If you reduce a dunes-to-sea view into solid bands of color, you get a stack starting with the beige-to-gray sand punctuated by green dune grasses, the blue strip of the water and the thicker blue band of the sky, perhaps with thin ribbons of white for clouds. Depending on what beach you’re standing on (and at what time of day and in what weather) the individual shades can vary a great deal: black sands in Hawaii; aqua green waters in the Gulf of Mexico; steely storm clouds in Washington.
My traveling toolkit includes my camera, my recorder for capturing minute-long soundscapes, test tubes for collecting sand or soil samples from each island and Pantone’s Color Bridge®— a color-match swatch book used by graphic designers. I like to determine what color weather-worn boardwalk planks really are (or more accurately, what mix of colors) or the exact shades of a flowering frangipani blossom or ragged madrona bark. I might use the colors for a title treatment or pull quote in a document, or for a pattern that captures the essence of a place through its dominant colors and iconic objects.
Most things in nature are like Impressionist paintings—full of varied shades and hues that create the whole we see; there are few absolutes. A stretch of sand isn’t only comprised of grains of quartz (or volcanic glass, or coral), but flecks of shells and seaweed, too. What seems to be tan is on closer inspection more of a muted rainbow.
The collected shades are a sort of souvenir, and gathering them is a way to discipline myself to look at the building blocks that form a scene or object: the atoms of color. Stephanie Jandris, a recent SCAD MFA graduate, is working with me on identifying the island-by-island colorways and icons, beginning with Tybee Island, Georgia. A sneak preview of three of her eight Tybee swatches is above; stay tuned for information on Islands of America's product partners.