Associations with Color: Using Color Symbolically in your Work
Posted by ArtFireContent on 04/13/2011 at 15:42:14
Colors are really amazing if you think about them. On the one hand, there are six basic colors that we all learn in elementary school: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple (violet). But, when you mix them together, or add black or white, suddenly there are seemingly infinite colors at our disposal. When thinking about color and how to use it in your work, it may be as simple as: "Today I feel like using blue," but is there more to it? With that in mind we will examine color in many different ways: symbolically, psychologically and in terms of socialization and personal preference. This is no small subject, so it will be split into three parts. Up first: Color Symbolism.
For many societies colors have specific meanings that are created through cultural traditions and social norms, for example, red means stop (stop signs, stop lights, warning signs etc). However, this could possibly be traced back to our ancestors who learned and brightly colored animals and plants are often poisonous (red means stop!). Below we will look at how certain colors are seen symbolically; who knows, maybe you will take symbolism into consideration when you make your next piece.
Red in India is the symbol for a soldier, while red in South Africa is the color of mourning. In China, red is the color of good luck and is used often in weddings. Red is often associated with romance (think Valentine's day) and passion, along with danger. Some Native American tribes associated red with either the East or the South, as well as passion, emotion, heart and success. In ancient Egypt, red was equated with life, victory, anger and fire.
Not as much has been written about the significance of orange, but it is sometimes related to emotions and vitality. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians believed in healing with colors, and believed orange stimulated the solar plexus and revitalized the lungs.
In Egypt yellow signifies mourning, whereas in China it is seen as nourishing. Yellow can also be associated with playfulness, light, creativity, warmth, and joy. Alternately, yellow has been associated with cowardice, jealousy, aging and illness. In ancient Egypt yellow was considered imperishable, eternal and indestructible (like the sun).
In ancient Greece, green symbolized victory, and in the highlands of Scotland, people wore green as a mark of honor. Green can be associated with envy or money (for those whose currency is green), but the color is most often associated with youth, life, healing and new growth. In ancient Egypt, "green things" was slang for beneficial, life-producing behavior.
Cherokees associated blue with defeat and trouble, whereas blue is the color of heaven and spirituality in Iran. In the west blue is often associated with sadness and calm. Blue is also commonly associated with water, and thus life and rebirth. Indigo is the color of dignity, tranquility and trustworthiness. It is seen as calming and shares many traits with both blue and violet.
Violet is the color of royalty and dark purple implies wealth as often only the very wealthy could afford it. In some Native American tribes, purple represents wisdom, healing or gratitude. In Japan violet signifies wealth and power and in the Ukrainian tradition of egg dyeing, purple dye signifies faith, patience and trust.
For more information on the symbolism of color in culture, check out this color symbolism by culture slide show and chart. Next post we will take a look at color psychology, and how color can be used to inspire emotion and affect mood!