Although this post can be skimmed for a fantastic list of Instagram accounts to inspire your creativity, at the heart of it I'm going to attack one question I get asked regularly, "How do you pick colors?"
I'm a textiles designer with a background in graphic design, so "picking colors" is something I've been doing for most of my life. This color question sounds simple enough, but every time I hear it my mind races as I imagine the backlog of inspiration gathered over the years – actually over a lifetime.
Even though that small, innocently asked question could and should get a thorough and complex response, I'm going to do my best to boil it down into a simple answer. Here we go...
Q: How do you pick colors?
A: I cultivate a sense of personal color and style through observation.
Q: OK...but how?
How to Cultivate a Sense of Personal Color and Style
1. Intentionally Observe
I chose the word cultivate intentionally because it means to continually be developing, growing and improving. One of my favorite meanings of the word is to "break up (soil) in preparation for sowing or planting." So when you think about your personal style (or some of you skeptics might be thinking "lack of style") remember that it, by nature, will change and develop.
And thank goodness for that, right? Raise your hand if you went through a personal style phase that you wish was not photo documented. For me, that was ages 10 until about 22. Yikes!
Practically speaking, how do you cultivate personal color and style? It starts with intentional observation.
2. Ask, "Do I like that? Why or why not?
Observe nature, architecture and other creative people working in interior design, art, fashion, wherever! Live your life asking questions like, "Do I like that? Why or why not?" It's the WHY answer to that question that will break up your soil for sowing and cultivate your aesthetic.
You don't need to stress about remembering to be observant and you don't need to get it tattooed on your hand. (Please don't get that tattooed on your hand!) I bet you are already watching, absorbing and taking in the colors and patterns around you. You just may not realize you're doing it.
When you do remember to ask yourself these questions, one thing you will find is that you can usually answer the first within seconds while the followup question may stump you. I actually think forming fast opinions is a basic primal instinct imperative for survival.
This quick thinking can also be called a gut instinct. But just because your gut instinct quickly says, "Ick, that leopard print is tacky," doesn't mean you can't question it. "Why? Why do I think that leopard print is tacky? Is it because I saw it on my mean neighbor and I already don't like her? Is it possible that I just think my neighbor is tacky and leopard prints can actually be used well?"
That line of thinking can send you on a search to either 1. prove that leopard prints are indeed universally tacky and not going to make it into your personal style or 2. open up color, texture and print combinations that pair well with leopard prints – allowing you to add a subcategory into your aesthetic, potentially called, "Animal prints aren't all tacky, however mean neighbors are."
3. Create a Catalog
One aspect about our gut instinct, that we might not fully realize, is that it changes. A gut instinct is not the same as a fact. You can't cultivate facts so they change and grow. The beautiful magic of your gut is that as you start intentionally developing your tastes and style your gut instinct will get louder, stronger and much more confident.
You won't always have to ask yourself, "Why?" You'll know why. One thing that will help strengthen your gut instinct is creating a catalog of resources that affirms your personal aesthetic. That could be a strong mental catalog or, what really helps me is a digital filing system. Pinterest is great and Instagram has a wonderful save feature that lets you tag photos and throw them into categories.
Many times before pulling fabric for a new quilt, I'll go to my Color board on Pinterest and get re-inspired by color palettes and combinations.
Don't Misinterpret Beauty
Observe, question, grow, catalog – do all of those things. BUT. Do not get overwhelmed or feel rushed in doing them. The world is full of beauty and creative people making beautiful things. Our job is to gather until our minds are full and then STOP.
If you see beauty in the world and feel anything other than gratitude, it's time to back away and reevaluate those feelings. Beauty is being misinterpreted if it elicits jealousy, insecurity or self-doubt.
Many times I have had to leave a museum after visiting only one wing because my mind was turning to chaos, my catalog felt like pages of a book being smack around by the wind and my heart started to feel overwhelmed and sad. I was beginning to misinterpret beauty through a lens of inadequacy rather than intentional observation and gratitude.
That's the moment I know to stop. Get off Pinterest. Click off Instagram. Leave the museum and go do something completely different.
With that said, here are some Instagram accounts that inspire my color, texture and pattern choices. A really smart designer once said to me, "If you are trying to design a lamp, don't look at other lamps. Look at trees, buildings, animals – anything but lamps."
I think about that a lot when designing quilts. Obviously, I will always get a lot of joy from looking at quilts, but I try really hard to look at other things for inspiration too. I also always ask myself, "Where will this quilt live?" I want to design a piece that works in harmony with an entire space.
But guys, that's where I'm at NOW. I plan on continuing to cultivate my personal color and style so I plan on that evolving and changing to some degree. We'll see what happens!
24 Instagram Accounts to Inspire Your Personal Color and Style
There are so many inspiring Instagram accounts to follow, here is only a small sampling. Leave a comment with your favorite accounts so we can all enjoy!