I was recently doing some research into how to make my website more attractive and appealing to my visitors.
While doing so I stumbled upon several articles and studies about colour and the effects they have on our moods. For example, when we decorate our homes we choose the colours according to the mood we want to create within each room. Using perhaps light colours to create the feeling of serenity and space and darker colours to create a sense of being snug and cosy.
This got me thinking about how colour is used in the creation of art and whether or not specific colours are used during the portrayal of a subject as that is what is expected of the artist. Or, then again, perhaps they are used as that is what the artist perceives the viewer’s expectation to be because the artist subconsciously is trying to project a message to the onlooker, to inform us of their inner feelings and emotions during the creation of the piece.
Or is it just simply that certain colours represent certain things, the sky is blue, the grass is green and so on. We all see things the same way as everyone else, so the artist just gives us what we expect.
Throughout history, many works have been created using a plethora of colour and portray a multitude of scenarios.
However are we as the spectator if you like, missing what the piece is really about, and what the artist really wants us to see and feel.
Is there a hidden message in front of us, put there and expressed through colour to invoke our feelings and emotions, and that until we really start to examine the piece and take note of the use of colour as a pose to the subject matter itself we will never really get?
It’s a well-known fact that colours can affect and influence our moods.
For example if Giorgione had painted his sleeping Venus using darker colours, perhaps against a thunderous sky with the trees thrashing in the wind and the hills and houses shrouded in darkness would we still see his Venus as a beautiful young woman resting peacefully on a hill and have that feeling of calm, peace and serenity when we viewed it, or would we see his venus as a dangerous threat that is to be avoided at all cost.
I pondered on this for a while and then began to think that perhaps an artists choice and use of colour is, in fact, a deliberate way of influencing how we see the work and a way of influencing our mood as we viewed the piece. After all, Venus would still be the same person, an innocent looking maiden sleeping peacefully on a hill, but would we still see the piece this way?
There’s the old saying when you lose your temper that you see Red, suggesting that the colour red is an angry aggressive colour. To annoy or wind up an already slightly agitated person is considered to be waving a red flag at a bull.
So if an artist uses a lot of red and red based colours within their work could this mean that they were venting some kind of anger or frustration through their work, as red is a colour that invokes passion, energy and excitement, getting the adrenaline flowing and slightly raising the heartbeat causing us to react faster and raising our aggression levels.
White is associated with cleanliness and purity, the traditional bride was always wed in a beautiful white wedding dress. The bridal gown is a sign of innocence and her purity, an untouched fruit ripe for her groom. So if an artist’s uses white in their work could this mean that at the point of its creation they were feeling cleansed and pure of heart.
At the other end of the red spectrum is Pink.
Pink, on the other hand, is a mixture of both red and white, it is the colour associated with love and romance. It is a calming colour which causes us to mellow out and relax, draining us of our aggression and letting down our guard. Does this then mean that by using greater amounts of pink in their work the artist was perhaps feeling mellow and was so relaxed that they wished us all to know, or maybe even they were expressing their own feelings of love?
Yellow is the colour of sunshine. It stimulates and invigorates and is associated with Joy and happiness. It stimulates the mind and causes us to want to get up and get to it. It’s a colour that attracts the eye and grabs our attention. It is associated with honour and loyalty but it too has a dark side as it is also associated with cowardice and fear as in the saying “to be yellow”. Could the use of yellow mean that the artist was feeling excessively happy and joyous when they were creating the piece and wished to convey their joy to us the admirer, or perhaps they were feeling threatened and were fearful for their own well being or maybe they had committed an act of cowardice and were expressing their shame through their work.
Green is another favoured colour. It is the colour of the grass, leaves on the trees, plants in the ground. Greens are colour’s that take us outside and are associated with the environment around us. Greens are seen as being calming, soothing, invigorating colours. They are associated with safety but they also have a dark side as they too are associated with greed and jealousy and are referenced in the saying “the green-eyed monster” or to be “green with envy“.
So could an artist that used greens within their work be expressing their feelings of being at one with nature, a creature of the outdoors with the desire to be free or maybe could it be that they were harbouring feelings of envy and jealousy toward another. Perhaps a rival artist or someone of higher status or standing than themselves.
A combination of both yellow and green is the colour blue.
When we are down and feeling sad we are said to be feeling blue, suggesting that the colour blue is a sombre colour, however, this is only true when associated with darker blues, as light blues are favoured by many for their calming, soothing effect. There is nothing more calming or relaxing than lying in a green field looking up at a clear blue sky with the yellow sun beating down on you warming every inch of your body. A lot of hospitals and dental practices use light blues within their decor to create a feeling of calm and serenity in order to relax and calm those within, pre sedating their conscious mind so as to ease any anxieties that a patient may have.
Blues are also said to enhance performance releasing chemicals into the body causing athletes who train in a blue environment to train harder. It is also associated with the purity of royalty and nobility as only the select few are said to be of blue blood.
So if an artist chooses to use dark blues in their work is this because they are feeling a little down or dejected and somehow need to leave a message in their work to let others know how they feel, perhaps seeking a little empathy from the viewer. If they choose to use lighter blues are they doing so as a result of them feeling calm and at peace at the time of putting colour to the canvas. Perhaps in using lighter blues, they are in fact stimulating their own minds and enhancing their own creativity thus aiding in the production of another great work.
Orange is a combination of the colours red and yellow. Red being a passionate and aggressive colour while yellow is a warm fun, happy and invigorating colour.
Orange is a warm colour representing heat, fire and the sun. It is an appetite stimulant. Think of a bowl of fresh ripe oranges on a hot day and imagine taking one, carefully peeling it then biting into its succulent flesh so as to release the juice and enable you to quench your thirst. Orange is a colour representative of warm tropical landscapes, it increases the flow of oxygen to the brain causing our receptors to fire more quickly stimulating mental activity and helping us to be more creative. It is a stimulating colour causing enthusiasm, determination and fascination within us.
When an artist uses orange in their work are they trying to get us to see beyond what is in front of us.
Orange like blue is said to be a performance-enhancing colour so like with blue is the artist using orange as a way of getting us to see more than what is actually there, giving them an edge by stimulating our brain activity and enhancing our mental thought and in doing so causing us to be more enthusiastic about the piece and perhaps lull us into a sense of having to own the piece.
Could it be that the artist at the time of its creation was on a high, perhaps feeling invigorated and filled with the desire to create something that would portray to all how they felt?
Purple is a combination of both blue and red.
Yet again we have a passionate fiery colour mixing with a more soothing calming colour. Purple like blue is again a colour that has a strong association with royalty. It is symbolic of luxury and ambition and representative of dignity, power, wealth and extravagance. It is a colour used in many mythological and fantasy works being representative of mystery, wisdom and magic. It is a colour that is also associated with independence and creativity so could this mean that if the artist chose a subject containing purples they were trying to express their individualism and creative abilities.