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Josef Albers "Interaction of Color"

- Katy Kirbach
(Artist-instructor for Color: Practice and Theory,  6 February - 13 March, 2019)

I first encountered Albers' Interaction of Color as an undergraduate student at the Slade School of Fine Art, in London, U.K. The Slade had one of the original sets of screen prints that accompanied the first edition, so I spent hours poring over the prints and marveling at the mutability of color. Years later, when I was asked to teach a Color class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I knew that I wanted to build the course around the exercises in the Interaction of Color. These exercises demand precision and patience, but also teach us how to see, and how to make color do things. Previous students have described my color course as invaluable; rigorous but also rewarding; and something every artist should learn.

I have planned the workshop Color: Practice and Theory for the Berlin Drawing Room, starting February 6, 2019,  based on a series of exercises developed by Josef Albers in the Interaction of Color. Originally published in 1963, Albers’ approach to color theory still feels relevant today because he places the importance of practice before theory. In doing this, he created one of the best manuals for any visual artist hoping to better understand the role that color plays within their work.

In his introduction to Interaction of Color, Albers writes:

“In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize
that color deceives continually.
To this end, the beginning is not a study of color systems.

First it should be learned that one and the same color evokes
innumerable readings.
Instead of mechanically applying or merely implying laws and rules
of color harmony, distinct color effects are produced
- through recognition of the interaction of color -
by making, for instance,
2 very different colors look alike, or nearly alike.

The aim of such study is to develop - through experience
-  by trial and error - an eye for color.
This means, specifically, seeing color action
as well as feeling color relatedness.

As a general training it means development of observation and articulation.

This book, therefore, does not follow an academic conception
of “theory and practice.”
It reverses this order and places practice before theory,
which, after all, is the conclusion of practice.”[i]

                                           An example of student work, based on an exercise on color quantity 
Albers began as a student at the Bauhaus in 1920, and became a professor at Bauhaus Dessau in 1925. Consisting of workshops including weaving, glass and mural painting, metal, building theory, plastic arts, fine arts, ceramics and more, the Bauhaus is often looked at as a model for contemporary art and design schools, and its ethos is still felt today. While at the Bauhaus, Albers taught the Vorkurs (preliminary course) and worked with stained glass and furniture design. After emigrating to the U.S. in 1933 with his wife and fellow artist Anni Albers, Josef taught at Black Mountain College and then became the head of the department of design at Yale, where he developed the Interaction of Color with the help of his students.

                                                     Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: With Rays, 1959. 
                                                     Collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

His body of work Homage to the Square was begun in 1949, and continued until his death in 1976. In these rigorous and stunning paintings, we can see Albers putting into action many of the principles of color and vision laid out in the Interaction of Color. That these paintings started before his book was created, and continued long after, indicates the complexity of color and the infinite possibilities that can unfold within strict parameters.

                                                             Katy Kirbach, Daylight, acrylic and oil on woven 
                                                             canvas, 152cm x 122cm, 2017

Details for upcoming 'Color: Practice and Theory' workshops on the Berlin Drawing Room website.

[i] Albers, Josef. “Introduction”. Interaction of Color. Yale University. 2013 (reissued from 1963). Print, p. 1.


Gift Certificates available

We have so many exciting workshops already scheduled for 2019! Instead of accumulating more stuff, give the gift of creativity in the new year! 

Write to to order a customized gift certificate.

Making Image Transfer Collages

Image transfers have a beautiful, ethereal quality and are extremely versatile in their application. Source images can be combinations of anything from photos, magazines and other collected materials to drawings or basically anything you can print from the internet. Explore the materials and methods used to make successful image transfers, combining collage, painting and drawing to create layered images. Learn several photo transfer techniques (including solvent, acrylic and transparency alcohol transfers) and how they work with different surface materials, such as paper, wood, canvas, etc. Seamlessly combine your source images into a painting or collage by knowing which image transfer technique is right for any composition.
As a class we will consider the process of image replication in relation to memory, through discussion and looking at the work of contemporary and historical artists. Participants will leave with the knowledge to continue experimenting with image transfers as well as a conceptual framework to explore artistic notions of memory. 
January 22 - February 12, 2019 at the Berlin Drawing Room

Keegan Luttrell performing at Display, Berlin

Keegan Luttrell, artist-instructor

Message from Founder: Pricing Change in 2019

Dear BDR Community,

Our goal at the Berlin Drawing Room is to offer you high quality workshops led by professional artists at an accessible price. We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback, with the majority of our workshops in 2018 being completely SOLD OUT. This success has also led to some growing pains.

You might not have realized it, but the workshop prices have not included the usual 19% VAT (value added tax - sales tax), or in German MwSt. We have now grown to a size that we meet the requirement to add VAT.

Starting in 2019, all workshop prices will be subject to 19% VAT. Unfortunately we have no choice in the matter. This means a price increase for our students, with no additional income for us. Not fun, yet inevitable.

However, if you pay for a workshop that takes place in 2019 and the payment is received BEFORE December 31, 2018, you can skip the VAT. That's right! You have an entire month to sign up for workshops at the old prices!

I've made an extra effort to plan all our workshops as far in advance as possible, through March, so that you can take advantage of this loophole. Sign up now for 2019 workshop and pay no VAT.

We've got some incredible NEW workshops coming up, such as Color: Practice and Theory and Creative Drawing, as well as some classic favorites such as Drawing from Observation and Winter Botanical Drawing. See details below and on our website.

To sign up for any workshop, just follow the link to the workshop page and fill out the registration form. I'll be following up with more details and excitement regarding the new workshops in upcoming newsletters.

all the best,
Mira O'Brien
Founding Director
Berlin Drawing Room