Color Theory

I like to think of myself as an artist. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to practice it in a while due to huge amounts of homework from classes. You college students know the struggle. Even though my hand-eye coordination might have faded due to lack of practice, knowledge about the technique still sticks around in my head. What’s been bouncing around in my skull most recently is color theory, which is how one mixes colors to achieve the target color, and how to use each color to complement another. It’s also how colors are perceived and how they can subliminally affect the viewer’s mind.

Each color has its own set of emotions it conveys. Red, for starters, represents anger, passion, hunger, and power. Purple stands for mystery, magic, and royalty. You can see advertisements utilizing colors in order to sell certain items; fast food chains do this all the time. Billboards with burgers surrounded by red makes the food more appealing, since red can make the viewer hungrier. Meanwhile, vacation resorts might stick with blues and greens, since they’re calm, cool colors that convey peace and harmony.

Everyone has a favorite color. A lot of the time, this reflects certain traits about their personalities. For instance, since my favorite color is blue, it could be reasoned that I hold harmony and imagination high in value. My brother’s favorite is green, which is a color usually associated with hope, life, and nature; all of these are important to him and part of his personality. Those who favor red might be more passionate than others, and so on.

At the beginning of the year, I was diagnosed with chronic depression. There are many myths and preconceptions about depression. Therefore, I had to figure out how to word the symptoms in a way that most effectively described exactly what I was going through, since sadness and suicidal thoughts are definitely not ways my depression manifests. In the end, the most accurate description I can come up with is this: the world loses its color. Sure, I can see colors as well as anyone else. But when it comes to perceiving them, there’s no passion in the reds, harmony in the blues, peace in the greens, or mystery in the purples. My brain physically struggles to convey emotions, and what’s left is grey.

Grey is fine. Grey is grown-up, independent, and business-oriented, which is why you’ll see many businessmen and women in grey suits. But grey lacks what the other colors provide. Imagine two drawings of the same thing: one uses color pencils, the other uses normal, grey graphite. In the colors of the background, you can see a struggle between red-hot passion and the quiet blues over the subject, a girl. In the graphite drawing, there’s no struggle between the two emotions. The grey background blends together, and in the end, there’s only a girl standing there, simply… standing. The picture has lost the meaning and message it was meant to convey. The girl is still there, of course, and she can definitely be beautiful, but the picture lacks a whole dimension.

One of the best ways to see colors again is to look for them. The warmth of a sunset, the waves of a lake, the emerald leaves of a tree, the ink on a sheet of paper. These things can lose their color if one forgets to stop and look. Every moment has colors swirling everywhere, and in the bustle of everyday life, they can be lost upon our busy eyes. This doesn’t just mean literal colors, either. If you enjoy a particular person’s presence, a good joke, or even a simple bowl of cereal in the morning, the color of the moment can be lost unless one pays attention. So, as I struggle to remember to stop, look, and remember to restore the color to my world, feel free to sit and join me. Don’t forget what colors are like. Push back the grey. Enjoy each moment, mixed with all the color and emotion that comes with it. Each moment is a valuable painting, and we can preserve it if we remember to stop and look.

Written by Isaac

Image credit: Leonid Afremov. (His stuff is gorgeous—check it out if you like this one!)