Category Archives: The Art of Color

Colors Red and Purple: A History of Emotion

Metro station in Paris at night. The Metro is the rapid transit metro system in Paris. It has become a symbol of the city, noted for its density within the city limits and its uniform architecture influenced by Art Nouveau. The Metro network's sixteen lines are mostly underground and run to 214 km (133 mi) in length. There are 300 stations (384 stops), of which 62 facilitate transfer to another line. Paris has one of the densest metro networks in the world, with 245 stations within 86.9 km2 (34 sq mi) of the City of Paris. Lines are numbered 1 to 14.Have you recently had a conversation about how color invokes emotion? It’s no surprise if you have. Colors are a big deal to us!

Magazines are just one place we see how colors invoke emotion. With each turn of the page, strategic color schemes draw our eyes to title lines; fashion trends send bold signals that trigger thoughts of new clothes; photographs of paradise remind us to long for tranquility, even between the hours of 9 and 5.

How did color and emotion come to go hand in hand? Let’s take a closer look at the history of colors red and purple, to see if we can discover when color symbolism began.

Red

Do any emotional descriptions come to mind when you think of the color red? Love, anger and violent are all words descriptive of emotions and they are all words associated with the color red.

Historically, red was used by the Greeks as a symbol of heroism. Christians have used red as a symbolic color within the crucifixion. Over time, these symbolic uses of the color have formed current perception of red and how it has very specific emotional representations.

Interestingly, the color red focuses behind the retina. This makes the lenses of the eye convex, which makes us see red areas as if they are moving forward. These scientific aspects might also be a contributing factor to our concepts of red.

Purple

Purple is a color that is rarely found in nature. Historically, many people probably never saw a purple flower or a purple colored fish. Even those who could create purple dye found the process extensive and thus, purple colored garments were reserved for only the privileged. These historical factors have contributed to the color purple being associated with a supernatural feel.

Biologically, purples are the hardest colors for the eye to distinguish. It is now known that this color is the most visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy, which is another reason why shades of purple tend to be associated with the divine, the unearthly, and the cosmic and invoke otherworldly emotions.

Next time you find yourself examining a photo or a painting, take a moment to consider how color has been used. Do certain colors draw your eye? Can you detect some of the color symbolism discussed here? Do the color collections invoke emotion?

Image made available by Marian Kraus at www.mariankrausphotography.com

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The Importance of Color Vision and Art

“Art without color would lose much of its purpose.”

~ Andrew Loomi

Did you know some humans have the ability to see 7,000,000 colors?

Even though contrasting shades of similar colors are not always evident, artist use millions of colors to create intriguing works of art.

Unfortunately, hundreds of millions of people are colorblind. This post explores how color vision affects our ability to appreciate and experience art.

While black and white photographs can be captivating and intricate sketch work is magnificent, it must be said that color adds brilliance to a piece. It draws out emotion and stitches together a scene. Also, color allows an artist to add depth to their work and evokes emotions in those who view it.

Color Vision

Color vision is the way an eye or machine (like a camera) interprets the wavelengths or frequencies of light on an object. Therefore, all colors exists because of light.

That means without light, these timeless works of art would be colorless:

Color Vision and Art

To explore how color affects the art connoisseur (and all normal-functioning eyes for that matter), WebExhibits set up virtual display depicting the relationship between human perception of color and colors used in art. It is called, “Color Vision and Art.” The exhibit guides you through the inner workings of color. This website (http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/) is full of interactive elements as well as interesting facts about color.

Colorblindness

Can you imagine a world without color? Colorblindness is the condition that makes it hard to differentiate and distinguish colors. This condition is often passed on genetically and present at birth. Unfortunately, the cause of colorblindness, absence of a color-sensitive pigment in the cone cells of the retina, is common. According to WebExhibits, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are colorblind. There are 3 different types of colorblindness that affect one’s vision. The Color Matters website (http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-vision/what-is-color-blindness) illustrates what people see in each circumstance.

Appreciating Art without Color

Just because an individual cannot see color does not mean he or she can’t appreciate art. In fact, there are many artists who suffer from colorblindness. On http://www.colourblindawareness.org/, it mentions that there is speculation over whether or not famous artists Constable and Picasso were colorblind. Although, many people with colorblindness avoid studying or pursuing careers in visual arts.

Aside from that, people of different color vision capacities still enjoy creating art. While the fullness color brings to a painting, photo, or any other masterpiece cannot be experienced, individuals still enjoy the act of creating and viewing art.

This brings up the question, how important is color vision to art? Do you agree with Andrew Loomi? Or does art have purpose rooted beneath surface color?

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Colors Change What is Beautiful

What is beautiful? The term is a bit subjective, don’t you think? After all, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?

It most certainly is, but one undeniable quality about color is its ability to make all things beautiful!

This is why color-field painting, with its abstract merging of vivid colors, is responsible for some beautiful works of art.  In this post we will look at how color-field painting evokes emotions and has the ability to change an environment.

By now we know how color impacts art and also stirs emotion in people. Recent posts discuss color therapy, known as chromotherapy and the psychology of color, offering insight into how color can impact an individual.  As artists, we know the emotional impact art can have on us. Vivid colors can stir emotions and hold an observers heart once they pass.

Sometimes, color makes beautiful what was not beautiful before. This is the case of color-field painting; color, shape, composition, proportion, balance, style, and scale change a blank canvas into a brilliant work of art.

This style of art is very abstract and those who are best known for its development are considered Abstract Expressionists.  Color-field painting emerged in New York in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. It was a type of art inspired by European modernism and made popular by artists like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

What sets color-field painting apart from other types of abstract art is the artist’s regard for paint.  With the main focus being color, shape, composition, proportion, balance, style, and scale, there is less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and consistent actions that create form and process.  In fact, the entire work of art is created by the artist who determines what elements he or she will add to convey a sense of place, atmosphere, or environment. In other words, what makes color-field painting beautiful, is its subjectivity.

Like most art, the beauty of color-field painting is in the eye of the beholder.  These colorful pieces are nice accents for decoration and fun to paint too! But don’t let the look of simplicity fool you.  This style is not easy to perfect and contrary to how it appears, cannot be replicated by a 6 year old!

Have you splashed your art palette with color today?  Try it and see how color changes what you see as beautiful.

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Introduction to Color Expert Johannes Itten

“Color is life; for a world without color appears to us as dead.” – Johannes Itten

When you take an art course on color theory, you can thank Johannes Itten for laying much of the foundation for what you’re being taught. Johannes Itten was a Swiss artist and teacher who taught at the Bauhaus in Germany. He published several books on art theory, the most popular being The Art of Color.

Sir Isaac Newton is credited with creating the first color wheel, which included 6 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan and blue. Around 250 years later, Johannes Itten expanded Newton’s color wheel to include 12 colors instead of 6. These 12 colors included red, yellow and blue as the primary colors; orange, green and purple as the secondary colors, and 6 intermediary colors created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. This is the same color wheel often used in school’s today to teach students about color theory.

Itten also examined color saturation, contrast and hue, devising theories for creating different color combinations that are still useful to artists and designers today. He looked at the expressiveness of color, and also the way colors affect one another. He also explored the emotional properties of colors which he considered to be fairly subjective, proposing that we each have different individual reactions to colors.

For more information about Johannes Itten and his color theories, look for his books online or in your local library.

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