The Meaning of Colors

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

Colors have meaning. In fact, Color plays a very important role in our lives, affecting our moods and our emotions. For that reason, the colors an artist employs in their painting, aside from the actual subject matter, is of great significance.

Throughout the ages, different cultures have shown a certain propensity or interpretation for certain colors. In the Western world, the colors of the traffic light say it all... red means stop, yellow means caution, and green means go. But in Chinese cultures, on the other hand, red is linked to power, sexuality, and increased appetite. It also represents luck and prosperity, and that's why, at New Year's, for example, you'll see a lot of red. But, just as symbols can take on a kind of 'universal' meaning, so, too, can colors elicit similar responses in all cultures.


Red is the colour of intensity and drama. It is stimulating, vibrant and exciting, and implies strength and power. But it can also suggest a source of heated passion or violent danger. Red tends to catch our eye quickly, and is often used when a strong message is implied.


Orange, the combination of yellow and red, conveys warmth and enthusiasm, and is the color of encouragement. It can be a motivating color, and stimulates the appetite. Social and inviting, orange exudes happiness and joy.


Yellow is, of course, the sunshine color, and conveys a sense of warmth, happiness, and optimism. This color is uplifting and illuminating, and is associated with success and confidence. And yet, perhaps due to it's pale, weaker nature, yellow can also imply dishonesty or cowardice.


Green, the color of the forest, expresses abundance, growth, renewal, and life. It has a strong association as a refreshing and peaceful color. As well as restful and secure. This is evident all over Vancouver from Whistler to Britannia Beach. The rolling hills and soft grass give you a sense of calm and one with nature.


Blue, the color of the sea and sky, induces a feeling of calm and peaceful tranquility. And because of its calming nature, it tends to instill a sense of confidence, loyalty, and trust.  But cool blue, on the other hand, tends to be more conservative and aloof.


The passion of red, combined with the purity of white, creates the color pink. And that's why pink is associated with love, tenderness, and femininity. Pink tends to convey a sense of safety, yet vulnerability.


Because it's the color of the Earth, stability, foundation, and wholesomeness is the message of brown. It relates to things that are natural, simple, and reliable. Brown tends to be the 'comfortable' color.


White, pure and simple, is the colour of perfection. Add to that a sense of cleanliness, youthfulness and innocence. This is why traditionally, brides wear white on their wedding day.


Black (which is technically the lack of colour) conveys darkness, fear, and evil. It suggests pessimism, sadness, and hopelessness. But because it is such a strong and powerful color, black also tends to be formal, sophisticated, and sexy, as well as refined, elegant and confident. It's interesting to note that in Eastern societies, gold is the counterpart to black!

Of course, there are a great many other colors, including gray, beige, purple, and turquoise. They too, each suggest certain emotions, often with a 'universal' commonality. I find that I employ a lot of blues, green, and whites in my color palette. I have to admit that my choice of colors in not always with a 'conscious' message in mind. Undoubtedly, though, our northwest 'rain-forest on the sea' environment plays a part in my affinity for blues, greens and browns. You may have noticed that these particular colors predominate much of my work.

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