I LOVE color. I mean, who doesn’t? I still remember the first time I saw just how much color was in shadows, in a face, or in clouds.

Sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing with it, but I always know when it feels ‘just right’. I love layering transparent colors to create new colors. I love texturing similar colors on top of each other or collaging complementary colors next to each other. I love using color palettes that are moody, simple, surreal, sophisticated, or surprising.

Sometimes color comes natural for me, and other times it’s a challenge. Sometimes I know what colors a painting will be before I begin, and other times I search for them. Some days I paint with the colors I’m wearing, completely oblivious to the fact until my husband points it out to me. Other days I look for inspiration in the landscape out my window.

Years ago when I first started working as an illustrator at Hallmark, Vivien Flesher came to give a lecture about her work. She is awesome–I love the way she draws and how she uses color. She shared something that day that has stuck with me since then. She showed us a simple photo she took of a public swimming pool–the steps going into the pool, the reflections in the water of greens, blues, and pinks, a red towel over the fence and the gray-brown-purple concrete patio around the pool. She then showed us one of her paintings she did using the same color palette from this photo. A light bulb went off for me as I thought, “oh, color palettes are everywhere, free of charge,” and I began taking photos of miscellaneous subject matter for color inspiration. Sometimes I’ll tape a photo up to my wall while I paint and let the colors influence my piece.

Last summer I led a workshop at American Greetings, and as an experiment, we used photos to inspire us as we painted huge sheets of paper with abstract shapes and textures in the same color palettes–free flowing like stream of conscious writing exercises. Later they cut these up to create collages inspired by drawings they made with their “other” hand. It was simply an exercise to get them out of their normal way of thinking, I think it worked so well! The artists made some really awesome images, AND found new color palettes they hadn’t used before.

Last year when I was traveling in Nepal and India, I took tons of photos which have been a great source of color inspiration for me. I thought I’d share some of them.

Where do you find inspiration for the colors you use?