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Color psychology-Part One-ARTSY JOURNEY #20

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Kate Moynihan | 0 comments

Color psychology is the study of various color as it affects human behavior.

I was intrigued studying the effects of color in art class at Bismarck State College. Perhaps it was my medical background as a nurse that made me passionate about it. That, and the fact my collegiate professor, Randal Simon, was dedicated to color.

He not only spoke about the power of color, but had personal stories of the use of color as a manipulating tool during his capture as a POW in Viet Nam. Through his emotional experiences and in-depth study, our class learned a lot about color.

Physiology – how color works: We see color when reflected light hits the light-sensitive retina at the back of your eye. The human retina consists of cones (which are responsible for your ability to see color), and rods (which respond to light levels.)

Your eye is like a fingerprint. Each individual has a different number of cones and rods. One person sees a fuller or different color spectrum and value of a color that another cannot see. Think: color blindness - a deficiency of color vision, usually referring to the inability to see a distinction between red and green.

Emotional Capability of Color: Randal believed, and others have studied, too, this unique composition of cones and rods in the anatomy of your eye is why everyone reacts differently to color. Certain colors, such as red, which is known to emanate an energetic feel, can raise an individual’s blood pressure a bit more than someone else’s. Think again about the "color-blind" individual. For them, seeing red and green as shades of gray, the emotional effect of energetic red will have less of an impact.

Using techniques similar to a polygraph, which measures and records physiological indicators such as pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and skin conductivity, an individual’s “base” color can be determined. This base color is the certain shade of a specific color an individual reacts most intensely. Some researchers believe discovering an individual’s base color is a tool so powerful it can be used as a brainwashing technique.

Like Randal’s POW personal experiences, your personal background might be associated with color, making the emotional effects of color more powerful, especially if your personal history was fearful or life threatening. 

This theory of reacting to color lets us understand why you may respond to certain colors in a specific way. You may feel powerful wearing a bright red tie or dress, while the next person is uncomfortable is such a bold color.

It is also interesting that 90% of our first impressions are derived from color. Take for instance the colors a friend chooses to decorate their home. If you find the colors comforting, you may discover that the colors are similar to what you purchase, not just for your décor, but for your car and fashion, too.

Art For The Sake of Color: Impressed with the power of color, I began creating more abstract art pieces using torn papers, thinking the mix of colors might engage customers. I had several pieces at the Elan Gallery show and people did respond positively.

Building on this success of color-driven torn paper collages, I began focusing on décor color trends of the early 1990’s: mauve and gray, peach and blue combinations. I proudly called these collages: “Couch Colors,” assuming if I matched the customers’ preference in home décor, I would be matching their base color comfort needs.

 It was exciting for me to enrich someone’s life even if it meant color mixing their exact shade of blue wall paint or fabric. I was drifting from my studies of the historical master painters and their mediums, and although I had the utmost respect for them, I was very comfortable working with color and textures alone, even if some critics felt I was “going commercial” instead of painting art for art sake.

But I found listening to my customers’ needs, was not only fulfilling, but challenging. I couldn’t have been happier.

Your Response To Color: To this day, I still marvel at the masters, and yet my greatest inspiration comes from you. It is exciting to take my style and respond to your passion for color. Some of you respond purely by the psychology of color, choosing an abstract piece. And sometimes, there is more composition, anchored with harmony or contrasting colors . 

What colors do you respond to? 

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