On the Road with John C Simpson: Color Stories

How do I create the illusion of the multiple reflections of light that bounces off of the water?  How do I achieve the beautiful tones of natural browns and reds found in nature? What makes the glacier light so special, and how can I translate this into hair color?

I have just recently had the wonderful honor of traveling into Fairbanks, Alaska, where I spent time at a lake home near Mount McKinley (I know, poor me, LOL!). As some of you know, I had a huge inspiration to create my last collection when visiting there in the fall of last year, and could not wait to go back! When creating new hair color designs and tones, I of course love fashion, automobiles and new architectural masterpieces for inspiration, though my favorite place is to look into the magnificence of nature to mimic its beauty. Allowing your eye and your thoughts to look deeper into the shapes and shades and to think of the positioning of how the placement allows the light to be supported by the dark shadows.

Often with our color work we can get stuck into creating the same foil pattern on many heads of hair. This works, but does it actually complement the haircut and the client? And are you showcasing your work, or does your dimension disappear into the length leaving the end result look one dimensional?


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Thinking of the multiple tones and distribution of coloring found within nature gives you a simplistic placement while showcasing the multiple dimensions, the tone I want to show off and how to position my design. Instead of working in a block color section, elongate and curve the section you are working in while shifting into a diagonal placement with micro weaves or slices. This will give you the melted illusion of the sun setting and disappearing into the water as the cool tones of blue bounce across the sky and give you a radiant display of color movement!

While on the Lake retreat sponsored by Team Cutters of Fairbanks, Alaska, our goal was to let go of our everyday complacency and open our mind to seeing and thinking of our color differently. With our digital cameras in hand, we took a tour through the woods and explored the different elements the earth provides, taking detailed pictures of anything that caught our eye. Afterwards we chose our favorite picture and determined how the color placement could be translated into hair. Creating some head shape “blueprints,†we then worked out the formulation. Taking, for example, the silvers and blues of a feather into a blonde canvas and thinking of the tonal play and placement, or taking the movement of the grain of wood into an inspiration through the interior of a Brunette, and even the red cool to warm diffusion of a petal of hair.

Keep it simple and think about where you are in the color and where you want to go, and you will be fine! Look inside of the object to capture the design!

Take, for example, the natural shades of browns with warm and cool reflections, with then a cool pistachio shade used to accent or to cool off the tone.

With a level 6 warm/neutral base, apply around all detail areas. In 2 curved hair line isolated sections, alternate a 7 level with high lift and a gentle decolorizer and 20 volume. After processing, place a cool acidic product that has the capabilities of pure shading and dilute the formula 3 pts clear to 1 part green yellow and apply to the pre lightened areas on the entire canvas.

Find inspiration and beauty in all that you do. It is always a pleasure, and I hope that you enjoy! I tell myself every day that life is not a dress rehearsal, live it, love it and create it!

Can’t wait until the next adventures….Vegas here I come!


John Simpson is a Goldwell platform artist and salon partner at Lewis’ Hair Salon in Pittsburgh. He won the 2008 NAHA Colorist of the Year award, and was a finalist in 2009.