Colour Matters

The application of colour can be one of the most visually appealing elements of a painting and can often be the component that brings a piece of art to life. Of course, artists can choose to use colour naturalistically, depicting a scene by convention with green grass and blue water and a yellow sun. However, colour can also be used expressively and unconventionally to tell an equally enchanting story.

You’ve probably noticed at some point in your life, that a particular colour has affected your emotional state, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. A saturated red painting, for instance, will affect you differently than a muted blue painting, as we have learnt to associate colours with different emotions. Colour psychology is something that the can be seen in everyday life and you may not have even realised it’s there. Advertisers and marketers, for example, often opt for the primary and secondary colours in high saturation, as these colours are most easily recognised and memorable, therefore likely to stimulate an emotional response from the viewer.

Think, for example, about the colour red. Red is a colour that we see everywhere in advertising; McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King… the list goes on and on. As a bold primary colour it stimulates energy, excitement and desire. It is also a very visible colour so it immediately draws your eye to it, which, as a side note, is also why stop signs, traffic lights, and fire-safety equipment are usually red. The visual stimulation of such a saturated and vibrant colour is designed to entice you in and create an immediate emotional response from you. Food companies, in particular, use red in their product logos and advertisements because it is said to encourage appetite and enhance metabolism.

Likewise, colour creates acute emotive responses in art. Colour has the ability to create a very different energy depending on its application and as we have come to associate different colours with varying emotions, it has the ability to create an entire story inside a static image. Expressions such as “feeling blue” “green with envy” “seeing red” are sayings that have become a perceivable language that we can all understand, as they provide a visual association to our emotions. Thus, an abstract artist can invoke a particular emotion with nothing more than geometric shapes and bold colours. It is certainly worth thinking about how a single colour can influence or change an image and integrate emotion into your artwork.