Monday, 10 February 2014

thoughts about colour

Carnevale, Venice.  Colours chosen deliberately to emphasise the quality of drama and a certain air of sinister mystery
It is all too easy to get caught up in the subject, as a painter, without thinking too much about how adjusting the colours we see, could lead to a totally different response from our viewer.  It is difficult enough, isn't it, to reproduce what we see in the real world, using pigments on a canvas or sheet of paper, without having to think about the influence of the colour.

In my early days as a painter, I went on a painting holiday.  Then, I would try to paint the world around me, just doing my best to get the drawing right, and the tones and colours as right as possible.  The tutor commented that I was a "tonal painter" rather than a "colourist".  At that time, I really did not know what he meant.  I was painting what I thought I saw, surely that was enough?

It is only much later on in life that I have realised that I was making no artistic decisions about the colour - I was simply copying what I saw.  I did not recognise, then,  what a massive impact colour has on the viewer, but I do now, so I often adjust my images to take advantage of the psychological impact of colour.

Well, you may argue...all colours have a certain "duality" -  blue is a good case in point may speak of peace and the calmness of a clear blue sky to one, but it may also signify  depression to another!    So why not just paint what you see?

Here is a rather amusing little colour story for you :

Viagra, a diamond-shaped blue pill, was introduced in 1997. It immediately became an overnight sensation- one of the most successful prescription medications in the pharmaceutical history – with sales of the drug totalling $1.74 billion in one year alone. In 2002, the marketing groups of a rival product, Levitra, brainstormed the issue of colour for their brand. The purpose was to figure out "how to beat the blues," referring to Viagra's sky-blue tablets.

Extensive market research concluded that consumers didn't "resonate with the imagery" of Viagra. They found that the blue colour was too cool and was equated with being sick. The goal was to come up with an enticing color and logo for Levitra. After extensive testing, the team presented Levitra's colour: orange, an extremely vibrant and energetic colour. And the logo? An orange and purple flame.    !!

In conclusion, colour does indeed matter - 80% of visual information is related to colour. Colour is functional. Colour subliminally and overtly communicates information.
So do bear in mind, when you create a painting, that the colours you CHOOSE (which may not necessarily be the colours you SEE in real life) will almost certainly have an impact on the feelings of your audience.  There is plenty of information to be found in libraries and on line about the psychological impact of certain colours...and many colours may have more than one resonance.....but trust your instincts rather than follow set rules or ideas.  Turn your work - and reproductions of paintings in books - upside down...try to view the COLOUR as something quite separate from the subject matter, and see how the colour makes you feel.  There are all sorts of feelings the colour might engender....warmth, chill, peace, discomfort, power, sexuality, vigour, excitement, fear, confidence, unhappiness, optimism..........I could go on and on.  It can be interesting - and revealing - to examine one's own feelings in relation to the colour seen.
Take a look at this painting - I have reproduced it here in two different colour ways.  Do they make you feel quite different...or not?

Perhaps sensitivity to colour is rather like sensitivity to musical notes where some individuals can tune instruments easier than others, some folk dream in colour and some remember colour easily while others desire to train their colour discernment to high levels of sensitivity. Sensitivity to all elements of life is the key that opens a door to deeper appreciation.


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