Mark Tansey’s Color Wheel

by Site Author

Mark Tansey is a painter with an interesting way of finding ideas. He created a device that he calls a “color wheel.” The color wheel is a heavy wooden table with three spinning wheels on its surface. Each wheel is covered with words.

Here is a picture of Tansey next to the table.


And here are the wheels.


The inner wheel contains nouns: “pathologists, columbus, human template, …” The middle wheel contains verbs: “neutralizing, atomizing, demonizing, …” The outside wheel contains nouns: “decoy, plumbers, apologists, …”

Tansey spins the wheels, and then uses the resulting noun-verb-noun as inspiration for his paintings.

These days, it’s easy for anyone to build a color wheel for themselves. Here’s an abbreviated replica, coded in Python.

import random
inner_wheel = ["pathologists", "columbus", "human template"]
middle_wheel = ["neutralizing", "atomizing", "demonizing"]
outer_wheel = ["decoy", "plumbers", "apologists"]
print random.choice(inner_wheel), "-", random.choice(middle_wheel), "-", random.choice(outer_wheel)

I ran this script once, and it printed: “pathologists – demonizing – apologists.” Make of that what you will.

I post this not because the idea is cute, but because it might be useful. Creativity is about making connections. Tansey used the color wheel to prime the pump.