Colour is an important aspect of my work. Colour has been with me since the day I was born. My birth name ‘Crimson’ means ‘highly chromatic deep red colour’. The word itself originates from the Arabic word qirmizī which is ‘cochineal dye’, a naturally derived product used to dye cloth. (online etymology dictionary, 2021)

In my practice I explore colour in multiple ways, firstly scientifically through the creation and application of colour to cloth. Secondly, I use colour to express emotion and meaning in my designs.

My colour inspiration comes from everywhere but especially from travel. Interesting or unusual combinations of colours can be found everywhere. When I see something that is inspiring colour wise I take a photograph and store it. When I am designing I refer to my collection of images which I draw upon to create a cohesive colour story for my print designs.

Chairs in India covered in bright pink fabric in a room with highly patterned pink flooring and walls.

Image: Interior in Delhi, India.

Pink is my favourite colour and anyone who knows me can verify that. My daily eye shadow is bright pink as are many of the clothes and accessories that I wear. For me pink has a warm, energetic and fun feeling that I want to embody in my everyday life. I love colours that glow so neon pink always catches my eye in products.

In 1962 Diana Vreeland former editor of Vogue said pink was the navy blue of India. For me pink also reminds me of my travels across India, from the hot pink saris to the pink city of Jaipur and pink sunsets of Goa, it is hard to not feel inspired and energised by this colour there.

I love pink in all its shades, if I could only choose one colour to wear for the rest of my life it would have to be pink.

Abstract watercolour using shades of blue by Crimson Rose O'Shea

Image: Watercolour sketch by Crimson Rose.

As a print designer colour is integral to my practice. When working with different mark making processes, I often use a combination of colour and mark making to visualise my ideas. In this example I was exploring using a tonal palette of blue to create layers and depth within the design. Exploring colour through drawing enables me to generate ideas and to develop prints with my own motifs and marks.

Colourful screen printed scarf detail by Crimson Rose O'Shea using red, oink, yellow, turquoise and purple.

Image: Screen-printed silk scarf by Crimson Rose.

Later in the process colour is important when the print is applied to fabric. In screen printing we think about colour in terms of layers – with each layer of the design being a different colour. This is an example of a screen print on silk, the different colours that you see were applied using different silk screens each exposed with a different layer of the design. In screen-printing we celebrate where colours overlap creating new colours. A good knowledge of colour theory helps here but there is also a joy in discovering the unexpected through experimentation.

Another method of applying colour is by digital print. This requires a strong knowledge of Photoshop to prepare files that are print ready. This process requires testing to find the closest match between your desired colour in your design and that which will appear on the fabric when printed.

Page from Crimson Rose O'Shea's colour sketchbook featuring research photos and materials on pink, yellow and blue paper.

Image: Crimson Rose colour sketchbook pages.

To inspire the combination of colours I may use in my prints I often refer to the colour inspiration books that I create. These sketchbooks contain collaged pages where I combine primary and secondary research with coloured paper and fabric swatches. They help me to visualise combinations of colour that may be successful and is a way to organise the research imagery that I collect.

In my print designs I employ a playful use of colour. I am not afraid to mix brights with brights or to combine colours in an unusual way. Colour is part of my designer DNA.