On the Colour Couch with artist Ella Doran

little book of colour on the colour couch with print designer ella doran

I came across Ella by chance on Instagram when I saw her call out for waste paint. Over 18 months, she created a massive painting from the left over paint sent to her which you can see a section of behind her.

When I got in contact with Ella, to my surprise she’s a teacher at the RCA (Royal College of Arts, London), alongside good friend of mine, Simon Hamilton. Talk about a small world!

I invited Ella to share her very colourful world with us…

What does colour mean to you?

I have so many visceral and scientific responses to this question… where do I begin!

The amazing reflection and absorption of light in the world around us – and how we perceive that dance of light through the rod and cone cells in the backs of our eyes – it reveals the magic of how we perceive colour when you break down the science!

I am very driven by colour in my everyday environment, and I tend to work with colours in an intuitive way, to play with different colour combinations, to set a mood, be it a space or an object! My wallpapers are categorised in colour moods. It is difficult for me to summarise my exact approach beyond the intuitive route, but people say they love my designs for their vibrancy of colour and boldness of design.

What is your earliest colour memory?

My Dad’s VW petrol blue camper van, the woven blue and white speckled seat covers in the back which would double up as our sleeping mattresses on our travels, and the smell of gas and condensation on the windows whilst the kettle boiled for cups of hot chocolate.

Do you have a favourite colour or a colour that you find yourself constantly drawn to? And why?

I like to wear blocks of colour, reds, yellows, greens and blues paired with dark blue or black! And my home interior has a lot of white for the soft furnishings to radiate their colours in the space. And my hallway is a chalky marine blue from floor to ceiling, which sets off the gallery wall of photography and prints that are framed there.

I often recognise colour patterns and combinations once I’ve selected them; reds and blues seem to be two colours I’m regularly drawn to, more a bright coral red rather than a rouge red and an aqua almost turquoise blue… and I love a good yellow mixed with a range of greys.

I remember visiting a Howard Hodgkin exhibition at the Hayward Gallery whilst I was at college in the early 90’s and the Gallery walls had all been painted a ‘mailbag grey’ under his instruction. From memory, he referenced how sunlight against storm laden clouds would make the colours of the landscape pop even brighter, and hence he wanted his paintings to resonate with colour in that way.

Do you have a colour you least like? And why?

Interestingly, I would say it is purple. When I was around 12 years old, for about a year, I only wore clothes that colour! But then again, I saw a friend in a wonderful bright purple jumper the other day and I swooned! However, it is not a colour that has found its way into my work very much.

What do you love most about working with colour?

The uplifting, joyous nature of working with colour… it evokes the sunshine for me even when it is gloomy outside.

What do you think your life would be like without colour? 

I can’t imagine it.

Do you have a favourite colour place that you visit (or have visited)?

I recently visited Dennis Severs House and I thoroughly recommend it for all interior and colour lovers. It is in Spitalfields and as I understand it, Dennis Severs bought the then derelict house in 1979 which was saved by the brilliant Spitalfields Trust.

He reconfigured it to tell the story of an imaginary Huguenot family who had lived there since it was built in 1724. The colours are deep and intense from one room to the next, and the textiles furniture and accessories are full of pattern colour and detail.

Another one that comes to mind is the interior staircase walls of Erno Goldfinger’s 2 Willow Road home. It was a bright wonderful gloss red, but I have a feeling they may have changed it as I could not find a reference of it on line!? It’s a National Trust treasure and well worth a visit.

I have travelled a lot for work and have built up a document of photographic essays of places. It has always intrigued me how places have a colour identity without necessarily being conscious of it.

Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Peru on an artist’s residency in the Sacred Valley of Urubamba. I was learning how to back strap weave with a local Andean master. I was blown away by the landscapes, the mountains and the people, and I categorised a series of colour palettes from my daily walks around the town.

For anyone afraid of colour what would your number 1 piece of advice be?

If you are uncertain of colour, I would recommend that you test out your colour taste buds through the accessories or furniture in your home or paint an accent wall.

Colours change throughout the day, so consider if your wall is south or north facing and how you will use internal lights and lamps to accentuate the spaces and colours you want to illuminate. And consider the type of light, LED, tungsten, or white light, each makes a difference to a space.

Which colourful person do you most admire and would love me to interview for the On the Colour Couch series?

Too many to count, but as I’m reading this book -The World According to Colour – A Cultural History, I think you’d find James Fox fascinating to talk to!

I’m with Ella, I can’t imagine what my life would be without colour. I never take the gift of being able to see colour for granted. If you would like to discover more about Ella’s colourful world, head over to her Instagram @elladorandesigner, however, please note she has not updated it recently as she has been hacked, but you can follow her studio practise over @studioelladoran until the issue gets resolved with Instagram.

Wishing you a colourful day,

Additional information

You can check out Ella’s wallpapers Sunlight Through leaves and Peeling Paint.

Check out Ella’s blog blog Rothko’s of Urubamba.

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