The Psychology of Color

Four You Gallery
April 8, 2021| Christine

Have you ever come back from a beach day feeling profoundly calm? That’s because the blue color of the water and the sky puts us in a meditative state by changing our brain waves’ frequency. Have you ever come back from a hike feeling particularly peaceful and well rested? That’s because of the color green, which evokes the feelings of tranquility and serenity. “The chief function of color should be to serve expression”, the artist Henri Matisse once stated. And seeing as we live in a colorful world, everything around holds the power to influence our emotions.

CALL TO ACTION
How do the colors of those paintings make you feel?
What emotions do the colors of those paintings evoke in you?

RED

Xu Yang-The Admirer, 13112020-Oil on linen-180 x 145 cm

Artists, interior designers, therapists, and even marketers believe in the influence that color holds over people’s emotions – affecting their moods, feelings, attracting them towards something, and even stimulating a physiological reaction out of them. As Pablo Picasso said, “colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions”.

So, we know that color exists around us, but when exactly did this understanding of color develop? The short answer is “1666”, by non-other than English scientist Sir Isaac Newton who, when experimenting with sunlight and prisms, discovered that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all seven visible colors. He identified the ROYGBIV colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) that make up the visible spectrum, as can be seen by the human eye – the colors of rainbows! Newton experimented further and discovered that light could be combined to form other colors. Much like when artists mix certain colors to create others for their paintings.

CALL TO ACTION
How do the colors of those paintings make you feel?
What emotions do the colors of those paintings evoke in you?

GREEN

Miki Matsuyama-Kelly Wearstler's California Pool, 2020-Acrylic canvas-145.5 x 112 cm

While the perception of colors is subjective and differs from one person to the next as well as from one culture to the next, certain colors are universal. According to psychological rehabilitation specialist Kendra Cherry, “Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple, and green. These colors are often described as calm but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference.” Prior to the development of written and spoken language, a number of ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy – defined as “the use of colors to adjust body vibrations to frequencies that result in health and harmony; each color possesses frequencies of a specific vibration, and each vibration is related to different physical symptoms.”

CALL TO ACTION
How do the colors of those paintings make you feel?
What emotions do the colors of those paintings evoke in you?

BLUE, YELLOW, GREEN

Annabel Faustin-Night and Day Meeting in the Early Morning, 2020-Oil and acrylic on linen canvas-81 x 65 cm

So, what are the different emotions that warm and cool colors evoke?
Oscar Wilde once stated that “mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.” As mentioned earlier, the perception of colors is subjective and differs from one person and culture to the next. Some of the other variables that affect the perception of colors include context, surrounding colors, and direct/indirect past experiences with that particular color. And the use of colors differs from art to interior design to therapy to consumerism and product branding design – just to name a few. The color white for example is often associated with purity, innocence, and peacefulness in Western cultures while in Eastern cultures it is linked to sadness, death, and mourning.

CALL TO ACTION
How do the colors of those paintings make you feel?
What emotions do the colors of those paintings evoke in you?

BLUE, ORANGE, GREEN

Annabel Faustin-Communion, 2020-Oil and acrylic painting on linen canvas-65 x 92 cm

Warm colors can evoke some of the following emotions.
Red: passion, love, excitement, intensity, power, warning, aggression
Orange: uplifting, warmth, happy, enthusiasm, sophistication, stimulating, spiritual
Yellow: energetic, cheerful, warmth, optimistic, attention grabbing, frustration, anger

Cool colors can evoke some the following emotions.
Blue: calming, serenity, stability, inspiring, sadness, cold, loyalty
Purple: royalty, sensual, wisdom, soothing, sophistication, respect, mysterious
Green: calming, compassionate, healthy, playful, growth, fertility, harmony

By now we can agree that color is a form of expression; you can decode information (what is being conveyed to you and how you can convey it), evoke different emotions, and even influence perceptions. How can you apply color psychology in my everyday life? Well, it’s simple. Decide how you want to feel or what emotions you want to evoke in others or what others are trying to get you to feel. The next time you’re deciding to paint your space, debating about buying a certain product, picking out a piece of art from an art exhibition, getting ready for a big meeting or date, decide how you want to feel and color coordinate accordingly. Because, as art critic John Ruskin once remarked, “of all God’s gifts to the sighted man, color is the holiest, the move divine, the most solemn”.

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