My studio is filled with an interesting array of materials in a wide array of colors, including ceramic tile, stained glass, millefiori, and filati, to name a few. When I create mosaic jewelry, choosing a color palette can be a daunting task. I tend to gravitate towards a Mediterranean palette though I consciously try to branch out into palettes that might not feel as comfortable to me. Why do we gravitate towards certain colors and shy away from others? While I don’t think anyone can really answer this question with 100% accuracy since we all have our own unique histories that most likely contribute to why we prefer certain colors over others, I do think it is worth noting that studies overwhelmingly demonstrate that color influences our emotions and human behavior.
Years ago, I worked as a counselor at a children's group home. The administration painted the clients’ rooms a light green to help promote relaxation. The change in wall color did seem to have a positive impact on clients' moods, though there were of course other variables.
I have noticed that when I’m creating pieces using light green hues, I feel a sense of serenity. I wonder how many artists stop to think about the colors they are working with and how working with those colors impacts their daily lives.
For instance, when I work in a Mediterranean palette (terra cotta, yellow, turquoise, sea blue, bronze, copper, red-orange), I feel exuberant, energized, and warm! I am often pleased with the pieces I create, I think as a result of how working with those colors makes me feel. When I force myself to work with colors that don’t bring me joy, I tend to not be as pleased with the end result.
Below is an admittedly simplistic,yet fun, diagram of some basic colors and their associations to give you an idea of how color is thought to influence emotions and behaviors.
A simple Google search will reveal numerous theories on the topic of color psychology, ranging from basic assertions as to how color impacts emotions, to scholarly studies that detail the complexity of making simple assertions about the impact of color on human emotions. Clearly, color and human response is complex and multilayered, thus open to a range of factors such as cultural, contextual, and individual differences. For instance, a Westerner might view the color red very differently than an Easterner due to cultural influences.
With that in mind, I invite you to think about how color impacts you. If you are an artist working with color, do you notice whether or not working with certain colors affects your mood? I’d like to share a few results from scientific studies on color psychology, however, keep in mind, scientific method is not free of flaws though these insights have been published in reputable academic journals. If nothing else, enjoy the following insights and compare them with how you feel.
Researchers studied the influence of color in educational environments. Results showed that, while participants assessed the situation as relaxed, calm, and pleasant in pale color conditions (pale reds, blues, and yellows), reading scores were significantly higher in vivid color conditions (vivid reds, blues, yellows). Heart rates increased significantly in the red and yellow conditions whereas blue increased relaxation and calm feelings. (Al-Ayash et al., 2016)
The next time you come across or think about a color, whether you are drawn to that color or not, I invite you to take a moment to explore how that color makes you feel. You may even take it one step further and explore why you feel a certain way about that color. You may not have an answer, but perhaps your own exploration will provide you with insight as to how color impacts your daily life.
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