The idea for the True Colors collaboration occurred to me one Saturday morning, and I sent out a preliminary email to a group of my favorite artists to “test the waters” and get their feedback about the overall idea of exploring color. I chose the overview of color because I knew it was general and universal, completely open to interpretation. Some of the artists were longtime personal friends of mine, and others were friends “through the mail” although we had never met face-to-face. The only “new-to-me” artist was Karen Michel, who I invited because I so admired her work and hoped she would like to join us. (Over the next couple of years, I eventually got to meet ALL the True Colors artists, except one.) Throughout the collaboration, we kept the enthusiasm going with a lot of emails (Michelle tabulated the total, and it was in the thousands!?) and the sheer excellence of the work was both inspiring and exhilarating.
When the editorial staff at Stampington heard about the collaboration, they expressed an interest in doing an article about our project…..however, when one of the journals was sent to their offices for a preliminary look-see, they immediately asked if we would be agreeable to a book about “True Colors”. It was our great fortune to work with Kathy Bold, and she did a spectacular job of editing all of our lengthy stories about our experiences, and formulating it into an interesting text to accompany Stampington’s beautiful photography. I thought the art direction, page design, and styling of the photography was excellent. Best of all, I so appreciated that Stampington never considered turning the project into a “technique” book; and their focus was always on the art and the relationships between the artists.
Some “urban myths” about True Colors:
First of all, many people think (or assume) that the project was done “for publication” and that is incorrect. The journals were done for our own artistic exploration, as well as friendship and regard for each other. Frequently I am asked about how to organize a collaboration “for publication”, and this always seems like a hollow motivation to begin a group project. Its been my experience that a collaboration needs to “happen” first, and then perhaps some additional implications as a book or article can emerge. If it starts out strictly “for publication”, I think all the oxygen goes out of the idea, and the work looks static. ( Just my opinion, obviously!)
The other thing that few people realize: “True Colors”, although very lengthy, only shows about HALF of the work. Many of our favorite journal spreads never made the cut, so they remain “ours alone to enjoy”. Michelle Ward did a beautiful spread in my White journal on the theme of Edelweiss, using softer-than-soft shades of buff, seafoam, and sepia. A beautiful interpretation of White. Plus, she worked with photos I had included in my journal of my view of the rolling hills seen from my home in Ancram, and translated those into sepia and included them into her winter-themed pages. It was clever – and very personal and meaningful to me. That kind of “extra effort” was what the whole True Colors experience was about.
All these years later, I still think of the True Colors collaboration as a very singular moment in time, when a group of artists put forward their best work and entered into friendships that still thrive and deepen today.