An Introduction to Color Theory

Color theory is the science and art of using color. Color is a powerful element in art when used effectively as it can invoke specific emotions; be sure to check out my blog on color psychology. For artists, painters, and designers, color theory provides guidance on the relationship between colors and the physiological impacts of certain color combinations. By understanding color theory, you will better understand the relationship between colors and how we perceive them.  Color theory is complex, but today’s blog will cover just the basics. 

The general principles of color theory have existed since the 15th century, evident in the writings of figures including Leone Battista Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci. It wasn’t until the start of the 17th century that Sir Isaac Newton developed the first color wheel, a powerful tool still used to this day. Altogether, the color wheel consists of 12 colors: three primary colors, three secondary colors, and six tertiary colors. 

Primary colors allow artists to mix virtually any color on the spectrum. These are the building blocks for all other colors and cannot be created by mixing any other pigments. The primary colors are blue, yellow, and red. Secondary colors are created when any two of the primary colors. They are equidistant from each other on the color wheel and are orange, green, and violet. Tertiary colors are formed when mixing a primary color with a secondary color. 

There are a few terms in color theory that you will encounter, including hue, value, and saturation. Hue refers to the “root” color, and is often used similarly to color. It generally refers to the dominant wavelength of color out of the twelve colors on the color wheel. For example, the hue of navy is blue, or for burgundy, its hue is red. Value refers to how light or dark a color is. A color can be lightened with the addition of white and darkened by adding black. However, different colors can have the same value! Saturation is a measure of a color’s intensity or purity. To reduce the saturation of a color,  add grey or the color that is opposite of your color on the wheel. Adding the opposite color essentially neutralizes the colors, thus making it less intense. 

The Intricate Tragedy of Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh is possibly one of the most talented painters of all time. He certainly is one of the most well known in art history, his story and life as tragically beautiful as his bold impressionist art work.

Van Gogh was born in the rolling hills of Groot-Zundert, Holland on March 30, 1853. The son of a pastor, he was brought up in a very religious and cultured environment. As a boy, Vincent was categorized as highly emotional, self-conscious, and struggled with his life’s calling. At first, he believed that he was called to preach the gospel message like his father, before discovering his true calling was to be an artist. Between 1860 and 1880, around the time of his blossoming into art, he already had a multitude of failed romances and job prospects.

In 1886 he joined his brother Theo in Paris and got connected with the art community. He tried to copy the style of techniques of other artists but failed in those endeavors as well. The mounting stress, failure, and mental health issues landed him in the asylum in Saint-Remy for treatment. During his time in the asylum, he painted some of the most beautiful and notable art pieces of his career. After he recovered, he continued to paint and express himself through his art.

He was never a successful painter during his life. Selling less than a dozen paintings, living in malnourished poverty, and struggling consistently with mental health. He took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890, wanting nothing more than to the end of it all.

One of Vincent Van Gogh’s death’s most heartbreaking parts was that he died believing his artwork was worthless. His neighbors, fellow artists, and family members considered him a time-wasting madman. He barely sold any paintings, and left this world thinking he failed. Not knowing that he would become one of the most beautiful and intricate artistic icons of not only the impressionist movement but in most of art history.

When you look at the last three years of Vincent’s art, you see something incredible. His technique grew more and more impassioned, his brushstrokes dramatic and frenzied. His use of color and surface tension was simply mesmerizing. His inimitable work was full of imagination and pure unbridled emotion. Looking at his artwork is like listening to a lonley violin solo or witnessing a dramatic play come to life; it kidnaps your attention and your heart. Through fits of madness and deep depression, Vincent took the pain of life and translated it into a pure ecstasy of color. Pain is easy to portray on a canvas, the blues and blacks like a familiar rhythm tapped on the heartstrings of the human experience. But Vincent Van Gogh took the crushing pain of reality and turned it into the beauty of life.. One of the most dramatic and skilled processes an artist can ever hope to achieve. Vincent did it naturally, genuinely, and honestly. Like puzzle pieces falling together, all leading to the same conclusion, the brilliance of Vincent Van Gogh.

The Psychology Of Color (1)

The human brain is an incredible and complex system. We are continually taking in stimuli and processing on both subconscious and conscious levels. One aspect of natural life that we are always aware of, are colors. Our brain processes colors and what they mean every time we see a sweater, a piece of furniture, or a painting. Artist and marketing agencies alike are very aware that colors carry a psychological connotation. Commercials, advertisements, clothing brands, art shoes all use the psychology of color to appeal to an individual. 

 

Color psychology is defined as how colors affect perceptions and behaviors. The practice of color psychology is mostly dependent on how we use color to be primarily dependent on the experiences we have. We can’t assume that red represents passion for everyone. When we look at overall experiences for different demographics or geographical locations, we can make an educated guess on what common life experiences they are experiencing. From there, we can build a color profile on what colors may link to what feelings, thoughts, and memories. The bottom line is, there are no clearcut answers to which colors will be the most effective.

 

When creating an ad, marketing opportunity, or piece that needs to appeal to the human eye, try using some of these color categories in your art. 

 

Red

Red is a color that captures attention and draws the eye to it. Red is associated with danger, passion, energy, and action. In color, psychology red is usually classified as the most standout color. Famous brands like coco-cola and Youtube use red to draw attention to the product.

 

Yellow

The meaning behind yellow revolves around warmth and light. It evokes feelings of excitement, happiness, optimism, and positivity. Yellow is a cheery color that provides happy vibes and feelings. 

 

Keep an eye out for next month’s blog, where we will delve deeper into the psychology of color.

 

Art and Emotions

Humans have spent thousands of years using art forms to express. In European caves dating back to the Ice Age, we see cave drawings used to tell stories and communicate history. In Ancient Greecian tapestry, we are immersed in the legends of gods and heroes. In Egyptian pottery, we explore the rise and fall of kings and queen. The renaissance is full of expression and beauty captured in architecture. In the Impressionist era, Vincent Van Gogh translates the pain of a tormented life into beautiful works of realism and ecstasy. We have thousands of examples of humans translating their stories, emotions, and memories into art, but often miss the return. Art can also pour back into us. 

 

Emotions are defined as “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others” and “instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.” An emotional response is easily invoked by anything that is measured by our five senses, especially by the things we see. Feeling any emotion is a qualitative state that is primarily measured by a change in feeling, blood pressure, heart rate, activity, among other things. 

 

According to multiple psychological studies, color can affect our mood. An entire field called color psychology looks at how different colors affect our emotions. Red projects a message of confidence and boldness, while yellow communicates a happy and bright message. The very colors in art can affect our mood and portray an emotion to us.  

 

Many art pieces that are admired today are portraying some message or memory. Some of the most famous pieces of art are depicting a scene or image. What we see directly affects our emotions. We are always in a state of feeling something. So when we look at different art pieces, a portrayed scene can bring forth a memory or thought process that comes with its own unique emotional cocktail. 

 

When we create works of art, we pour our emotions, memories, pain, and desires into our creation. We can put forth so much time and effort into what we do, and our art continues to communicate even after we finish it. Not only do we pour out into our craft, but our art pours back into us. Thus, a beautiful cycle of expression is maintained. 

The World’s Best Street Art

Today, many cities commission artists to decorate walls, utility boxes, and selective areas as part of their beautification program. However, there are still artists and gangs around the world leaving their mark on the walls of their neighborhoods. Either way, street art has gained world recognition.

 

Street art has gained popularity in its expressive and uncensored nature. It also allows free viewing for those who are less inclined to visit a museum. Art within the environment is more likely to be seen and appreciated. These are five cities around the world with the most expressive street art.

 

Los Angeles

 

The City of Los Angeles considers graffiti illegal. Bold text and gang tags divide neighborhoods. As a result, L.A. commissions local artists to paint over graffiti and decorate its massive murals with colorful street art. Downtown’s Art District welcomes Latino heritage art on walls under freeways and neighborhoods. Guided tours are available to tourists for a more intimate look at the art on the walls.

 

London

 

North London in Camden or the Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo are two places where street art is prevalent in London. The street art scene is huge in the neighborhoods of Shoreditch and Hackney. They are London’s locales for spray-painted walls such as Michelin-starred restaurants. Visitors can take a tour of Shoreditch to see London’s best artists.

 

Mexico City

 

Mexico City is the home to the most poetic, political, and traditional street art. Its neighborhoods of Juárez, Roma, and Condesa are known for the giant vivid murals. History and Latino culture are captured on the walls of businesses. Tours guided by graffiti artists are the best way to see Mexican art.

 

Buenos Aires

 

Both international and local artists have left their creative mark on massive murals on the streets of Buenos Aires. Political, traditional, and light-hearted collages adorn various neighborhoods (barrios). The barrios of San Telmo and Colegiales Crespos depict historical urban movements. Guided tours are the best way to connect street art with each barrio.

 

Berlin

 

Berlin’s graffiti-covered walls date back to the Cold War. The hip Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg borough houses the remaining stretch of what was once the Berlin Wall. Today it is known as Berlin’s East Side Gallery where 3-D street art adorns the facades of business and buildings. Visiting this neighborhood is the best way to explore Berlin’s art