At a very young age, I was exposed to color thru my father, a weekend artist/painter. He introduced me to paint and gave me the confidence to be unintimidated by it. The process of mixing color taught me to understand the nuance that can happen when colors are mixed with other colors. I continued to paint and explore my passion for color through the years. In the early 80’s I entered the Interior Design program at the University of Washington and began to understand how color reacts in three dimensional environments. I also studied how to do color matching, finding a color’s complimentary color and the color steps in between then taking each of those hues from a lighter to darker value. At the time, I didn’t realize how valuable those exercises would be to me in the future.
During my tenure at the U of W, I began working as an assistant to a local designer. As his assistant, I learned how he developed custom colors for his projects with the aid of his local paint store colorist. They would fine tune the colors to an exacting degree. I saw firsthand how the slightest bit of yellow oxide, or umber, could shift a color into the perfect match. Initially I thought that these shifts would have little impact, but I was convinced when I saw the brush outs done on the walls. As a room was being painted with the tester quart, it would begin to respond to the light in the room. One wall would reflect the color differently than the adjacent wall. The carpet and fabrics would also begin a color dialogue with the room. Suddenly those nuances became very, very important in making color decisions for the room.
After graduation, I moved to San Francisco to begin my career in the corporate design world, and worked my way up the in the industry to design director of a large firm. During that time, I greatly missed having access to a colorist. As designers, we would go to our library and pick from all the available paint manufacturer’s fan decks. These fan decks didn’t have colors that were true to the same hue as they went from dark to light, so we were always scrambling, from manufacturer to manufacturer, for a color that was a lighter or darker version of the other. This may seem inconsequential, but it was often extremely important to have varying shades of the same color, particularly if you wanted the color on the ceiling to be perceived as the same color as the walls (the same color on a ceiling will usually look darker and cooler because it is in shadow). The other problem we would encounter is that the paint chips, which were produced in ink, would look different than the paint that was eventually produced for the project. Paint and ink have different physical properties so they react differently to light.
I eventually returned to Seattle to launch my own design business. The neighborhood paint store was gone, but my former employer had opened his own store to replace it. Now I had access to the infinite possibilities of mixing custom colors for my projects. I was able to step behind the counters and do my own brush out samples; feeling the paint firsthand, helped by talented colorists who would work with me until the color was “perfect.” I learned how much richer a color became when you added a dab of its complimentary color. We would load a paint base up with colorant, to its maximum allowable levels, and observe the richness of the colors emerge. As I became more and more fascinated with color and how it reacted in three dimensional environments, I started to develop a reputation for my color work.
Through the years, my design business thrived, due in no small part to my ever-improving ability to create paint colors that were perfectly tailored to the client, the architecture and the light source. But in 2011, the paint business I relied on was sold, and I found myself again unable to do my own custom color work, which was no longer a viable option for me. I had entertained the idea of developing my own line of paint for years. I felt the market needed to have a line of colors that were true in their progression from lighter to darker, that would be rich in subtlety when applied to a room, and that would coordinate with other textures such as metallic and suede finishes, as well as sheens from flat to high gloss. The loss of the paint store opened the door for me to launch Rocky Rochon Paint and its growing line of 400+ colors and textures.
I started my education of color as a child and looking back I realize that I will always be learning about it. I hope that my paint line will stimulate others to explore and learn about color as well.