COLORS (SEEM TO FADE) – Holly Foster Media


After Bob Dylan’s serious motorcycle accident in 1966, CBS records commissioned artist Milton Glaser to design a poster for Dylan’s Greatest Hits album. The goal? To quell the rumors that Dylan was either bedridden or dead. To bring life to the poster (no pun intended), Glaser depicted the musician’s curly hair using rich colors, presumably a nod to the popular use of psychedelic drugs at that time.

Fast forward to early 2005. Amos Lee, a singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, was the opening act during the first leg of Dylan’s North American “Never Ending Tour”. He wasn’t discovered by Dylan, but the exposure was a great opportunity for Lee (Renee Graham, 2015).

Fast forward again to 2011. I’m not exactly sure how I stumbled upon it, but I discovered Amos Lee’s music and have been following him ever since.

According to Wikipedia, Amos Lee’s music ” … is said to utilize the ‘supple funk of his vocals and arid strum of his guitar’ while recalling ‘the low-volume, early-’70s acoustic soul of stars like Bill Withers and Minnie Ripperton’. A New York Times music critic described Lee as having a ‘honeyed singing voice – light amber, mildly sweet, a touch of grain’ which he features ‘squarely, without much fuss or undue strain’ in his ‘1970s folk rock and rustic soul’ musical song craft” (Amos Lee, 2019).

That’s lovely, but you can’t fully appreciate it until you hear his music. The description is, however, dead on accurate. It’s easy to see why I chose him as the subject of my latest visual design project, a composition that (hopefully) embodies the essence of a talented, authentic, and eclectic musician.

The Photograph

To begin, I created a silhouette based on an image I found using a Google search.

Shapes and Colors

When I think of James Taylor, blue comes to mind. For Prince, I see purple. It was hard to choose a single color for Amos, but I thought an earth tone would be a good start — I just wasn’t sure how well it would work on the black silhouette.

I thought it would be interesting to use a guitar pick shape for his hair, but when I tried it, it just looked clunky. I decided to sleep on it, and when I woke up the next day I realized that I had never seen him use a guitar pick in concert — so I scratched that idea. As an alternative I used Adobe Illustrator to create a curly, free-form shape. I replicated it and then scattered the shape randomly across the top of the silhouette.

I filled each of the shapes with one of two shades, red or violet, but I hated it because the shapes reminded me of the skinny little hair permanent rods hairdressers use (my dislike may be associated with a bad perm I once suffered, but that’s another story). It just looked bizarre, especially considering Amos Lee has naturally curly hair.

On the other hand, I loved the blue-gray color I chose for the facial hair. I was also very happy with the typeface I chose and the guitar I created using Illustrator’s bevel effect. Most importantly, despite the nights I spent wrestling with it, I finally felt like Illustrator was becoming my friend.

Hexadecimal Color Codes

To assign colors, designers often use hexadecimal codes (also known as the RGB Color System). It’s an additive color system — meaning the base is black and additional colors are added to produce the desired color result.

A hexadecimal color is specified with: #RRGGBB, where RR (red), GG (green) and BB (blue) hexadecimal integers specify the components of the color.

Baker, 2017

If you’re not familiar with hexadecimal notation, take a closer look at the numbers. The hex code for the blue-gray color I used is #262936 — red has a value of 26, green is next at 29, and blue is the predominant value coming in at 36.

Color Hex Color Codes (n.d)

Using the blue-gray hex code, I went to the online Sessions College Color Calculator to generate additional colors. In step two, this tool allows you to choose from six different harmonies, outlined below (Color Wheel – Color Calculator (n.d.).

  • Complementary – hues that are opposite each other on the color wheel
  • Monochromatic – color schemes that only use one hue
  • Analogous – three colors that are adjacent to each other
  • Split complementary – one color plus the two colors adjacent to its complement on the opposite side of the wheel
  • Triadic – three colors that are equidistant from each other on the wheel
  • Tetradic – a combination of four colors, which consists of two sets of complementary colors.

I loved the tetradic results — but I was afraid they were all too dark.

Kill the Darling

Eventually I realized that using a single object for the hair might be more palatable. I tried different colors, each time applying different opacity levels to get the effect I wanted. I liked the result a lot better — but it still didn’t feel quite right.

© 2019 Holly Foster

Finally, I had to kill the darling. My love affair with the blue-gray had to end. And so, I found a new color to love — #4D4D4D (a.k.a. Gray30).

Color Hex Color Codes (n.d)

Shades vs. Tints

I used three sets of earth tone colors for the major components (hair, eyebrows, beard, mustache and collar). It took a considerable amount of time, but I was able to capture the subdued effect I wanted by using Adobe’s opacity setting. This effect allows the designer to control the amount of transparency in an object.

Shades are hues created when black is added to a color (as opposed to adding white, which creates a tint (Baker, 2017). In my final composition, different shades were naturally produced by using colors with various transparency levels and layering them on top of the black silhouette.

© 2019 Holly Foster

Here’s a link to the full size image.

Color evokes feelings

Color is a visual emotion. You can use it to tell stories and condition people to act, feel, and behave a certain way.

Baker (2017)

You’ve seen all three, but this is my favorite. I guess you could say I see Amos Lee in shades of brown.

© 2019 Holly Foster

The brown color says stability, reliability, dependability, and approachability. It is the color of our soil, growth, fertility, and earth, and it is associated with the concepts of “all natural” and “organic.” Brown is the color of the Earth and is comforting and nurturing.

Bourne, 2010

About Amos

If you’d like to get to know Amos Lee a little better, you may want to listen to this recent podcast (skip to 10:52 to get to the beginning of the interview).

I highly recommend it, but if you don’t have time to listen here’s a summary of the podcast.

Lee knows what it’s like to face personal hardships, so he views his music “as a service,” a way to reach out and comfort people who may also be suffering. He talks about how working on his new album, “My New Moon,” was therapeutic for him, writing about some very personal experiences. Finally, Lee performs a song he wrote after witnessing his grandmothers passing, in this touching episode.

(Harris, 2018)

Finally and appropriately, here’s a fan video of Amos performing his song Colors.

Colors by Amos Lee

I don’t like when people feel alone in their suffering … I want to reach out to people through music.

Amos Lee

If you’re interested, you can follow Amos Lee on Instagram at am0slee (use a zero instead of an “o”).

until nxt time …


Amos Lee. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Baker, J. (2017, December 4). The Ultimate UX Guide to Color Design. Retrieved from:

Bourne, J. (2010, November 25). Meaning of The Color Brown |. Retrieved from:

Color Hex Color Codes. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Color Wheel – Color Calculator. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Graham, R. (2005, February 27). Former teach gets a lesson in the big time: Amos Lee lands Dylan opening gig. The Boston Globe.

Harris, D. (2018, November 11). 10% Happier with Dan Harris – Amos Lee, Reaching Out Through Music – 55:19. Retrieved from:!5f823

Junod, K., & Schlanger. (2018, August 30). Amos Lee rinds mighty inspiration on his new album. Retrieved from:

Landa, R. (2019). Graphic Design Solutions, Sixth Edition. Boston, MA: Cengage.

Milton Glaser. Dylan. 1966 | MoMA. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

MishaRW. (n.d.). Amos Lee – Colors. Retrieved from

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