff turned grey even as it was falling. And for most of the year the skies were fairly grey during the days that were cut short due to winter solstice. What this meant to me in my world of art and color theory was I was able to "get away with" using a minimum of color in my art classes.

By the time I entered college, I saw that I could easily reduce the world to black and white through the graphic design concentration I chose. Life was in- deed simple! Besides, always being a northeasterner meant that my winter AND summer clothes uniform was always black. I never really had to make any decisions on what would go with what, or what color shirt would compliment my complexion or hair color. Besides, I never understood all the theory and rules about being a Fall, Winter, Spring or Summer color person that was so hyped in the 70's. I knew what I liked by instinct and that worked for my wardrobe and my life. It was just that simple.

Color was just TOO COMPLEX an area with which to have to deal. Too many choices!

Well, what happened to those inconsequential shades of black days? I chose to expand my art career into one that would place me right in the middle of having to actually SEE and THINK about color as it was, and as it could actually be. The career choice, of course, was permanent cosmetics. Permanent cosmetics involved complex issues of pigment color, skin tones and undertones, as well as the healing process to achieve the desired result. A flat stretched canvas is much different than the living, breathing, changing human canvas now the focus of my artistic endeavors.

This is my own art work (Picture 1). Notice that I chose to make the background very cool which tends to reinforce the entire feeling of my work. My kitty, as well as the cool sallow facial colors in my model's face, help relate the "mystery" I wanted the viewer to feel, and the deep purple used for her gloves also helps.

How was I to deal with having to make so many choices? My new form of art would become very complicated and confusing to me for a few years.

One thing I learned from my art world of always using a very limited palette was I could actually mix ANY color I wanted. I did not need to buy the very esoteric colors that perhaps I could just squeeze from a tube to instantly achieve an amazing fantasy rainbow of every shade, hue and tone. By just going back to the basics - the simple color wheel color theory - there was no end to what I could mix by myself. Add great imagination, and there are no limitations. But again, to state the obvious, that is all well and good on a regular canvas, but not so effective for the living human canvas.

Yet, what is it about canvas that actually "absorbs" the color? What is it that you need to understand about the many different tones in order to predict that the color you have just mixed will come out the way you intended? What combination of colors will yield the desired final healed color?

That is, of course, the difficulty of implanting color in the canvas of skin. Although, during my teaching years I had an easy approach, which I still use to this very day: ALWAYS mix a bit of your "safety", coral/ orange color into any colors you choose to use, and it should ENSURE that a dreaded purple/grey/blue will not result. However, that is for a more basic color discussion. This discussion is more focused on relational color theory and visual perception.

I attended a plethora of "color theory" lectures and classes to perfect my art of tattooing. And worse yet, I bought almost every bottle of pigment that any instructor was selling. I even spent all my time at the vendor booths during SPCP conventions to test out colors. All this was part of my journey in the quest to understand and master color for the human canvas.

I am not writing about rudimentary color theory, which can be found in any good art manual, since that is a tenet that should be the foundation for any person in our field. Rather, what I would like to bring to light is the color theory that originally Impressionism, Pointillism/Divisionism/espoused.

Divisionism (also called Chromoluminarism) was the characteristic style in Neo-Impressionist painting defined by the separation of colors into individual dots or patches which interacted optically. The technique relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones. It is related to Divisionism, a more technical variant of the method. Divisionism is concerned with color theory, whereas pointillism is more focused on the specific style of brushwork used to apply the paint. It is a technique with few serious practitioners today and 'is notably seen in the works of Seurat, Signac and Cross. However, see also Andy Warhol’s early works, and pop art.' (Wikipedia).

This brings me to a theory espoused by the late, great Roslyn Kirsch that she helped me learn when I was privileged to study under her for fifteen years (Ash Can School of Art in New York City in the1970's & 80's). Her theory in the most basic terms is simply that whatever color you place down, will affect how the color next to it is seen. This same theory is just what the great Pointillist artist George Seurat brought to the world to experience in his masterpiece: A Sun- day Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

What color you finally choose/mix to implant in the skin, is NOT only affected by the tone of the skin that it is seen through (and the way the skin exfoliates), but by the resulting healed color and how it is seen in comparison to your client's skin tone ( i.e. red, green, yellow, blue tones).

I feel that as a professional, we need to know how those very "warm brown" eyebrows will look compared to that client's cool olive skin... perhaps not a pretty picture. So remember, it is not just the color mix you use to achieve what you know is needed to be seen as a beautiful color result in the healed procedure, but a knowledge of how that healed result will compare to its surrounding components and their color tones. The human eye perceives all these factors in relation to each other and all at once. The finished appearance and perception is a sum total of all the parts in relation to one another.

Why put a totally cool brow on a Hispanic client with olive skin? The results will not make her as visually desirable as perhaps letting some really warm tones show through.

We were all taught that yellow plus blue equals green, red plus blue equals purple, and so on. We were also all taught that extra color in the equation - skin tone. But were we taught about the perception of how that healed color will look like once it is compared and viewed in total as a component of your client's eye, hair, lip color, and skin tone? You might even ask your client what colors of clothing are worn most of the time. Remember, that color is also seen together with the face in one's overall impression of the total "picture" of the person.

"I believe that a person appears more appealing than normal when contrasted with a person of less appeal, and less appealing than normal when contrasted with one of greater appeal” (Wikipedia). By requiring yourself to combine the colors optically, as well as physically mixing pigments, you can give your client the optimal and most physically appealing results!

It is what is perceived that will make for a more balanced, more pleasant and more physical appealing appearance. Understanding relational color perception and balance, along with permanent cosmetic color theory, are two powerful components of mastering the art of permanent cosmetics.

Wouldn't it be nice for us to be able to make out clients "glow" (not literally though)? Think of a woman who presents green eyes and bright red hair, maybe of Gaelic decent. You would want to automatically use an ash based color to avoid a bright red brow. However, consider the green in her eyes. Perhaps a color choice of a slightly warmer tone in the brow would also help to emphasize her eye color (remember compliments: red-green). The final result may not be a totally "safe" totally ash tone color, yet one that also brings out her eye color.

REALLY look at your client's total picture, how close she wears her hair to her face, the color of her natural brows, eye color, skin color, and colors that are favorites to wear. Try to give the client the most optimal result based on how she will be perceived after the procedure has healed and is hers for years to come.

About the Author: Melany Whitney, a certified SPCP trainer/ lifetime member, was an honors graduate from the School of Art and Architecture of
Cornell University, NY. She views her work as the culmination of a lifelong proclivity towards artistry, aesthetics, and dedicated ability. Melany maintains a busy private practice, NYC, NJ and FL and has been featured on Dr. Oz, the TODAY show, ABC, FOX and CBS News, Bravo, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, Elle, The New York Observer, Women & Cancer, and The New York Times.
22nd Annual Convention & Trade Show 2013 is a time for better days as we reunite with our old friends, meet new ones, and continue to reach excellence in education, learn about new products and supplies, all while uniting to embrace the future together as members of the most elite organization in the world. So mark your calendars now. Invest in yourself, your career, and the future, and plan to at- tend Convention 2013 on March 9 -11, 2013 in Las Vegas. I look forward to seeing you there. I'll be the one wearing the brightest rhinestones, of course!

About the Author: Melany Whitney: Our Founder, Certified Instructor, And Certified Permanent Cosmetics Professional

The "Voice of Permanent Makeup," Melany Whitney is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson for the permanent makeup industry. Appearing frequently on television and regularly featured and quoted in national magazines, Melany espouses a passionate desire to inspire every individual's natural beauty through permanent makeup.

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