Art Terminology

Wednesday: Element of Color on a Personal Level

Wednesday: Art Terminology

The Element of Color on a Personal Level

Lilies and Apples by Arthur Lismer

In my opinion, the most critical element of composition and design is color. Color is at the heart of my love art. One of the first elements I look at when discovering a new piece of artwork is color. Color draws me to art (regardless of medium).

Color has the ability to create its own sense of energy and movement. What colors energize you? Color creates and shows movement. I find myself naturally drawn to the cool side of the color wheel (blues, greens, and purples). In the September Gale painting color is used to create movement in the tree branches and the waves. In the Little Lake painting the waterfall and water peaking through the rocks guides your focus as the viewer.

September Gale, Georgian Bay by Arthur Lismer in 1921
Little-Lake-I-large
Little Lake I by Arthur Lismer in 1947

Color is involved in our memory and emotions. We all associate color with different memories. Many of our childhood memories of Christmas are filled with classic red and green decorations with silver or gold accents (metallic colors add shimmer and shine) and create more visual interest. Soft blues, turquoises, and greens can remind us of family vacations at the beach.

Color can also be used to speak to certain times of the year or seasonal. Soft pastel colors such as pink, lavender, and yellow speak to spring time and Easter while rich reds, oranges, and gold speak to fall.

We all have personal tastes concerning color. A couple easy examples about how we view and interact with color is in our home and decor and in our wardrobe. Within the house design or decor: Are you a person who loves stark white walls throughout your house or a clean white kitchen cabinets? Would you prefer painting each room a different color or painted kitchen cabinet doors? What about a bright pop of color in a pillow or a vase on a table? In your wardrobe: Do you have a daily uniform? Do you wear black pants with a white top everyday? Would you wear a dress with a colored print all over? Do you wear color or patterns in your accessories such as shoes, purses, or scarves?

White and black ares still important elements of color as well. They provide shadows and highlights. They provide outlines for shapes. They help create a sense of order.

Neutrals are used to provide a background and a base for color to pop up against. Neutrals are important in fashion choices such as a classic black pant that can be enhanced by a printed blouse and a pop of color on the purse and shoes. Now your outfit has personality. Neutrals are useful in-house design as well. A neutral grey sofa can be popped with a patterned pillow and a soft throw. Add in an accent chair in a color drawn out of the pattern from the pillow and now you have a cohesive design. Neutrals are just as important in paintings.

Saint-Hilarion by Arthur Lismer in 1925
Sunset by Arthur Lismer in 1914

In Lismer’s top painting, Saint-Hilarion he uses yellow mixed with green to create various shades in the fields. I love the blues and purples he intermixes to create cloud movement in the sky. He uses various shades of yellow to create the visual effects of the sun setting in the painting Sunset. This allows him the opportunity to create interesting effects of reflection in the water at the bottom of his painting.


Then we can also consider the element of color as being symbolic. There are generic symbolic interpretations of color but we all put our own personal spin on our associations of color based on our life experiences.

Red can be associated with fire and blood. Some people also view anger and passion in red.

Orange represents the season of Autumn. As a secondary color that brings in elements of both red and yellow depending on the tone.

Yellow is the color of the sun (life energy for the planet). It represents life, energy, happiness.

Green is the color of plants, trees, grass (color of nature). It represents health and grow but is also connected with the feeling of envy.

Blue is cool and calming. It is the color of the sky as well as water. It can also represent freshness and purity.

Purple is often associated with royalty, wealth, and power.

Brown is seen as representing natural elements of rocks or stone, wood, and the earth. It invokes thoughts of nature, being outdoors, and a down to earth attitude.

Black is often linked with death, evil, fear, and mourning.

White is connected with purity, peace, goodness. Its clean, crisp, stark, and pure.


Let’s look at some paintings that speak to my love and interest in color. The artists work that I am including in today’s post are examples of the Group of Seven who I discuss more in-depth in this week’s Thursday’s look at Art Movements. 

I am generally drawn to nature paintings in particular works that include water which speaks to my love of cool colors. I find myself connected to water. Water elements symbolize peace and serenity to me. They bring up positive memories and emotions for me personally.

Georgian Bay, Spring by Arthur Lismer in 1917
Lake O’Hara Rocky Mountains 1926 by J.E.H MacDonald

I love the use of the color blue in both of these paintings by Lismer and MacDonald. Each artist uses this color in very different ways. Lismer’s painting uses rich tones of a deep blue to create visual interest. I also like his gradient of color which draws your eye from the top of the painting to the bottom.

MacDonald uses the white with a touch of blue mixed in it to create the look of ice and the ice flows down the canvas to guide your eye throughout the painting.


Sources:

Color as Symbols

Group of Seven Art Collection

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