ColorFULL of Meaning: RED

ColorFULL of Meaning: RED

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 color FULL races…starting with the ever powerful, ever provocative, unique hue of RED….

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The primary associations we make with RED  are heat, fire  and blood, (“red-handed”),

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and by further association, wounds, pain, war, victims, and revolution, warmth, sunset, the  tropics, excitement, and enthusiasm.  Have you ever spoken in a “fiery” manner, or been told, “You’ve got fire in your belly!”?

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In Astrology, RED is associated with  Aries, the hot-tempered, impatient, aggressive leader,  and is the symbolic color for  Mars, god of war.  We know what color Mars the planet is!

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RED also associates with life, love, passion, activity, devotion, eroticism, strength and sacrifice,

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as well as aggression, intensity, fierceness, destruction and death.  Covering the gamut, RED is a color of extremes.

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Physiologically RED energizes, stimulates, excites, initially raises blood pressure, and stimulates the appetite. A good choice of color for dining rooms, restaurants, and other eating areas.

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RED can be provocative, (waving the  red flag at the bull to get it to charge),  a call to action, the signal of revolution. It is the color of combat, rebellion and dominance.

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RED can be the color of hate…

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or the color of love…

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Attention-getting RED may be the most  dynamic of all colors, dominating other hues. It is used across cultures in branding, marketing, publicity and advertising.

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The lens of the eye has to adjust to focus red light wavelengths, thus RED advances, making  red objects seem closer then they actually are.

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On an energetic level, RED corresponds to the Basis Chakra, symbolizing life, fertility, and reproduction,  and influencing the sex glands and organs.

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As regards to Synesthesia, or  associations with other senses RED associates this way: Sound- loud, trumpet. Temperature: warm-hot. Taste/Odor: sweet, strong. Tactile: firm, solid. Weight: heavy.

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On a psychological level, RED is instinctive, and sets an alarm mood. Our reaction to it is primarily emotional.

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In short, RED is a powerful color, the color of power, and through our own experience on all levels shows us the Power of Color!

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Tertiaries: Color Fusion

Tertiaries: Color Fusion

Color Wheel

Recent post explored and celebrated the  Primary Colors and the Secondary Colors.  Today, we play with  those magical fusions of hue, the Tertiary Colors.

Tertiary1Red-orange

Tertiary2Red-violet

Tertiary3Blue-violet

Tertiary4Blue-green

Tertiary5Yellow-green

Tertiary6Yellow-orange

Tertiary colors are created by mixing one primary color, with one secondary color. The names of these mixtures describe their components: Red-orange, Red-Violet, Blue-violet, Blue-green, Yellow-green, Yellow-orange, as depicted above.

The Tertiary color star below lays them all out beautifully and clearly, expressing and elucidating the Traditional painting (RYB, or “Red, Yellow, Blue”) color relationships and mixtures.

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TertiaryCThe Tertiaries play out in nature…red-orange leaves show the glory of Fall.

TertiaryDThis exterior palette showcases hues of both red and blue-violet.

TertiaryEBlue-green expresses fresh and clean…fused as it is, from the colors of grass, new growth,  water and sky.

TertiaryB2Gradations of yellow-green look like the green grass was mixed with sunlight.

TertiaryAThis yellow-orange garage door brilliantly punctuates its gray exterior, creating an accent as powerful as the sun.

What tertiary colors have You used? I hope this post has illuminated these hues for You, and shown You their important place in the RYB color pantheon.

Secondary Colors are Primary Too

Secondary Colors are Primary Too

After posting last week about the Primary Colors (in the paint, print,  dye sense…as opposed to the “light” sense)…I had to give some color time to those marvelous combos of primary colors…the ever-loving, and equally important secondaries!

Web1Purple = Red + Blue

Web2Green= Blue + Yellow

Web3Orange = Yellow + Red

Color WheelInterestingly…the complimentary colors are comprised of colors that are directly opposite, or across from each other on the color wheel.  They are diametrically opposed…complete opposites. These dramatic duets are composed of the pairing of one primary color, and one secondary.  Since each secondary is composed of two primaries, complimentary pairs contain all three primaries between them, and effectually “cancel out” each other’s color properties (I.E.- “neutralize” each other), when mixed.

Web7On the contrary, when placed next or in proximity to each other, secondaries can create brilliant, arresting, and “can’t get enough of it’ color palettes. Seeing Green, orange and purple all together, adding brightness to a house exterior, well, it just wakes up your senses, ready or not!

Web5Purple and orange share a red “parent” color in common. The other two primaries, blue and yellow, are expressed within them as their other color “parents”. That brilliant, hot orange packs the proverbial palette punch as an unexpected accent and frame to the softer purple house body color.

Web6Here we have a pale orange (salmon), with a teal green, punctuated by bright purple flowers. Without the exuberant purple blooms nestled amongst their own green leaves, this exterior color palette might descend into the realm of the ho-hum.

Web8Orange (here with a rosy glow) and green share yellow as one half of each of their wholes.  It is almost impossible for yellow not to add warmth, relating, as it does, to the radiance and heat of the sun. The palette here is integrated with the green leaves of the foliage, which makes the warm rosy orange stand out all the more.

Have You designed solely with secondaries?  What have You come up with?  Working with secondaries, which express, but indirectly, the primaries they contain within them, can create strong, edgy color designs.  Perhaps not for the faint of color heart, but guaranteed to move your blood. A powerful way to tell a color story.

Compliments of the House, Inside and Out

Compliments of the House Inside and Out

Thinking about systems of opposites..which is exactly what complimentary colors are..colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.

Sets of compliments are created from the combination of one of the three primary colors (those which cannot be mixed from any other colors: Red, Yellow, Blue), and one of the secondary colors (a color created from a combination of two of the primaries: Green, Orange, and Purple).

Color Wheel

Red and Green, Blue and Orange, and Yellow and Purple are the complimentary sets.  These powerful pairs play together in any number of ways. Like the relationship of black to white, they set each other off when placed next to each other, and “neutralize” each other when mixed together, creating potentially gorgeous  hues of gray.

Pairs of compliments can be used to great effect, and are big fun to design with. They can be used as accents, as a background and an accent, to create a sense of drama, or just to wake up our senses.  They can be found in nature…think of a field of red poppies amidst green grasses, a glowing orange sun sinking past a midnight blue horizon, a creamy yellow moon rising against a velvety purple sky.

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Green leaves outside and green window shades  inside set off the red and cream hand-painted design atop a Northern California Benihana Restaurant.

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We can almost taste the predominant apple green in this San Francisco Blush Organic Frozen Yogurt, and its intensity is heightened by the streaks of red framing the counter.

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“Pale” red…or, pink…sets off the strong, brilliant, almost fluorescent looking green. Because this pink is softer and paler than red, the intensity of putting the two together is mitigated, and gives the sense of Springtime holidays, rather than those of Winter!

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Here it is the green that is softer than the red…a minty, slightly earthy hue that relieves the strong pinky red, but also allows it to remain dominant.

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Copper, a form of orange, frames the mottled blue of this entryway and makes it pop.

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The strong orange accent brings the weathered blue into focus, and is framed by it, the whole softened by white.

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Copper against blue, mottled with a rusty hue illustrates the opposite effects of complimentary pairs: The orangey copper stands out against its blue compliment, which is  toned down by the addition of orangey red sponged over it.

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Orange and blue, the colors of fire and water (themselves opposites), work together to create a sense of drama in this otherworldly setting. or is it a film set?

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The new Dunn Edwards Paints Store in Marina Del Rey, CA uses the tension of opposites between orange and multiple blues to great effect!

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Turquoise and brick red, another version of the blue and orange complimentary pair play well together on this house in the foggy Sunset District of San Francisco.

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Gold and purple, a version of the compliments yellow and purple, are both associated with royalty, which add to their sense of drama, intensity, and just plain awesomeness when paired.

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The yellow ceiling gradates to orange, and provides sharp contrast to the purply-wine walls. Those who live here would have to love strong color!

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Creamy yellow both accents and relieves the dominant  periwinkle hue making it easier for our eye to rest upon it, and also more visually arresting. A beautiful combination!

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The yellow/purple compliments of ochre and wine, relieved and softened by white, accent the multitudinous ornament of this Victorian in glorious detail.  Without the white though,  the intensity might be tiring to our eyes. The white soothes and frames the punch that the complimentary relationship packs.

How have You used compliments, and the complimentary relationship in your creative endeavors? Architecture, design, color consulting…personal art and craft pieces?  Please share and enjoy, compliments of the house!

Color for All Reasons I

Color for All Reasons I

We have so many situations in our lives when we are called upon to make color decisions.  Whether it be for our homes, our appearance, our mode of transport, our creative endeavors, our web presence, or our work….the colors we choose play a huge role in our lives.

Our color choices both express us…from the inside out, as well as affect how we are viewed..from the outside in.  Thus in our creative expressions, the “branding” of our businesses, and the sum total of our visual identities, color is a defining factor that communicates who we are, where we are at, and who we aspire to be, simultaneously.

I  recently had the opportunity to work with a beloved colleague who needed a color consultation for her marketing client.  The color purple had been chosen for the client’s logo, but my colleague thought the purple hue could be tweaked a bit, and wanted both a suggestion for a color to compliment the purple, as well as information on the meaning of the recommended colors.

After reading about the client and her business, and viewing the logo and the initial color of purple chosen, I knew the appropriate compliment was just that, the compliment of purple: yellow (well…gold/ochre tones of yellow).  Complimentary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel, and just like black and white these dynamic duos set each other off, and well, compliment each other!

I know that blue would be too cool, and too close to purple, as it is one of its components. The same for red. I knew orange would be too bold with the purple, and green too varied.  All of these could be beautiful combinations, but not for the purpose we were trying to achieve, the communication of the client’s brand, or as I like to think of it, her essence; that which she has to offer.  It had to be gold…in an earthy, ochre tonality.  One way to tone down, or “kick back”  (bring down the intensity and brightness) of a color is to add a quotient of its complement, or opposite…in this case, purple!

I also recommended warming up the cool, ethereal shade of purple initially chosen by the client by upping its quotient of red, which would work well with the earthy tone of gold/ochre I suggested.

The meaning of the recommended colors was accessed from a number of vantage points, in regards to everything I was given to understand about the client, her message, her intentions, her history and life experience, her current situation, and future intentions, as well as her hopes, plans and purpose.  The colors had to reflect and communicate all of these, and feel completely authentic to her as well.

Please tune back in next week for part two of our series Color for all Reasons, and learn about the meaning of the colors for this very special client and her business. You can learn how You  can access the  colors that you choose from a variety of perspectives, that can illuminate, support and enrich your color choices, and hopefully make them less agonizing.

What color choices have YOU had to make lately, and how have you made them?

If You feel so inclined, please share about them with us here.

We love to hear from you.

Remember, we are all adding color to this thing called Life, together.

Thanks for joining us on the journey…

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Colors that Advance and Recede



Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Colors that Advance and Recede

On March 20, 2011, during our Color Muze segment on Artistically Speaking Talk Show, I had the opportunity to chat with hosts  Rebecca and Lyna‘s delightful guest, mixed media artist Kelli Perkins about color temperature, colors that advance and recede, and the relationship between the two.  Playing off our previous discussions of “Synesthesia“, or, “The Unity of the Senses“, the idea that colors provoke associations our senses other than sight, during this Muze, we focused on which colors seem to advance, and which to recede.  This effect is particularly salient as regards to architectural color, as it can be used to make a space feel larger,

or smaller….

For example, if we paint the walls a color that seems to advance towards us, the space itself will feel smaller.  Doing the opposite can create the opposite effect.  This technique can be used in any visual context.  Using colors that advance and recede can create movement or stillness, dynamism or placidity, agitation or peacefulness, in paintings, textiles, clothing, or anything that uses color as an element.  Artists, take this to heart.  Kelli does use color!  Warm, saturated, and often secondary (purple, green, orange) color!  She uses it intuitively and instinctively, even giving herself luminescent purple hair in a self-portrait.  Check it out, you have to see this!

But what makes a color seem to advance or recede?   And, what qualities do those colors have?

Well, for one thing, how warm or cool a color is perceived to be plays a major role.   If we consider the color wheel, we can see a warm half of the wheel,  red through yellow-green, and a cool half, green through red-violet.  In terms of our perception, warm colors seem to advance, and cool, to recede.  When we talk about color “pop”, it refers to the advancing quality of that color, making it “pop” out at us, like the brilliant orange vase in this room.

Warm to hot colors will seem to advance, making the surfaces sheathed in them seem to be closer to you, thus making a room seem smaller, cozier, and, of course, warmer.  Often, we want this, and a cavernous space may need it to feel livable.

Cool to cold colors will seem to recede, making the surfaces they sheath feel farther away from us, thus visually adding space, or volume, to a room.  This sense of space can be calming and refreshing, especially on a hot day!

By the same token, dark, saturated colors advance and make a space feel smaller, and more intimate,

while pale, light colors, with less saturation add volume by receding. offering a sense of spaciousness, and potentially, rest and relief.

And for sure…strong, bold busy pattern advances!  This intimate boudoir becomes yet more magical, fantastical and fun with the addition of this totally HOT fabric wallpaper and curtain!

Smaller, more subdued pattern also recedes.  Here the cool blue elegance of the drapes is warmed up by the detail, which brings them to the same plane as the surrounding white walls.  The walls themselves recede in lightness of color, advance  in warmth of tone, and recede  in absence of pattern!  Wow.  This advancing and receding stuff can be complex.  Almost like a math problem. But, ooh, how fun to contemplate!

An interesting discovery can be made when considering our use of language, vis-a-vis not only color, but temperature, AND the idea of advancing and receding.  Let’s listen to what we say, what we think, and how we describe relationships, or even our own emotions  and personalities.  When someone, or even our self, is being or feeling cool, or cold, we often describe that behavior as distant.  Or, visa versa, if someone seems remote, or distant, we may jump to the conclusion that they are “cold” or “cool”,  emotionally. We may even feel cold or cool ourselves, when we feel emotionally distant from another person, experience,  or something we see, or do.

Conversely, when we feel intimate and close to others, to our experience, to ourselves, to Life,  we may feel warm, or even hot (!).  How often do we say, “I feel so cool and cozy!”?  Never, I would venture to guess.  Not if we aren’t characters in a J K Rowling fantasy!  When we feel warmth towards or from another person, they feel “close” to us, and we feel close to them. .  It would be hard to feel close to someone, to our authentic selves, or to our experience, and feel cool or cold. When we say, “Person X is so warm, I feel so close to him/her.”, we are equating emotional temperature with emotional proximity, and the idea of emotional color advancing and receding within ourselves and others.

There is much to contemplate here, and this could be the subject of a whole new post.  Have you ever felt the temperature effect, either emotionally, or physically, through color?  Have you used color deliberately, to expand or contract the perceived volume of a space? Have you noticed your own telling use of language to describe either?

If you feel so inspired, please share your insights, discoveries, and experiences with us here.  We love to hear from you.

Remember, we are all, hopefully, advancing through this thing called Life, together.

Here’s wishing you both color and emotional mastery, magic and adventure.  It’s hot!