Behind The Mask: Hand Building With Clay

Behind The Mask: Hand Building With Clay

I had the opportunity to teach “Hand Building With Clay” to students in grades K – 4 for the City of Santa Monica’s  CREST Enrichment program.

After learning the pinch pot, coil and slab techniques, students had the opportunity to use slabs (pancakes of gently flattened out clay) in a different way, by laying the slab of clay over a sort of armature of loosely balled up up newspaper, so that it would harden in a shallow bowl form, and create a mask.

As the forms dried, and the clay hardened, the newspaper was removed, and the clay became ready to paint, embellish and add to.

Some students chose to use the convex surface of their half spheres or hemispheres as a place to create symbolic forms and shapes such as stars and hearts, rather than a face or character.

Students played with using the paint pens by working on paper first.

The paint pens allowed them freedom from choosing and washing  brushes, adding water, and controlling “loose” acrylic paints. They could use the paint pens to create intricate patterns like a drawing tool.

Students learned to pounce or “stipple” with the paint pens, using their tips to apply paint to creases and crevices in the clay.

Students could then add feathers, beads, pipe cleaners and other embellishments to their masks, to further develop their characters, designs, forms and images.

Some chose to focus on color through painting, adding a carefully chosen addition to enhance their character.

This young artists has incised, or drawn into the clay to create they eyes, and added clay to build out the nose. The mouth uses both techniques.

Students used foam plates to mix new colors on, as well as for palettes.

Mixing all the colors together was a popular choice, and helped the students to understand some of the principles of color mixing.

Detail and focus ruled, even with the younger children.

This young artist has mixed the secondary colors of green and orange, from his palette of primary colors, red blue and yellow.

We used both grey and red air dry clay.

Here a young artist mixes green…after painting the outside of the pot blue, and the inside yellow.

These two kindergarteners had a wonderful time painting and creating together!

There is something about painting that seems to clear out irritability, and at least temporarily suspend human anxiety.

It is wonderful to see creative”flow” in action!

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The Wheel of Color

The Wheel of Color

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Last week I had the pleasure of teaching a color mixing program for adults at a local library. The “mixed” results were wonderful, and it was thrilling to see the participants get creative with color and the color wheel.

We talked about the vocabulary of color, and I offered the students an overview of some of the most common color terms. Color is a very complex subject, and could be the subject of study over many lifetimes, so I tried to keep it simple and clear, yet informative.

 One of the most important terms is Hue: The “color of a color”. Hue is what we usually mean when we ask “what color is that? Hue is the term for the pure spectrum colors commonly referred to by the color names, such as red, yellow and blue. Different hues are caused by different wavelengths of light. But the relationship of light and color (color is actually an “effect” of light) is a subject for a different post!

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I also touched upon Chromaticity. This property of color tells us how pure a hue is. That means there is no white, black, or gray in a color that has high Chroma. Often referred to as “colorfulness,” Chroma is the amount of identifiable hue in a color. A color without hue is achromatic or monochromatic and will look gray.

As the students moved around and through the color wheel mixing colors, they discovered how the purity of  a hue effected what could be mixed from it. Some reds are a bit closer to blue, and some to orange. Some blues are closer to purple, and others to green. This effects the hue of the secondary colors can be mixed from these primary colors. Thus color mixing can become a real adventure, a challenge, stupendous fun, and always a voyage of discovery.

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Students experienced “saturation” of the colors they worked with. Saturation, also known as “Intensity”,  describes the strength of a color.  Related to chromaticity, saturation tells us how a color looks under certain lighting conditions. A room painted a solid color will look different at night than in daylight.Think about Saturation in terms of pale or weak and pure or strong, NOT light or dark. The terms Purity, Intensity, Saturation and Chroma are often used interchangeably when discussing color.

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When mixing colors, hues can be desaturated (reduced in purity or weakened), in one of three ways: mixed with white to lighten the value (creating a tint), mixed with black to darken the value (shade), or mixed with gray or the complement to either lighten or darken the value ( tone).

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Students were given the three Primary Colors: (Paint colors) Red, Blue, Yellow to work with. These are the colors which cannot be mixed or created through combining other colors.

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They created Secondary Colors, which are mixtures of each two of the primary colors: Purple (blue + red), Orange, (yellow + red),  Green (yellow + blue).

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 We also explored Tertiary Colors which are mixtures of a primary and secondary color next to each other on the color wheel, and contain the names of those colors in their names! The Tertiary Colors are:  yellow-green, yellow- orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-green, and blue-violet. (For our purposes, we are using purple and violet interchangeably).

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Students also learned about Value, or the lightness or darkness of a color. When we describe a color as “light” or “dark”, we are discussing its value . The property of Value tells us how light or dark a color is, based on how close it is to white. For instance, yellow would be considered lighter than navy blue which in turn is lighter than black. The value of a color is also is also related its brightness.

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One of the most endlessly  fascinating color relationships is that of  Complementary Colors, which are color pairs  opposite or across from each other on the color wheel. Combining complimentary colors can produce “neutral” browns and grays, as their combination effectively “cancels out” the color properties of Hue, Value and Saturation. The complimentary pairs are made up of one primary and one secondary color, which are directly opposite each other on the color wheel:  blue and orange, yellow and purple, and red and green are compliments.

Above we see how the complimentary pair red and green, as well as blue and orange help this artist to reveal another face of color.

Color is science, but it is also emotional, expressive, and FUN! Find some paints, and start your color exploration… investigate, experiment, explore and experience the power of color to change your state of mind, or even how warm or cold you feel. We can actually FEEL a difference of 7 degrees in temperature, depending on what colors we see and are surrounded by. Such is the power of color. Color is powerful, but don’t forget to play with it, too!

Color: Coming to (the) Terms

Color: Coming to (the) Terms

Hue: The “color of a color”. Hue is what we usually mean when we ask “what color is that?” Hue is the term for the pure spectrum colors commonly referred to by the “color names, such as red, yellow and blue. Different hues are caused by different wavelengths of light.

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Primary Colors: (Paint colors) Red, Blue, Yellow: the colors which cannot be mixed or created through combinations of other colors.

Secondary Colors: Mixtures of the primary colors: Purple, Orange, Green

Tertiary Colors: Mixtures of a primary and secondary color which are next to each other on the color wheel:: yellow-green, yellow- orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-green, blue-violet (For our purposes, we are using purple and violet to mean the same thing).

Complementary Colors: Colors which are opposite or across from each other on the color wheel. Combining complimentary colors can produce “neutral” browns and grays. . The complimentary pairs are made up of one primary and one secondary color: blue and orange, yellow and purple, and red and green are complimentary pairs.

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Saturation: Also known as “intensity,” saturation describes the strength of a color with respect to its value or lightness. Related to chromaticity, saturation tells us how a color looks under certain lighting conditions. A room painted a solid color will appear different at night than in daylight.Think about Saturation in terms of pale or weak and pure or strong, NOT light or dark.

In mixing colors hues can be desaturated (reduced in purity, weakened) in one of three ways: mix with white to lighten the value (tint), mix with black to darken the value (shade), or mix with gray or the complement to either lighten or darken the value ( tone).

Intensity: The terms Purity, Intensity, Saturation and Chroma are often used interchangeably when discussing color.

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Value: Lightness or darkness of a color, When we describe a color as “light” or “dark”, we are discussing its value. This property of color tells us how light or dark a color is based on how close it is to white. For instance, yellow would be considered lighter than navy blue which in turn is lighter than black.

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Tints: A color with white added to it.

Shades: A color with black added to it.

Tones: A color with gray added to it.

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The Passion of Frida Kahlo

The Passion of Frida Kahlo

Today I taught about the extraordinary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to teenagers, in conjunction with a lesson about color, acrylic painting, and self-portraits. Last week they had learned about color mixing, and painted the color wheel, some of them for the first time. They played with mixing colors, discovering (I hope)  some of their personal color tastes and preferences, and feelings for color as they used the primaries to mix the secondaries, the primaries and secondaries to create the tertiaries, and use white to create tints.

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All this was partially in preparation for painting today, inspired by Frida. The students used a photograph of themselves as a starting point, and painted around it, and “into it” (over it, if they so chose), and they will work on these and hopefully complete them next week.  Preparing for this class brought me into contact with the work and life of Frida Kahlo…not for the first time…and then trying to communicate about her to the students.  I thought I would share as bit of her work, life and  spirit with You.

FK7‘Frida in Coyoacán’, 1939 (photograph by Nickolas Muray)

Frida Kahlo de Rivera ,  born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón, was a Mexican painter  who is best known for her self-portraits: her paintings of herself.

FK4“The Frame” (“Le Cadre”), 1937-38, oil on aluminum and glass

Some have called her the world’s most famous female painter. She was also a political activist and legend in her own lifetime and beyond, an extraordinary and unique personality who took what Life dealt her, and rewove it into passionate, lyrical and unforgettable works that continued to be treasured today. She left the world a unique treasure: her works a painted diary. She revealed her inner and outer life with passion, courage and visual  poetry filled with color and magic.

FK_self-portrait-with-bonito-1941“Self-Portrait with Bonito”, 1941, oil on canvas

Frida Kahlo’s life began and ended in the same, now famous, house. She was born in 1907 in the  Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacan, Mexico City, and died in 1954 in her family home, La Casa Azul, the Blue House,  now the Frida Kahlo Museum.

FK_kahlo-houseLa Casa Azul, (The Blue House)

Frida Kahlo survived numerous challenges both physical and emotional in her life, including contracting polio as a child, a long recovery from a serious bus accident, and two tempestuous marriages to and divorces from  painter Diego Rivera. She mined these experiences, as well as her strong feelings about her Mexican identity,  politics and cultural influences to create highly evocative and personal paintings that communicate universal human feelings and experiences..

At the age of six, she was stricken with polio. It affected her right leg. She spent nine months in bed.

She studied in Mexico City at the National Preparatory School. She planned to become a doctor, but an almost fatal bus accident at the age of 18 changed her life forever. Following her accident she began painting intensely. Perhaps best known for her self-portraits, Kahlo’s work is remembered for its “pain and passion”, and its intense, vibrant colors.

FK6‘Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird‘,
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She produced 143 paintings, 55 of which are self-portraits. When asked why she painted so many self-portraits, Frida replied: “Because I am so often alone….because I am the subject I know best.”

A strikingly handsome woman, the Frida was known to stop traffic in San Francisco, New York and Paris in her long traditional Mexican dresses, her hair braided  with ribbons and flowers to identify with her indigenous Mexican culture. Frida dressed this way throughout her adult life, partly to hide a shorter right leg caused by childhood polio.

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Frida in one of her traditional Mexican outfits

Frida Kahlo used personal symbols to express her feelings in her paintings.  Though some have labeled her art as Naïve art or folk art, Surrealism or Magic Realism, she considered her art to be realistic.  Each self-portrait captures aspects of her feelings, and her life experience.  In the style of “Magic, or Magical Realism”, magical elements are presented as a natural part of an otherwise realistic environment.

FK5‘Self Portrait’, 1940, (oil on board)

Frida lived her life to the fullest, despite immense pain,challenges, and suffering. She had a gift for communicating her emotions to the world through painting. Her paintings are beautiful, often heartbreaking works, and are uniquely her style. Yet she was an amazing woman in her own right, for what she has endured, how she persevered, and how she remains an  inspiration and example of strength. She said,

“I am not sick. I am broken.
But I am happy as long as I can paint.”

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Unforgettable Frida

She died on July 13, 1954 of a blockage in her lungs at age 47.

ColorFULL of Meaning: PURPLE

ColorFULL of Meaning: PURPLE

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This series of posts delves into the meanings, associations, and symbolism of color…starting with the color wheel above.  We have explored the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors…let’s go deeper with those now, and learn a bit about color psychology.  Now that’s a horse of a different color…but not necessarily a dark horse. Off to the colorFULL races. Today let’s play with  magical, mystical, provocative  PURPLE!

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  PURPLE associates with internalization, depth of feeling, dignity, wealth, exclusivity, mysticism, and magic. No wonder we are provoked by it.

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In Europe and America, PURPLE is the color most associated with vanity, extravagance, and individualism. Among the seven major sins, it represents vanity. PURPLE is a color which is designed to attract attention.

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Lighter, and containing more red, PURPLE can become sensual, seductive, secretive, sweet, cosmetic, intimate, and can associate with love. Closer to blue, it can associate with nobility, borne out by its association with royalty, and use in royal garments. It is the color most associated with  royalty. perhaps because  Tyrian purple was expensive. PURPLE is also associated with piety, and is religious color worn by priests.

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According to Max Lüscher /the  Lüscher color test, PURPLE (technically violet, a lighter shade of PURPLE) can also express magic and romance, as expressed above, as well as perception.

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Child of blue and red, PURPLE  suggests blue’s integrity, and red’s strength. PURPLE can also give lonely, mournful and pompous effect, hence its use in Victorian times as a color to be worn after the first year following the loss of a loved one. Certain PURPLE hues can appear, or “feel” unsettling, degenerate, morbid, and narcotic. When very dark in value, PURPLE can appear “strict”.

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As regards to Synesthesia, or  associations with other senses, PURPLE (technically violet)  associates this way: Sound: sad, deep, minor key/light PURPLE – weak and restrained. Temperature: depends on the ratio of red to blue in the hue. Taste/Odor: narcotic, heavy, sweet/light PURPLE – sweetly tangy. Tactile: velvety. Weight: heavy/light PURPLE – light

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On an energetic level, PURPLE (technically violet) corresponds to the vertex chakra, symbolizing wisdom and spiritual energy, and influencing the pituitary gland.

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How do YOU respond to PURPLE? Do You see it as passionate, provocative, pensive or playful? Does it express mourning , morbidity  or money to You? Are You attracted to its magic and mysticism, or penitence and piety?

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Kings and Cardinals have worn PURPLE.  It can express vanity, dignity, strictness and sensuality. PURPLE can seduce, exclude, unsettle and sedate. How do YOU weigh in on this bewitching and complex color which changes its meaning, feel and effect so drastically depending on its hue? What does PURPLE mean to YOU?

ColorFULL of Meaning: ORANGE

ColorFULL of Meaning: ORANGE

Color Wheel

This series of posts delves into the meanings, associations, and symbolism of color…starting with the color wheel above.  We have explored the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors…let’s go deeper with those now, and learn a bit about color psychology.  Now that’s a horse of a different color…but not necessarily a dark horse. Off to the colorFULL races. Today let’s jump into a color that can be both juicy and burnt…can it transcend its own contradictions? Here we go with ORANGE!

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The primary associations of ORANGE are stimulating, happiness, joviality, warmth, sociability, and pleasure. It is lively,  outgoing and energetic. According to Max Lüscher /the  Lüscher color test, ORANGE can also express  competition, excitability, and excitability. Bright ORANGE excites and stimulates,  while light ORANGE cheers. When it is highly saturated, ORANGE can feel intrusive, brash, or aggressive. Next to red, it is the colour most popular for extroverts, and is a symbol of activity

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ORANGE also associates with nature in a way very different than green:  Fall foliage…Autumn leaves,  harvest, (think Halloween pumpkins, Thanksgiving centerpieces replete with brilliant leaves and Indian corn), sunsets, the canyons of the Southwest. Although ORANGE closer to the actual color of fire…red is fire’s symbol (“fiery red”).

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On an energetic level, ORANGE corresponds to the spleen  Chakra, symbolizing energy,  and influencing the heart and the spleen and pancreas.

ORANGE may be used as a color of warning, or caution in temporary and construction signage  specified by the US Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices  A skull with an ORANGE background indicates a toxic substance or poison, possibly also hearkening back to the scary aspect of Halloween. Level ORANGE is second only to level red in the US Department of Homeland Security‘s color system indicating  the threat of terrorist attack.

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ORANGE can stimulate the appetite, and is often seen in the cheerful decor of casual dining establishments. It is the color of a wealth of fruits, vegetables and spices; from oranges (of course)  to carrots to pumpkins to salmon to paprika, and can be a great choice of hue for a variety of eating environments.

In fact, the “…colour orange is named after the appearance of the ripe orange fruit.[2] The word comes from the Old French orenge, from the old term for the fruit, pomme d’orenge. That name comes from the Arabic naranj, through the Persian naranj, derived from the sanskrit naranga.[3] The first recorded use of orange as a colour name in English was in 1512,[4][5] in a will now filed with the Public Record Office. Before this word was introduced to the English-speaking world, the colour was referred to as ġeolurēad (yellow-red)….” the parent colors of ORANGE!

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ORANGE is the hue most visible in dim light, or against the water.  It is  the color of life rafts, life jackets or buoys. It is worn by people wanting to be seen, including highway workers and lifeguards, and people who others want to keep track of, like prisoners (“Orange is the New Black“).  San Francisco’s  Golden Gate Bridge  is painted international orange to make it more visible in the fog that often shrouds the San Francisco Bay.

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As regards to Synesthesia, or  associations with other senses, ORANGE associates this way: Sound: loud, major key. Temperature: warm, flame-like. Taste/Odor: strong. Tactile: dry

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Born of red and yellow, ORANGE enlivens and cheers us, cautions us, encourages us to eat and warns us not to,  illuminates both what we want to see, and wish we didn’t have to. Always warm, and often inviting, ORANGE encourages, expresses, beckons, halts and screams both yes and no.

What does ORANGE mean to YOU?


ColorFULL of Meaning: GREEN

ColorFULL of Meaning: GREEN

Color Wheel

This series of posts delves into the meanings, associations, and symbolism of color…starting with the color wheel above.  We have explored the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors…let’s go deeper with those now, and learn a bit about color psychology.  Now that’s a horse of a different color…but not necessarily a dark horse. Off to the colorFULL races. Let’s delve into the many nuances of not always serene GREEN!

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Melding the happiness of yellow and the dignity of blue, a GREEN centered between it’s “parent” hues, blue and yellow, is calming.

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  GREEN is the most restful color to the eye, as it focuses GREEN exactly on the retina.

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When GREEN holds more yellow then blue, it becomes more stimulating, lighter and less serious,

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and when GREEN contains a higher proportion of blue than yellow, or “leans to the blue”,  it becomes colder.

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As regards to Synesthesia, or  associations with other senses, GREEN associates this way: Sound: dull = muffled, saturated = shrill. Temperature: cool. Taste/Odor: sour/juicy. Tactile: smooth to damp.

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On an energetic level, GREEN corresponds to the fourth, Heart Chakra, Anahata, symbolizing love, sympathy, and harmony,  and influencing the heart and the thymus gland.

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 GREEN associates with  relaxation, calm, freshness, contentment, tranquility, refreshment, quietness and Life! By the same token, it may be used to refer to youth and inexperience, (possibly relating to unripe or GREEN fruit) embodied in the term  “greenhorn“.

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We can also be “GREEN” with jealousy or envy. The expression “green-eyed monster” was first used by William Shakespeare in Othello: “it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Shakespeare also used it in the Merchant of Venice, speaking of “green-eyed jealousy.”[59]

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We associate GREEN nature, strong growth, regeneration, and new life.  However, GREEN is also the color of decay, mold, poison, sickness and death (in humans). How often do we say someone has a “greenish” cast to their skin when they are ill? Do we ever say, something has gone “GREEN” in the refrigerator?

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GREEN can express hope. It can offer a sense of safety and shelter. We may use the term “GREEN light”, when we feel permission to go ahead with something, referring to GREEN traffic lights which signal that it is safe to proceed. Our reaction to GREEN is  emotional AND rational..(apparently these are not mutually exclusive), which shows the tremendous range and complexity of GREEN!

What does GREEN mean to You? Do You like to use it in your work or living spaces, design with it in your marketing materials, or express with it artistically? Do you prefer yellow-GREENS, or blue-GREENS? Or, the “just-right” in-between GREEN?  What about GREEN rooms, and GREEN screens? There’s just too much to talk about…regarding GREEN!

ColorFULL of Meaning: YELLOW

ColorFULL of Meaning: YELLOW

Color Wheel

This series of posts will delve into the meanings, associations, and symbolism of color…starting with the color wheel above.  We have explored the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors…let’s go deeper with those now, and learn a bit about color psychology.  Now that’s a horse of a different color…but not necessarily a dark horse. Off to the colorFULL races. Let’s look now at the not always mellow YELLOW!

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YELLOW associates with happiness, joviality, cheerfulness, optimism, high-spirits, and the sun. Related to light, and the most luminous of colors,  it  can symbolize a bright future, hope, expansiveness, and wisdom. It is also associated with gold, and wealth!

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YELLOW is the color most often associated with the deity in many religions. Let’s remember that in Greek mythology,  Apollo is the god of light and the sun, as well as, truth, music and prophecy.  Perhaps that is where the idea of the “light of truth” originates!  The expansiveness of YELLOW means communication (which means mental and spiritual enlightenment).  It is the color of mail boxes in many places, and a symbol for the gods’ messenger, Mercury“You might have noticed the prevalence of the color yellow in stones and plants. YELLOW is a color of intellect and clarity. Wear yellow when you’re having a fuzzy-minded spell. Mercury’s attention is attracted to yellow, and offers clarity in response to it.”

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When too strong, it can become glaring (think of about glaring sunshine). It is the color that most captures our attention, and thus can express egoism and madness. It is used to indicate caution, as the Green “GO” light turns YELLOW as a warning before it turns Red, demanding  that we stop! It is the color of pedestrian crossings  more easily seen than white. YELLOW is also used to express cowardice, jealousy and betrayal (“Yellow-bellied“)

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In the world of advertising (and thus branding and marketing),  YELLOW communicates  activity and cheerfulness, expansiveness, search for new horizons, and  communication. Our reaction to YELLOW is primarily emotional. It alerts us, and activates out attention,and combined with  black, it communicates warning: think about bumblebees, black and YELLOW signage, the coloring of certain wild cats. Although we may respond to YELLOW with philosophical detachment, and also can awaken our anticipation.

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As regards to Synesthesia, or  associations with other senses, YELLOW associates this way: Sound – shrill, major key. Temperature –  hot/warm. Taste/Odor – sour. Tactile – smooth. Weight – light.

On an energetic level, YELLOW corresponds to the Solar Plexus Chakra, symbolizing knowledge and intellect, as well as being the seat of tension. It influences the solar plexus and the adrenal body.

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In conclusion, I am wishing you the happiness, enlightenment,  wealth and clarity of YELLOW, minus any egoism, betrayal or cowardice that this complex color associates with. May your paths be expansive, luminous, and paved with gold, or at least…YELLOW brick!

ColorFULL of Meaning: BLUE

ColorFULL of Meaning: BLUE

Color Wheel

The next series of posts will delve into the meanings, associations, and symbolism of color…starting with the color wheel above.  We have explored the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors…let’s go deeper with those now, and learn a bit about color psychology.  Now that’s a horse of a different color…but not necessarily a dark horse. Off to the colorFULL races. Today let’s look at and feel the confidence-inspiring hue of BLUE!

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 BLUE can symbolize  calm and relaxation, security and comfort, tranquility, truth, spirituality and wisdom. It can feel sober, contemplative, and maternal. Nobility, dignity, poise, and reserve can all be associated or symbolized by hues of BLUE.

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BLUE can also be frightening, depressing, cold, melancholy and sad. We speak of Having the blues.

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We associate BLUE with passivity, quietness, wetness, cleanliness, having no odor, mental reflection,  sea and sky.  Light blue especially may associate with yearning or longing, as in the song lyrics, “Blue, blue, my world is blue…”

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BLUE can symbolize “The best”.  Think  blue ribbon (winning first place!) and blue chip (enduring, and of high quality and value) companies and stock.

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In the world of advertising (and thus branding and marketing),  BLUE communicates trustworthiness,  security, and quality, and is used to inspire confidence. BLUE may stimulate consciousness, consideration, and decision.  Our reaction to it is  primarily rational.  It expresses seriousness, clarification, certainty, and satisfaction.

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As regards to Synesthesia, or  associations with other senses, BLUE associates this way: Sound:  distant, flute to violin. Temperature: cool. Taste/Odor: no odor. Tactile: smooth to not solid. Weight: relatively light.

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On an energetic level, BLUE corresponds to the Larynx  Chakra, symbolizing religious inspiration, creativity, language and communication.  It influences the thyroid gland.

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Pale blue, royal blue, true blue, feeling blue, which BLUE are You? The answer to this may only be found moment to moment, as our moods, and our associations change with our feelings and circumstances. As we found in our exploration of RED, colors may be inflected many different ways, and even contain within themselves systems of opposites (associating with both Love and Hate, for example). Mysterious and ever fascinating, our study, knowledge and experience of color is ever-unfolding, a journey, rather than a destination.