The Human Canvas

The Human Canvas

"I want the viewer to be affected by the color just as I am when I paint - to feel the same emotions...When I look at grass, I don;t always see it as green; sometimes I see it as red because it feels red to me." Painter Nick Paciorek from an interview with James A. Metcalf in America Artist. June 1994.

You don't have to be an artist to understand the intimate relationship between color and emotion. For instance, how often have you worn a particular outfit because the color made you feel happy, secure, or maybe even sexy? Over the past few decades a whole industry has grown up around self-help programs matching colors to personality traits.

However, the true color connection in our lives seems to go far beyond art, fashion, or pop psychology. There's a growing recognition by scientists, businesspeople and philosophers that,despite individual preferences, we are all influenced in some very specific ways by these components of light. And the effects generated range all the way from the manipulative to the mystical.

  • Restaurants often use orange accents in table settings or room decorations to stimulate the appetite. And, if you don't believe color can alter how you eat, just add a few drops of blue food dye to mashed potatoes before serving. Color can affect instinct.
  • Hospitals and schools, which have traditionally kept environmental colors neutral, have learned this may well slow down mental processes... even add to depression. For example, violet seems to encourage meditation while prolonged exposure to a red environment can stimulate agitation and irritability. Color can alter mood and behavior.
  • Many corporations spend millions in market research and focus groups prior to releasing a new product to identify the colors that will attract the desired target audience. And, once established, a color scheme is rarely altered as brand loyalty is reinforced by the familiar. Well, think how you;d react to McDonald's purple arches or if Coca-Cola cans were suddenly turquoise. Color can persuade.
  • Long the sole province of the alternative practitioner, chromotherapy and phototherapy (color and light as medicine) are now often included in traditional treatment programs. For example, it's been proven that exposure to the color blue will slow an individual's blood pressure and respiration. And, patients suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) experience anxiety and depression stemming directly from a lack of light absorption. By exposing these individual to bright spectral colors and light, certain hormones are activated and the symptoms are relieved. Color can heal.
  • Each color has a distinct vibrational signature. Blind people often report being able to feel colors; other individuals see colors when they hear or read music. New Age scientists and philosophers identify energy centers within the human body which also radiate at specific wavelengths and believe that keeping these centers in balance through a variety of techniques, including color therapy, is vital to health. Color is energy.

The human connection to color is only beginning to be explored. So stay open to the possibilities - if you let in the light, who knows what you might see!

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