Do you feel the same way: When you see a nicely sorted collection of acrylic paints in an art supply store, your heart rises? A box of colored pencils or chalks in all colors makes your heart beat faster? The earthy shades of the ocher quarries in the French Roussillion put you in a color frenzy? Special evening sky moods make you rave about? A wonderful set with pigments will set off a head cinema, what could you paint with it? Clear case: you are infected with the color virus like me. Sometimes I just want to own and guard these special materials like the apple of my eye. For example the XL box of water-soluble oil pastels that I just wanted to look at and not use because they were so expensive. Or the wooden box with the pigment jars bought directly in the south of France to take the beautiful colors home with you.

 

I suppose your heart beats for color too, otherwise you wouldn’t have ended up here with this article.

But today I would like to look at color from very different angles.

 

Color perception

From a physiological point of view, color is the reception of stimuli from the eye’s cone systems. These stimuli are first converted into opposing colors . In the brain , these arousal patterns are interpretable as colors t.

From a psychological point of view, color is not only the processing of external sensory stimuli by the retina or brain function, but can also be viewed as a product of the subconscious (nervous system) and as stored information.

Source: Bildsprache 1, Kerner and Duroy, p. 112

Scientists have been trying to fathom and analyze the phenomenon of color vision for centuries. The research of Isaac Newton (1643-1727) forms the basis for our understanding of color today. The English doctor Thomas Young (1773 – 18299 was the first to recognize that color is a sensation .

Source: Imagery 1, Kerner and Duroy

Color systems

There were already attempts to organize the colors in systems in antiquity.

The poet (and natural scientist) Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) also studied the phenomenon of color for a long time. Among other things, he dealt with the “sensual and moral effect of colors. So he classified yellow in the category “serious / dignified, warm” as cheerful and cheerful, or blue in the category gracious / grace, dark as receding, pleasant and empty.

Johannes Itten (1888-1967) worked as a master at the Bauhaus and his theory of the 7 color contrasts is taught to this day.

Harald Küppers (born 1926) developed another color concept . It was of the opinion that in Itten’s color wheel, the shades designated as basic colors are not really basic colors, but mixed shades. Incidentally, I also agree. All other shades can be mixed from the primary colors primary cyan, primary yellow and primary magenta . Not from Itten’s basic shade of red, as this color consists of yellow and magenta.

Source: Duden Art – Basic Knowledge School

In the past centuries, however, color often had an additional symbolic value. This symbolism can have a completely different meaning in other cultures and can be understood differently. The meanings have also changed over time: For example, red was seen as the color of the devil in the Middle Ages and green was the color of love.

The effect and the symbolic meaning of the colors:

Source: Duden Art – Basic Knowledge School

Yellow looks warm, cheerful, extroverted and the symbolic meaning can be friendliness and optimism as well as recklessness, envy and jealousy.

Orange looks exotic, lively and active and stands for joy, liveliness and fun.

Red is very exciting, powerful and sometimes eccentric and symbolizes power, passion, love, but also aggressiveness and fire.

Violet appears introverted, extravagant, melancholy and often stands for power, theology, but also vanity or renunciation.

Blue has a calming, serious, longing, cold and distant effect. It stands for harmony, cleanliness, calm and passivity and peace.

Green has a calming, fresh, natural, cheerful and young effect. The symbolic meaning is freshness, relaxation, hope, nature but also immaturity.

White appears pure, empty, light and sometimes sterile and stands for purity, order, lightness and innocence.

Black looks pessimistic and sad but also mysterious, solemn and serious. It stands for grief, end, hatred and misfortune

 

The how

The different art styles in painting are characterized by their very special and in some cases pioneering use of colors.

In Impressionism, the fleeting and rapidly changing impression of the moment is captured by painting. The light of the moment and the resulting colors are put together in fleeting and sometimes shimmering brushstrokes and with a lively style.

At the beginning of the 20th century, expressionism increased the expression of color by painting . The shapes are simplified, in some cases almost flat. Strong, pure and contrasting colors become the absolute expression of emotions. The color is used separately from the naturalistic rendering and is intended to create a suggestive effect.

 

Color as material

Initially only used as a coating and varnishing material in industry, acrylic paint has been used by artists as a versatile material since the mid-1950s .

To this day, acrylic paint has a special charm, because the forms of expression can be more diverse than with hardly any other painting material.

How is the colored area set, with brushwork ? Rich in shape and contrast or with a soft transition ?
With structure (materials) and impasto relief ? Or light and translucent?

This has an effect on the expression in terms of mood or can be used to create a color or aerial perspective (pure, bright warm colors are assigned to the foreground, everything behind is bluish, grayish, lighter ). The painting tools are also important for the specific, individual expression in the picture.

Finally, two more examples that illustrate how the choice of color tones give the picture a completely different message.

In his book “Thinking Like an Artist” Will Grompertz describes how the dejected and melancholy Picasso began to immerse his pictures in a mysterious blue color tone in 1901 , thereby shifting the mood of his pictures towards sentimental. On the one hand, this now matched his emotional state perfectly; on the other hand, it was the beginning of his “blue period” which made him known as “Picasso” and brought about the breakthrough.

A wonderful article is devoted to the color blue in issue 4-18 of the magazine “Einfach.sein” . In “53 Shades of Blue” it is, among other things, attempts to make the blue of the sky measurable, but also some emotional worlds are hidden behind the color. “There is boundless longing in blue” it says there. The artist Andy Warhol is also concerned with the effect of the color blue (compared to red), so in simply. sein to read. By choosing the color of the background, he made one and the same woman portrait appear completely different. On the red ground on the woman THAT CONDITION dynamic / self-confident , on a blue ground , however,dreamy / wistful / serious . In process-oriented work, this means for us to pause and see HOW the spontaneously chosen colors work .

Material as such, sensory perception or symbolic medium. No matter. In addition to all the theoretical approaches, color breathes life into artistic work and is very practical for every artist as a means of transporting their own handwriting . The possibilities and color combinations are inexhaustible. How about leaving the old paths for once and daring to try new colors in order to observe how the expression in the picture changes as a result? Painting remains an adventure that is always fascinating.

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