American artist Julie Seabrook Ream is mad about colour. Unable to pick a favourite, she set about showing the world that there is multicoloured beauty in everyday objects, from breakfast cereal and cheese through to butterflies and books. Here, Julie, who lives in Ohio in the States and is the creator of the mind-blowingly stunning ‘Encyclopedia of Rainbows’, shares with The Colour File what colour means to her…
Martha: Can you describe your first colour memory?
Julie: Interestingly enough, my first colour memories both involve a “rainbow” of colours. When I was very little I would take the canned goods from the pantry and stack them to make “castles” and “cities”. I remember liking the array of colours on the cans, and thinking how fun it was to see all the colours together. My second memory is when my parents bought me an expensive set of coloured pencils, arranged in a custom pencil holder, creating a stunning ombre rainbow. It is the pencil holder I still use to this day!
Martha: Do you have a favourite colour and has this changed over the years?
Julie: I used to think I needed to pick a favourite colour, as most people seemed to have one, but eventually I realized that I really just love how a rainbow of colours all look together.
Martha: What is your favourite colourful object/objects and why?
Julie: My favorite colourful objects all come from nature, but my favourite might be the colours on that occur on the wings of butterflies. In person these colours almost look like they can’t be real — there is a shimmering quality that I find to be uniquely wonderful.
Martha: How does colour make you feel? To what extent do you use it in your work or personal life to influence your moods or those of people who enjoy your work?Julie: Colour makes me happy! More specifically, rainbows of colours make me happy. As I started sharing the photographs of objects arranged in rainbow order, I quickly realized that rainbows make LOTS of people happy too! I may not have stumbled on the most world-changing project ever, but I can definitely say that I was able to contribute a small amount of joy to people all across the world through my little rainbow project.
Martha: Do you have a colour you could happily do without?
Julie: Orange! Bright orange. It is often too aggressive to me. (Even as I say that, in my head I am arguing to myself about how lovely a bright orange dahlia looks in a garden…I think can find an excuse for any colour to look lovely in the right setting!)
Martha: How does colour get involved in your day-to-day life? Does it permeate your life from the moment you wake to the moment you go to sleep?
Julie: Absolutely! I am always looking for snippets of colour here and there throughout the day to enjoy.
Martha: How do you choose colours for your work and where does your colour inspiration come from?
Julie: My inspiration to create a rainbow often starts with a single object: for instance, at one point I came across a piece of lapis lazuli. The blue colour was absolutely stunning! It made me start to wonder if I could find other gemstones in every other color of the rainbow? I start hunting for red stones, pink stones, orange, etc, and every shade in-between. The process of colour discovery is as enjoyable as seeing a full rainbow of objects brought together.
Martha: Do you think there are rules about colour? Or are rules made to be broken?
Julie: Rules are always made to be broken! Except for red and yellow. That will always say “fast food” to me — and not in a good way!
Martha: Do you have a colour story or anecdote?
Julie: Ironically, my wonderful and kind husband is colour blind. I can’t imagine how he views the world, as so much of how I view the world is based on colour. Despite this, he was extremely supportive of my rainbow project, and patiently asked to see each photograph I created, even though he couldn’t see the same full range of colour as I could.
Martha: Do you have any colour ‘secrets’, maybe something nobody knows about you in relation to colour, or has colour ever got you into trouble?
Julie: It’s not exactly a secret, but I like to collect various objects in any and all colours of the rainbow. I gather these objects into my office and am constantly rearranging them on my shelves, placing different items next to each other, and drawing inspiration from their beauty.
Martha: If you could give people advice about using colour, what would it be
Julie: Experiment! You never know when you may accidentally stumble on an unexpected discovery. I also recommend keeping your eyes open, and recognizing that inspiration can come from anywhere.
Martha: If you had a colour named in your honour, what colour would it be & why? Julie: Seabrook Blue — My maiden name is Seabrook, which is of course compromised of two bodies of water (“sea” and “brook”) and I imagine this blue to be the colour of a calm sea.
- Encyclopedia of Rainbows: Our World Organized by Colour by Julie Seabrook Ream (Chronicle Books, £11.99)
- Follow Julie on Instagram