Simple harmony is the effect produced by using any colour together with its next neighbour, or neighbours, in their natural order. For instance, orange-yellow supported by yellow and orange, the yellow being lighter and the orange darker, will give a simple harmony; similarly one might choose red, supported by orange-red and crimson-red, or purple, supported by red-purple and violet. It is, of course, unnecessary to use more than two colours to obtain the simplest form of harmony.
Used in pairs, or in threes, in the natural order, no colours will appear unpleasant. As a test, some simple pattern should be chosen and coloured with any pair in its proper order. The same pattern should then be tried with other pairs taken from different parts of the colour circle.
Such arrangements tend to give an effect of richness without disturbing the chief note of colour. It may perhaps be thought that these simple harmonies are too simple, but it must never be forgotten that a great many ordinary woven and printed fabrics are not intended to provide more than one note of colour in a scheme. Provided that the surface be enriched sufficiently to make it interesting, there is no need to treat every pattern as though it must needs contain a complete colour-scheme. Many otherwise satisfactory arrangements are spoiled by the introduction of quite unnecessary contrasts.
Such harmonies abound in Nature, but their very frequency tends to prevent our noticing them. A clear blue sky is perhaps the best example because of its large area. The wonderful quality and richness of the blue does not depend solely on gradation from dark to light, but on variation in the quality of blue, greenish blue, full blue, and even ultramarine following
one another in order. Foliage in large masses often gives well-defined harmonies in yellow-green, green, and blue-green. Dry grass supplies harmonies in yellow, orange, and orange-red. These instances are given because of the large areas involved, but on a smaller scale the number may be greatly increased. Simple harmonies in Nature are composed not only of great areas of clear, brilliant colour, but of small spots of clear colour supported by larger spaces of colour closely related but somewhat broken.
Following up this line of study, we find that a simple harmony can be varied by confining the original colour to spots or figures while the remaining surface is composed of shades of the same colour more or less broken, e.g., yellow, as the keynote, supported by brownish yellow and yellow-brown, or blue, supported by greyish blue and blue-grey. In such cases the extent to which the breaking of the original colour is carried will materially affect the value of the arrangement if required to form part of a large scheme.
Thus, if blue be used sparingly and supported by large quantities of grey in which blue preponderates but slightly, the whole effect will be sober, not suited to a prominent place in a very brilliant colour-scheme, but admirably adapted to act as a background to brighter tints.
The breaking of a colour is here understood to mean the mixing with it of other colours, harmonious or contrasting, or even both. Thus red may be mixed with yellow to turn it toward orange, after which a further mixture with a little blue will take off the edge of the colour and dull it materially, while, at the same time, making it much more easy to deal with. A colour broken in this way has affinities for a much wider range of tints than a clear, pure colour, but what it gains in adaptability it loses in brilliance.
The weaver can employ this device with far less sacrifice of brilliance than the painter, for the interweaving of colours produces a fine shimmer where a mixture of paint would produce dullness. Thus a weaver may have stripes of red warp set amid black ; and working with a red weft he will produce a brilliant colour where red warp and red weft meet, supported by a very reduced and broken tint of red where the black warp mingles with the red weft. The student is recommended to make a full and careful study of simple harmonies:
- (1) By arranging as many pairs of pure bright tints as possible, but, of course, keeping strictly to the natural order ;
- (2) By arranging further sets of pairs of the same colours, making one set pale and the other deep ; and
- (3) By. making a series of brilliant tints supported by broken tints in which the original colour predominates, but which are reduced in brilliance.
Such study as this may well form the foundation of a colour course for painters and decorators, weavers, and all who have to deal with colour in the textile trades, for window dressers, salesmen, buyers, and others engaged in the furnishing trades, as well as for dressmakers and those who deal with dress materials.
Extended harmonies are here taken to mean schemes in which the original pair or trio of harmonious colours are supported by lighter and darker sets of the same colours. Such an arrangement allows the use of a wider range of tone than would otherwise be possible, and consequently permits of a more varied effect.
Such extended harmonies may often be studied in the sky, particularly when clouds are present at different altitudes. The upper clouds show the most delicate tints and the lower clouds take on the deeper shades, but the interweaving of the different passages suggests wonderful possibilities in following up this line of study. It offers a means of obtaining unity without monotony?always a very difficult problem, but one worthy of the earnest attention of those who have to deal with schemes of decoration.