The Power of Color

Over the last few months I’ve played with color — a lot. Usually my palette is based on landscape colors. I use greens and blues along with a few earthy hues. I like my landscape oil paintings to have a restful, serene feeling about them.

More and more, though, I’m discovered the power of color, how it can transform even a simple drawing into something eye-catching and interesting.

Since the first of the year, I’ve studied Seurat and his thoughts about color. I’ve done a bit of loose watercolor where I’ve added different colors. And, of course, I’ve re-discovered oil pastels and have loved playing with all the different colors of the rainbow, all inspired by Joy Ting’s “Daily Practice” called “Color Play”. She now has a second “Color Play” class available at Creative Bug, this one using watercolors. This will be my “daily practice” throughout the month of June.

As you know, I’ve also done a Creative Bug class led by Lily Sol, one which celebrates feminine energy. You’ve seen my colorful earth goddess, and I recently posted my more subtly-colored water goddess. Soon you’ll be seeing the third goddess I created in this class. She’s a “Rainbow Goddess”, and let’s just say that I wasn’t overly enthused at the start.

Rainbows are beautiful. Yes, they are. But in my mind, rainbows — as subjects in art — are part of that fantasy land with the mermaids, unicorns, and fairy wings. In other words, rainbows aren’t something I really want to incorporate into my art.

I was excited, though, when Lily said we would be working with oil pastels. Oh, good! I was sure I would enjoy that aspect of the creative process. I would enjoy it enough, I decided, that I’d go ahead and create a “Rainbow Goddess”, even though I hadn’t been thrilled at the thought. I still wasn’t thrilled, to be honest, but I was interested.

So then, when it came time to start sketching faces with different colors, let’s just say I wasn’t really feeling it. I carelessly grabbed a few oil pastels from my Cray-Pas Expressionist set and in an almost defiant way, I started drawing a lot of ugly, misshapen faces. I drew six of them, filling a page in my small sketchbook. Now, I have to point out that these weren’t just “bad drawings”. These were deliberately bad drawings. I’m not sure what point I was proving, but I certainly did succeed in creating six very weird faces using a variety of different, unnatural colors.

And after that, I used my Cotman watercolors to create a background… colorful, rainbow-inspired streaks of paint across the page. I set the sketchbook aside — I was done with my daily practice — and a bit later I turned around and those awful faces caught my eye.

Rainbow Faces

I realized that even with my determination to create something ugly — which the faces are — I still came away with something interesting, something that quickly catches a viewer’s eye, something that demands attention. And it’s all because of the compelling power of color.

I have since gone browsing a bit online, reading and re-reading articles about colors and emotions. I came across this quote from Oscar Wilde:

 “Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.”

My Rainbow Faces do speak to me. I’m not sure what they’re saying, but mostly they’re showing me how powerful color can be as a part of art.

The quote above comes from an excellent article I found: Dozens of Facts About The Power of Color. This is from a website devoted to “The Healing Power of Art and Artists“.

The organization is currently sponsoring an online exhibition titled “The Healing Power of Color” It will only be available for a few days — until June 4 — so I urge you to click here and visit this colorful display of art.

In the introduction to the exhibition, HPAA founder Renee Phillips writes:

Color affects our behaviors, moods, and thoughts. It has the ability to bring healing energy, soothe our frazzled nerves, motivate and empower us. In art the healing power of color is undeniable and far-reaching. Color (or hue) may be the first creative element an artist chooses and often the most distinctive quality we may notice about their art.

Without a doubt, color is one of the most important elements of art. It’s always there — or, if not, we notice its absence — yet do we really consider how meaningful it is? I know I’ve given color short shrift in the past. I’ve read about color theory, I’ve memorized a lot of facts about color, but I was never really using that knowledge.

Color theory can become complicated, and maybe that’s the problem. But when we set the textbooks aside and simply play with colors, we see first-hand how very powerful they are. I still look at those faces — the sketchbook is sitting close to my desk — and I marvel at how a few strokes of color transformed this art.




  1. I enjoyed your blog talking about colors and rainbows. Nothing is brighter and more reassuring than a rainbow. But like for a writer who wants to used the old-fashioned definition for words like “gay” and “pussy” I am finding it hard to color and dress in rainbows. I am NOT against the movement behind these colors; I just don’t want my designs to be interpreted. But I guess you can’t help what others think, right? Keep painting — keep trying new colors!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. so very true..i played with this idea last year. The painting still catches my eye even though its not “complete'”or perfect.It rather large and i had it hanging for awhile but the unfinished look started to bother me – it still peaks out though from the stack against the wall. Someday, i think..someday…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was surprised when I realized how powerfully the colors drew my attention. It totally transformed my deliberately bad art into something I have to keep looking at. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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