• Carolyn Land

The Mystery of Color

“Color is one of the great things in this world that makes it worth living…”   Georgia O’Keeffe

Last week’s mention of color brought many responses. So, I thought I would spend the next couple of weeks writing about color: the science of it as well as the emotional use of it. This weeks blog will be the scientific aspect of color and next week the emotional use of color.

What is the cause of the colors that we see?  Colors have their source in light.  Light waves consist of various lengths, and vibrate at different degrees of rapidity.  When those waves enter the eyes, the differences in colors are due to variations in the waves of light.  They produce sensations of illumination and then color.  Colors are powerful and affect the emotions.  Our personal responses to color are bound up with associations of other experiences we have had.  Colors that we choose as artists, to tell our story, are very important.

Let me start with a few definitions:

Hue: Hue refers to the chromatic quality of the color which we indicate by its name, blue, red, yellow, etc.

color wheel

Color Wheel


Value: Value refers to the relationship of a color to white or black. 

value strip

Add white you get a tint.  Add black you get a shade: light blue, dark blue.

value chart

Value Chart


Intensity: Intensity refers to the colors strength as compared with gray: brilliant blue or dull blue.  The intensity of the color is changed and neutralized when it is mixed with its opposite.

intensity chart

Intensity Chart


When a hue is altered, it helps the artist create various moods and feelings within their painting.

“When you cover a surface with colors, you must be able to keep the game going indefinitely, continually, to find new combinations of colors which will answer to the demand for emotional expression”                  Pierre Bonnard

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