Tracy HolmesComment

Exactly two years ago today, BreakThroughColour officially launched as a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter.


With that in mind, please join me for a slice of virtual cake and say...

“Happy 2nd Birthday, BTC!”

When people ask me about the history of BTC, I often reference Friday, June 19, 2015 as its ‘start’ (as in ‘Kickstart’). The truth is, it started long before that, so more often, I call it the ‘debut’ (as in ‘debutante’), the day my Colour Cards were all grown up and ready for all the world to see. Or as ready as they’d ever be, because ask any Kickstarting Creator, or any entrepreneur on the edge of anything, and they’ll tell you: you’re never ready.

To be clear, ready or not, I never expected all the world to even notice, though I did go into it feeling confident that there would be some small collection of already convinced or at least curious Backers, maybe 50? Hopefully enough to push my tote board beyond the $5K goal that I had set to achieve. And with a month to make that mark, I was optimistic that I might even break 100 Backers by the end, if the curious became the converted, and/or if ‘buzz’ took my side.

This is the email I got from Kickstarter HQ immediately after I launched:

BTC Kickstarter Launch

I can still remember how nervous I was knowing that my little project was now no longer 'my little secret.' But that freaked out feeling was nothing compared to how I felt very soon after. 

This is the email I got just three minutes shy of three hours later:

BTC Kickstarter Goal

Say, what?!

I’d given myself a full 29 days to turn an idea-plus-prototype into something bigger. But 29 people got me to my goal in less than an afternoon. Even as I write this, two years later, I still find it hard to believe.

Every pledge counts, and every Backer matters, from the moment you launch (scary!!!) to the moment your project shifts from live to archive, turning that once-unknown debutante project into one for the Kickstarter history books. Here’s what that moment looked like for me and BTC when my project ended on Saturday, July 18, 2015:

BTC Kickstarter Funded

I want to mark this second anniversary with a shout-out to everyone who helped give BTC its Kickstart, beginning with those 29 early-adopting momentum-making ‘breakthrough’ Backers

Dan, Nancy, Alix, Julia, Pamela, K, Liz, Eileen, Beth, Christina, Véronique, Bill, Nancy, Karen, Robin, Jeffrey, Gail, Lynn, Carolyn, Becky, Lisa, Anke, Bella, Jean, Jo Ann, James, Bonnie, Janice, Elaine...

These colour keeners got things going on that Friday in June, and 532 equally amazing and generous others followed, taking BreakThroughColour to a place I had never imagined it could go. Looking back from where it is now (still going!), I am still humbled, blessed, and blown away by what happened during those four weeks in the Summer of ’15. 

With all my heart, a full-spectrum ‘Thank You!’ to all of you, my Backers, and beyond,


P.S. This website is now the official home of all things BreakThroughColour. But my Kickstarter project page will always have a special place for me in the history of BTC. If you haven’t already had a chance to check it out, it makes for an interesting time capsule.


Tracy HolmesComment

It's less than two weeks before my presentation at this year's National Arts Educators Association Convention in New York City. I'm getting excited about bringing BTC to NYC, and can't wait to share my ideas about colour with such a dedicated and enthusiastic gathering of art teachers.

I'll have some BTC Colour Cards to give away during 'The Challenge of Changing Colour' on Saturday, March 4. And even if you can't make it to my session in person (I know... there are so many to choose from!), you can still get in on the draw. Just subscribe to my mailing list and I'll pick a bonus winner from the conference attendees on site.

Even if you're not an art teacher, arts administrator, museum educator, curator, or teaching professional artist, you probably know someone who is. Please share this with them, so they too can opt in to win in my BTC in NYC Colour Cards Giveaway.

Deadline to enter is midnight EST on Friday, Mar.3, 2017.


Tracy HolmesComment

Founded in 1947, the National Arts Educators Association has provided a hub for its vast international membership, including arts educators from pre-K to university, teachers in training, researchers, arts administrators, art museum educators, and teaching artists... all dedicated to mentoring, networking, collaboration, advocacy, and professional development in arts education.

The flagship event of the year is the NAEA National Convention. This year, marking the association's 70th anniversary, 7000 delegates are expected to gather in New York City from Mar.2-4 to meet, discuss, face, and embrace this year's timely theme: The Challenge of Change.

The conference kicks off with a keynote from artist Jeff Koons, known for his reinvention of pop culture and oversized iconic sculptures, like this one:

Balloon Dog   |  Jeff Koons

Balloon Dog  |  Jeff Koons

I'm excited to announce that I will be attending this conference for the first time, not simply as an advocate colour geek, but also as a presenter, part of an extensive and diverse line-up of 1000+ sessions, workshops, exhibits, and special events. Here's the scoop on my session, titled and designed to align the overall ideas of BTC with the inspiring challenge of NAEA's conference theme:


The Challenge of Changing Colour

Want a new spin on RYB? Try CMY with XYZ!
As colour changes for the 21st Century, it's time to re-invent the wheel.
And BTW, it's not a wheel...

SAT.MAR.4.2017   |   1 PM   |   SHERATON NEW YORK


I'll be there with a full tickle trunk of cards, cubes, teaching toys, and palette-able puzzles to show and share. There's even going to be some giveaways, and with less than an hour on the clock, it's sure to be a very inter-active exploration. Part art, part science, part history, part future... all fun!

Are you going to be at NAEA's NYC 2017 event? Learn more about it here.

Want more info on my session? Get in touch! I'd love to see you there!

5, 4, 3, 2... 1-1-1!

Tracy HolmesComment

Well, we did it. Colour Every Day has officially ended, and so has the year it coloured. 

Starting exactly one year ago today, with nothing but the 'what if?' of pure White, a colour broke through on the Card Per Diem blog every morning for all 366 days of 2016. Here's a look back at how the cards were played . . .


Following fast on the all-important eight Corner Colours for the first eight days of 2016, another 23 of the 216 BreakThroughColour colours led the way in January:


The BTC Colour Cards were bumped in month two. Colour Basics took over for the 28+1 days of February as a special Leap Into Colour companion:


On March 1, it was back to the BTC deck. Almost all of the remaining Hues, Tints, Shades, and Tones took us right through Spring and well into Summer. Here's a glimpse of what the random roll-out looked like for that six-month stretch:


In September, back to school meant back to basics, posting the rest of the current Colour Basics deck. When there were no more real Colour Cards left to play, Colour Every Day went strictly virtual, featuring some of what's to come in 2017. September segued into a sneak peek of what could be called a Colour Basics booster set (starting here) with 72 new and more complex quarter-colour variations to fill the calendar for most of Fall:


By early December, even the new Basics had run out. So, offering another palette prototype preview, I posted 12 more new Hues (starting here), a pre-Christmas gift to colour up the holidays.

After that? The Greys of Winter moved in (starting here). In much of the world (equatorial and summertime south) things may have been merry and bright last month, but growing up in Vancouver, it always took a lot of Christmas colour to chase away the overcasting clouds, dreary drizzle, and slushy snow of December. The penultimate days of 2016 may have felt somewhat sombre, like some Dickensian vision of the Spirit of Colours Yet to Come, but the Hueless are as valid as the Hued. I've said it before, in the world of colour, Grey matters, and counting down the last of 2016's 366, every Grey had its day:


By the (almost) last day of the year, having posted 13 True Greys (some you know, and some you haven't met yet), 12 pure Hues (also new to the BTC family), a boosted bunch of 125 Colour Basics, and (almost) all 216 BreakThroughColour colours, all 12 months of this past year were (almost) full. It would have been enough for a regular year, but leading into a leap year, I knew I'd have to have one extra card up my sleeve for New Year's Eve. 

With only one day left in the year, there was only one card left to play, but which one? None better than a nearly hueless Hue Grey to colour the cusp between then and now, bringing us about as close back to where-we-started-White as a BTC Colour Card can get.

"5, 4, 3, 2 . . . 1-1-1!" 

All over the world, 2016's year-end countdowns are complete. With champagne sipped and kisses kissed, our latest leap year has leapt and left us. Our colours have come full circle, and here we are again, with that clean slate of another January 1, a welcome time and place to reflect, refresh, and refill with all the colour we can conjure.

Happy 2017. May all your days (yes, even the Greys) be oh-so-merry and ever bright.


Tracy HolmesComment

One of the most anticipated announcements of the year for colourists must surely be Pantone's annual declaration of Color of the Year. I have never been one to bend to a trend, but somehow the folks at Pantone manage to sway us to a certain swatch with their annual pick. Even me. See? In honour of the newly-appointed 15-0343, I changed the default colour for all the links on this website.

If you haven't seen it already, here is Greenery, showcased in a fresh featurette:

But wait. There's more to this story.

If you've been watching the daily colour picks here on BTC (I'm featuring a Colour Every Day for the entire year), you might recall that once I'd posted the all-important Corner Colours on the first eight days of 2016, a certain fresh and zesty Yellow-Green sprung up as the first random card of the deck.

That same colour, BTC 203, appeared again in April, in a blog post called Happy 20(7)3! about the New Year in Nepal, and why this bright, renewing hue was such a lucky plucky pick. The post begins:

I was going to call this post 'Colour of the Year' but I thought that might Google-ize people and point them in the wrong direction, thinking they were headed towards Pantone's annual proclamation . . .

And here's how that same post ends:

What are the chances that I would pick 203 from an almost full deck of 216 BTC Colour Cards? Easy answer: the chances are exactly 1 in 208. But what are the odds that 203 would also end up as a New Year's pick of the pack 103 days later and thousands of kilometres away? I say odd enough that we make it official. You heard it here first, folks. Never mind Pantone's 13-1520 and 15-3919. BTC's 203 is not only the coolest cool Green Tint ever, as of today, April 13, 2073, it's BTC's Colour of the Year.

Back in April, there I was, poking a bit of fun at Pantone (who, at the time, was still celebrating its 2016 duo of Rose Quartz and Serenity). So imagine my "Hey... Wait a minute... What the what?" surprise eight months later when I saw their choice for 2017: 

Seriously? How cool is that? 

It's not exactly the same colour, of course, Greenery being a wee bit Grey-ery than BTC 203 (and if you're a true colour geek like me, you'd drill down deep into the RGB ratios and hexidecimal what-not to see exactly how they differ). And 203 isn't even Green in my deck, officially classified (however barely) as part of the Yellow clan.

But really, looking at these two colours side by side - my first-of-the-year pick from Jan.9, 2016, picked again on Apr.13, '2073' by the women of Samunnat in Nepal, and the prestigious pick announced yesterday by the Pantone Color Institute - in the grand colour scheme of things, if I had to match just one of BTC's 216 with this one of Pantone's thousands, they couldn't be closer.

Here's to bursting forth with reassurance, to rejuvenate, revitalize, and reconnect. All over again.


Tracy Holmes2 Comments

If you're a parent, the first day of school is a big deal. Being in a new place, getting to know a new teacher, hoping your kid will work and play well with others, make friends, fit in, and have fun.

And if you've ever created something new, turned an idea into an object, or seen a project through from its beginnings as a little spark in your brain to an actual hold-in-your-hands reality, you know it's not that different from being a parent. So imagine how proud I was when BTC recently had its first day of school...

The Art of Education is an online meet-up and resource hub for art teachers. Their ABOUT page says:

"The Art of Education is based on one simple, yet bold, idea. We believe that art teachers deserve inspiring, relevant, and, frankly, awesome professional development."

Most of BTC's early development was through workshops and conference seminars with professional adults, but I have always pictured the Colour Cards and Cubes as kid-friendly too, a cool school tool for a more traditional classroom. I haven't really been in a traditional classroom since I was a traditional pre-teen in Mr. Heine's Grade 7 at Cedardale Elementary, but I know my own school-aged son and his friends like 'playing (colour) cards.' And several of my grown-up workshop students and Kickstarter Backers are on the front lines of education as teachers themselves in elementary, middle, and high schools, or in college and university art programs. They're finding ways to connect BTC to their curricula, and they've all encouraged me to help others do the same.

Thank you so much to AOE's Amanda Heyn, Timothy Bogatz, Jennifer Borel, and Alecia Eggers, for welcoming BreakThroughColour into their elementary and middle school classrooms and putting the full collection of cards and cubes to the test. According to teacher Tim's report card, all three decks (Colour Basics, the BTC box of 216, and the DIY Cube Cards) did indeed work and play well with others, make friends, fit in, and have fun! In his words...

"They. Are. Awesome."

Tim is a regular contributor of content on AOE's blog and podcast. His latest post was a round-up of resources for teaching advanced colour theory, new ways to help highschoolers roll beyond the wheel. I was thrilled to see BTC featured in the list.


5 New Ideas for Teaching Advanced Color Theory

by Timothy Bogatz, Art of Education

You can read Tim's full post here, learn about some other fun colour tools, and have a look around the rest of the AOE site. If you're a teacher, a parent, or just want to get a sense of what's going on in school art rooms these days, The Art of Education will paint the picture.

If you would like to share your experiences using BTC in the classroom, or want to add your ideas to the development of BTC Teacher Resources, please join the conversation. Add your Comments here, e me, or subscribe to the BTC Mailing List to stay informed about future plans for BTC in K-12 (more Colour Card decks, lesson plans, and related BTC tools and manipulatives...) to add colour to your classroom and enhance your curriculum.


Tracy HolmesComment

From the very first time I saw her work on flickr, polymer clay artist Jana Lehmann caught my eye as someone who really knows how to to work and play with colour... with the emphasis on 'play'! With super saturated colours and bold palette pairings, these pins go 'pop!' like a child's favourite toy, yet her grown-up graphics give style to the whimsy, and her admirable level of craftsmanship clearly sets her work apart as anything but kids' stuff.

I met Jana at a masterclass retreat last summer. She and I were both teaching (me: colour with polymer, and her: polymer with colour), and she stopped by my classroom during a lunch break, curious to get a closer look at the full collection of Colour Cards and Cubes that were strewn all over my demo table. Time was short, but Jana really knows her way around the wheel, so we managed to drill down quickly, talk about the system, how it works, and how it might work its way into her process as a designer and maker.

"I have to admit it, at first I was skeptical. There are colour workshops and classes out there and in my opinion some of them are only a kind of fashion thing, because everyone does it. But I was convinced in less than 5 minutes."

BreakThroughColour evolved as a way for beginners to analyze and explain colour, a 'new spin' on the traditional wheel for those that couldn't quite 'get it' (uhhhmmm, like me...?). I hadn't really given much thought to how my new system of cards and codes and cubes might enhance the work of the colour confident. It was such a delight to watch someone as attuned and intuitive as Jana quickly connect to BTC on a deeper level. My Kickstarter campaign was live at the time, so when Jana signed on right then as a Backer, I was honoured and excited to know that before too long, BTC would travel to Germany and find a home in her home studio.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when Jana sent me this photo:

It's always a treat to get to see the behind-the-scenes places where artists make their art, but it was especially special for me to see what was on display on Jana's top shelf: colour... cubed!

"I've always had a good sense of colours, but I like BTC because it widens the horizon. I can't keep all the colours in my mind at the same time, when I think about a colour combination I just remember a few colours and I pick my favourite ones. Now I can hold all the colours in my hand and look for nice combinations, draw single colours, find matching ones, by colours or by numbers. There are so many ways and all of them are effective. It's so easy, it seems the cards do the whole colour thing by themselves. Colours are like people, now I don't have to remember everyone, I have pictures of all of my friends instead.

Jana will be back for an encore, teaching again at this summer's Master Class Camp. If you're near Maryland this June 17-20, you might want to sign up for a spot in Jana's polymer romper room. Go here for more info

Here's one of Jana's latest projects, a tile made for the FIMO 50 World Project. Aside from its positive statement, it's a great colour study tool, showing a full spectrum of fresh Hues, and then featuring them further with Value variations and playful illusions. Yes! This is art.


Tracy HolmesComment
school art project,  Dia de la Madre  2016

school art project, Dia de la Madre 2016

Growing up in Canada, Mother's Days in my life have always been the second Sunday in May. In Mexico, where we have been living lately, Día de la Madre is May 10, every year, no matter what the day of the week. So this year, in our home away from home, Sunday was Mother's Day, and today, living like the locals, it's Another Mother's Day. Lucky me. Dos para uno. Stores on our avenida are brimming with bouquets of flowers, restaurants will be packed as families gather for lunch, and mariachis have been serenading las madres since midnight.

What does Mother's Day have to do with colour? Nothing really. At least not directly. But when I think of my mother, I think of colourful things: her clothes, always bright and bold, no matter what the fashion; stacks of fabric sorted and ready for quilting; bags of balls of yarn for knitting and crocheting; skeins of wool, hand spun and dyed with onion skins, cabbage leaves, blackberries, and lichen; tie-dyed T-shirts; embroidered blue jeans; costumes sewn for Hallowe'en or school plays or for my Barbies; Easter eggs, Christmas cookies, birthday cakes, freezer jam, pickles, antipasto, and other edible colour that came from her kitchen all year.

Late last August, my world got a little less colourful when my mom quietly left this world, slipping away in her sleep as dawn was breaking. I was at her bedside, and during those final days and nights before she passed, I had been with her, to care, comfort, and 'mother' her through her time of transition. As mother of me and three other daughters, and matriarch to a broader brood of nineteen more (our kids, and theirs), in the days and weeks that followed her death, I was in awe of her legacy, in some ways deeper than I had been while she was alive, and maybe should have been more so. This was most evident as many of my friends remembered my mom, my mom, saying she'd been like a mother to them: generous, thoughtful, supportive, kind, caring. 

Today, my son and his classmates did their collective part to turn an otherwise ordinary Tuesday afternoon into The Most Important Day of the Year with a fiesta sorpresa for me and the other mothers. But this past Sunday was the first Second Sunday in May that wouldn't be Another Mother's Day for me as a daughter. More phone calls are made on Mother's Day than any other day of the year. I can recall years when I wasn't 'home,' it was sometimes hard to get through due to overworked long distance phone networks. But this year, even with email, Skype, FaceTime, or the other 21st century ways we have to (apparently) stay connected, I can't. Not this year. Or the next, or the next...

If your mom is still around, no matter where she is in this big/small world, don't wait for Mother's Day. Call her any day. Call her today, even if you just called two days ago. And if you're lucky enough to have others in your life that have been like a mother to you at some point, call them too. Big sister, aunt, grandmother, godmother, babysitter, teacher, camp counsellor, coach, mentor... Call them too. Not to diminish this day beyond its sacred (and Sacred) origins, the role of 'mother' can, does, and should encompass anyone who has nurtured us along the way, even fathers, even our kids. Maybe the Third Sunday in May could be An 'Other Mothers' Day.

Second Sunday in May, May 10, and always... Happy Mother's Day, mom, wherever you are.

me and my mom, mid-1960s

me and my mom, mid-1960s


Tracy HolmesComment

As its name implies, the Colour Every Day series features a colour every day, a 'card per diem' from the complete collection of BTC Colour Cards. It started January 1 with a clean slate of White (000). Today, 128 days later, we have 333, barely in the Black and just about as muddy-in-the-middle as a colour can get.


Already eight days into May, more than a third of the way through 2016, today's hueless triplet is the 100th card from the BreakThroughColour deck of 216 Hues, Tints, Shades, and Tones (the other 29 were pulled from the Basics deck and posted during February's 'Leap Into Colour!' BTC boot camp).

Aside from the Corner Colours that started things off, the rest of the rollout has been random. But since 100 is such an 'easy math' milestone, it's a chance to sort and survey what's been showcased so far. Here's a look at some stats from BTC's First 100, in order of appearance, categorized and counted by Hue, Saturation, and Value...


Yellow and Red surged slightly ahead, and Blue held back just a bit. But the other five corners came out even at a dozen each.  


Pure Hues get the most exposure, so they're the colours we tend to know best. The further away we get from pure, the harder it is to see the Hue clearly, with Tints faded by White, Shades obscured by Black, and Tones hiding somewhere in the middle.


Although they are all 100% 'colour,' pure Hues are not created equal in their strength as colours. Green and Magenta may balance close to one another as complementaries near the middle, but Cyan and Red start to pull us towards the poles, and, at opposite ends of the Value Slider, Yellow pales in the presence of Blue. As a result, Tints aren't always light, and Shades aren't always dark. Here's how our Top 100 Colours rank when they don't have any colour at all:

These first 100 cards don't quite tell half the story, but as a sampling of the BreakThroughColour deck so far, no matter how you add it up, they give a good glimpse at 100% colour.


Tracy HolmesComment

First edition Colour Cube Card decks, part of BTC's debut on Kickstarter, are almost SOLD OUT.

Cube Cards Apr.1.16.jpeg

These may look like just a deck of cards, but with a little folding, a roll of double-stick tape, and some magnets if you like, this collection of 54 colourful grids becomes an 8-part 3-dimensional colour model for the 21st Century. 

Designed to complement the BTC Boxed Set of 216 double-sided Colour Cards, or as a colour reference tool that stands on its own (and it actually does stand on its own), Cube Cards take colour theory to a whole new dimension. Colour is 3D, your tools should be too.

Eight sets of six make the eight Corner Colour Cubes. A set of six more make a matching Mini Cube. There's a place for every colour, and every colour has a place. While they last, get Cube Cards here.