Art & Aesthetics Art Blog
Color has a dual-personality: It is light and it is pigment. When we see a certain color, we are actually seeing the wavelength of light which is not absorbed by that pigment. The eye is most sensitive to yellow-green light, but it also makes "warm" colors like red seem to advance towards the viewer while "cool" colors like blue recede. The "warm-cool" labels are arbitrary. They could just as well be classified as "loud-quiet" or "emotional-intelligent." They are as psychological as Kate Kiernan__™s ___Abstraction #4___ is compelling.
Colors can affect physical reactions: the color red can speed the heart, and yellow may increase metabolism, but these are just common effects of any novel stimuli. Still, every color does have its tendencies just like every person has a disposition. Talk show hosts have green waiting rooms for their guests to relax. Pink holding tanks have a calming effect on belligerent prisoners - at least short term, but before long those inmates will be ready to riot when the novelty wears off.
From intimate to clinical, soothing to provocative, the psychological effects of color are subjective and personal. They are also associative: a red light means stop and green means go, or sometimes port and starboard. In Hugo Sandoval__™s painting they represent ___Hidden Planets.___ And colors are metaphoric. To have "the blues" means to be depressed and "seeing red" means to be enraged (but incidentally, bulls don't see red - they see a guy in fancy pants taunting them with a flag). Color is a pleasurable sensation with a limited downside. Color is never painful unless it triggers some higher thought process - a memory or association but, certain color phobias notwithstanding, that's why rose-colored glasses were invented.
Color is to an artist as the chromatic scale to a musician. Certain colors can seem either harmonious or "out of tune" with each other. In music, the lower the mathematic ratio is between two tone frequencies, the better it sounds to our ears. Colors behave in similar ways. Musically speaking, major and minor chords create happy and sad moods. Ditto with certain color combinations: vivid, complimentary colors are lively as a blue sky full of hot-air balloons while muted achromatic hues are as soulful as a smoky lounge full of jazz musicians " or perhaps Craig Henderson™s ___Beauty.___
Colors have been characterized in many different ways by every culture throughout history, but sticking with the musical motif I'll cite the lyrics Jimi (Purple Haze) Hendrix. In his song Axis Bold as Love he personifies his emotions thusly (abridged): "Anger, he towers in shiny metallic purple armor...Queen Jealousy's fiery green gown snares at the grassy ground...blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted...happy turquoise armies lay opposite...red is confident, flashing trophies of war and ribbons of euphoria...orange is young and full of daring but very unsteady...yellow in this case is not so mellow but frightened like me..."
A school of artists known as Color Field painters (akin to abstract expressionists) includes Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler. They try to elicit purely emotional reactions through the tonal interplay of diffuse colors on their large canvas surfaces. And Henri Matisse painted striking but surprisingly naturalistic looking portraits using vibrant reds, blues and greens in lieu of flesh tones. Lidia Simeonova uses a similar effect in her work ___Carnival___ (above). Landscape painters traditionally use earth-tones that are "rich" and "fertile," but Wolf Kahn's pastel forests are luminescent frissons of foliage. They are joyful. So is Mary Exline__™s piece, ___Snowshoe, WVA.___
Painters (artists) intimately control colors in their work while interior designers can control the entire visual field of an enclosed space. Well-lighted walls make a room appear larger and more inviting. Dark rich muted colors with warm wood tones provide an exotic atmosphere in which to brood, reflect, and sip espresso. Starbuck's decorators have got that ambiance down pat. Most retailers use light and color to attract and influence customers. A new upscale supermarket in my town has an interior clad in equal measures of silver metallic, terra cotta tile, and light wood tones. The color-corrected track-lighting shimmers from all surfaces with a healthy pink glow that makes me hope the food I'm buying still looks as good when I get it home.
Color also factors into the industrial arts as well as marketing. The purchase of a laptop or cell phone may hinge on its color. Trademark colors are also a way to "brand" the retailer's identity in our hearts and minds. When you see a red and white target, a green block, or a blue oval, chances are you associate it with some corporation __" Target stores, H&R Block, or Ford.
Color is like humor - it's subjective. Tell a joke and some people will laugh, others not. Likewise, people are differently affected by a given color or scheme. Color is a property. It has no form or content. If colors were words, they'd be adjectives: words that suggest a mood like "black" humor or "white" lies. Of course, paint companies give their colors lofty names like Fragrant Cloud or Earth Glaze, names that are ambiguous but more appealing than, say, Stink Bomb or Mold Spore.
As for clothing fashions, all I can say is that for every pair of pink and purple hounds-tooth knickers or tam-o-sham, there is someone with a personality to suit - probably a golfer. Myself, I don__™t wear gray or beige clothing. I look old enough already. But not to end on a down note, I will cite some colorful lyrics of yet another musical legend from ___the sixties___ namely Donovan.
Colour in sky Prussian blue Scarlet fleece changes hue Crimson ball sinks from view Wear your love like heaven___
Colour sky Havana lake Colour sky rose carmethene Alizarian crimson Wear your love like heaven___
(Footnote: Thanks to the artists whose work I__™ve sampled from their ArtId galleries for this article. Donovan photo by Karl Ferris.)
Gary Peterson - Intellectual Handyman