|Psychology is the study of human behaviour
What has this to do with color? We must first
decide whether there is a genetic or instinctive behavioural element in
hue recognition. Then we might ask if there are any environmental aspects that have a
universal effect on the human species.
1. Genetic - I have seen no evidence of the first. We are not like bees or birds where the recognition of the hues of flowering plants are somehow passed on from one generation to the next.
2. Environmental - I have seen green associated with health - and with rotting
meat, red with luck and danger, blue with pain and tranquillity, yellow with
disease or elsewhere intellect. Summing up I know of no universal acceptance of a particular hue or color that has a universal significance across all societies. Movment has more significance for survival purpose for the eye discerns movement before anything else.
The eye discerns movement at a span of 180 degrees where hue, depending on its saturation, can be seen only to 140 degrees.
When awareness of red is combined with a sense
of heat then we might say the combination is universally one of fire. This and
many other instances of combined sensory experiences are manifold but those
instancing color alone escape me. I must conclude that singularly hue has no
universal behavioural consequences and therefore no psychological implications
- unless combined with other senses or hues. Remember there is no universal
hue indicating the ripeness of an apple.
This thesis runs a parallel to music where
no universal psychological analysis can be made of single notes but
when combined with others we can have harmony or disharmony and moods created
with various combinations. To take this analogy further it might be argued
sensitivity to color is rather like sensitivity to musical notes where some
individuals can tune instruments easier than others, some folk dream in color and some
remember color easily while others desire to train their color discernment to high levels
of sensitivity. Sensitivity to all elements of life is the key that opens the door to happy appreciation. The alternative is to dark to consider.
The adjacent effect .... color residuals of
the eye. With musical melodies we have ‘progression’. I mean by this intervals
of time between notes that allow the brain time to understand the tune.
If all the notes were played simultaneously any melody would be incomprehensible.
But in painting all colors are played both individually and together, depending
on the position of the viewer, and they must work on both levels. As the
eye physically moves between adjacent hues, a negative residual interferes
with the ‘melodic’ appreciation. Note the rather sickly Fig.1 combination
above. This can be overcome with a transitional or neutral hue as shown
As a practical example ...
||This painting I did
for the 'Bounty' series is a composition in blue and orange. Blue will
naturally fight the orange if adjacent so here I separated them as much as possible.
Even though the sea line appears blue meeting gold it is a neutral grey-black
instead. The hat and coat are separated from the orange clouds by a neutral
white. The notion blue always receeds is disproved here.
Like a play in a theatre or an opera a painting
is the creation of an illusion - of a painter's particular reality. The dominant hue
in the painting below (blue-white) suggests a mid-morning scene.
||Here again, in this
demonstration piece, it may appear blue is against the yellow - orange
of the boat. But where they are strongest they are also furthest apart.
This makes the painting easy on the eye and more 'melodic'.
Stained glass windows, the paintings of Mondrian
and Roualt are modern examples of strong colors being separated by (black) neutrals.
If you feel strongly that poetry should not be element in the style of painting
you want to attempt then you can use this information to introduce jarring
and suddenly surprising passages to your paintings. I call this the 'Hawaiian
shirt effect'. To understand the mechanics of color means that whatever effect you
desire can be realized and whatever you are doing, you are doing it deliberately. Trial and error is no way to pilot a plane or create a masterpiece.
TO ... Psychology and color harmonies