• Carolyn Land

The Colors

Color which, like music, is a matter of vibrations, reaches what is most general and therefore most undefinable in nature: its inner power…”                                                                                  Paul Gauguin

We have talked a lot about what motivates our “creative spirit”, but not about what happens during the actual process of creating. I was most fortunate this past week to attend a Chamber Music Concert by the great Itzhak Perlman, violinist. When introducing Mr. Perlman, the woman giving the introduction said, that in a conversation with him, prior to the concert, he revealed that when he plays, he sees colors.  She challenged the audience to listen, hear, and see, the colors Mr. Perlman was playing.  Several times during the evening she made reference to this.

Photography of Itzack Perlman in concert

Itzhak Perlman in concert


I listened, I was enthralled, but I didn’t see the colors! As hard as I tried, I could not conger up colors, I felt moved by feelings deep inside, from great sadness to buoyant elation.  I saw mental pictures of awe inspiring places I have been privileged to see.  I saw dancers, and could feel myself wanting to move, at times I felt I could fly.  And, I was keenly aware of my breath, and my breathing.  But I didn’t see colors! I thought it was interesting that, as one who paints abstractly, I was unable to see colors.  But, I was not performing.  I was on the receiving end; and like the “viewer” of paintings that we have talked about, we each bring with us, our own life experiences which effect how we perceive something.

Many artists I know, turn on music, put ear phones in, and listen to their favorite music while they work.  I often ask them what they listen to, and what it does to their creative process?  Inevitably they tell me, it is the rhythm and the energy it creates, that helps them create.

Mixed Media Painting by FL artist Carolyn Land

Earth Music 3


I took a modern dance class in college.  I remember being asked to represent different colors by moving, so I am sure that dancers not only feel the rhythm of the music but equate it at times to a color, much like Mr. Perlman relates the energy and feeling he puts into his playing, to colors.

When I teach color theory, I have a handout about what each color has come to represent, and how the colors an artist uses, can help tell their story.  Colors produce feelings. Fine art viewers often just see the colors.  At outdoor festivals, I have watched thousands of viewers go by, and many people do, just see color…not subject.  Color is powerful, and has a strong effect on the human brain.

As Mr. Perlman pours out his emotion in his music, and sees color,  the fine artist uses color to illicit an emotion from his viewer. How does music and color effect your work?

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