Monday, 20 July 2009

The Color Theory of Art and Life

FROM STUDYING COLOR one comes to recognize two important phenomena: that we seldom (if ever) experience a particular color in absence of other colors or unaffected by lighting, and that the character of any given color can be influenced greatly by the colors in proximity. German-born artist and color theorist Josef Albers, with his interest in visual perception, showed time and again how the one color, depending on its surroundings, could look like an entirely different color to the point of being unrecognizable to the viewer if both collages of colors were placed side-by-side. Moreover, it is well-documented that two colors must match in saturation to be completely harmonious and that some hues bring out the depth and/or brightness of their neighbors, whereas others leave even the cheeriest shades dull and lifeless.

In the English language, the idiom "to show one's true colors" is used to indicate that one is displaying one's real nature, and while this alludes to the naval practice of sailing under a false flag in order to get closer to an enemy ship, that one would use the term "colors" for flag, a representation of what one stands for, seems rather an appropriate term indeed in light of color theory. That is, if "showing one's true colors" means displaying an authentic representation of oneself, and if one cannot really approach an "enemy" without showing "false colors", then the matter of how one's surroundings can change the manifestation of one's nature becomes as important to one's being and existence as it does to creating the right atmosphere in a painting or interior. Existing alone in a complete void is impossible and most likely undesirable-- and therefore deciding what one's "true colors" are and then displaying them properly will have something to do with not only internal, but external factors.

Those we call friends, the way we dress, our jobs, the books we read, how we pursue our interests, how we approach doing the laundry, what we choose to eat for dinner, the things we allow to fill our days, to enter and swirl about in our minds-- no matter how trivial or profound an aspect of our lives may seem, it is adding to the collage which shades and influences us, and whether we embrace it and keep it within our collage, modify it to our benefit, or cast it away entirely in favor of something else, lights, shadows, and accompanying tones and hues still never do fall away leaving a truer self, for it is only in the grouping that we can properly define ourselves at all. Therefore, choose your surroundings, friends, and activities wisely, and react wisely to that which does not further a coherent goal-- for a certain shade of yellow may look radiant beside some sort of violet, yet if the violet is pale but warm, longing to be red, though the yellow is cool, leaning toward blue, a sickly grayed yellow pallor and an eerie pink emerge in what might have otherwise been an exceptionally lovely field of lavender and chamomile.

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