Color is a language we all speak. In art, it becomes a tool for expression. The choice of colors tells a lot about who the artist is and what they want to say. Consider the use of color between the two artists, Jackson Pollock and Claude Monet. Pollock’s canvases are completely covered with splashes of bright colors. He lived “out loud,” energetic, full of emotion. When looking at a Pollock piece you can almost feel his personality. Yet, even though Monet’s paintings have color, they are muted, pastel-like, resulting in a more calming effect by the viewer.
Within the study of psychology, there have been developments that enhance our understanding of color perception. Remember the interiors of the old IHOP restaurants? The walls and booths were covered in loud, bold, mismatched colors. This was to create an environment that didn’t encourage settling in, the theory was to turn over the customers often and keep them from lingering.
Color psychology is used in many aspects of our lives. It is used to manipulate and create a desired response. For example, within the prison system certain colors are chosen hoping to create a more calming environment. This is also applied within our schools. Can you imagine a classroom with the walls painted a bright red? It might be hard to expect the students to stay quiet and focused.
The manipulation of color is all around us. Consider the fashion and automotive industry. Most women know of the use of color in a wardrobe, how some colors appear to put pounds on a figure and other colors tend to give a slender appearance. Then, there is the myth (or perhaps it is true) that red cars are more likely to get speeding tickets than cars of a different color. This is based on the theory that red is more “exciting” and leads the driver to be more of a risk taker.
Take notice of colors in your life and how they might be manipulating you without you really being aware. And when viewing art, consider the artist’s color choices and how they may be guiding you to a better understanding of their work. There is power in color.