The colour-moody artist

One can’t generalise as to the workings of an artistic brain, however…

Last week I was in the studio of a leading UK artist who normally has at least 15 pieces of artwork on the go. These will be a mixture of commissions, self-starting pieces that usually sell well, and a couple of ‘whimsies’ that may or may not be finished one-day.

The number of paintings partially complete on easels and leaning against walls around the studio reflected the various pressures at work in the life of this particular artist.

Reasons given for the multiple projects were various and included the very practical and commercial insight that ‘having something to show the commissioning client proves we are making at least some discernible progress and keeps the customer on side’

But there was another reason that changing from canvas to canvas was good for this West Country artist. It stops him getting to the point that he hates the work and in particular, hates the colours: ‘and I don’t want to hate colours. I need them all as my friends!’

Colour combinations are powerful. I saw a phone cover or some other technical device in a shade of metallic-orange recently that powerfully reminded me of a Allegro ‘Corgi’ toy car I owned as a child, now long since lost. That colour memory must have been submerged for over 40 years! We have a surprising recollection of colours and they undoubtedly have the power to change mood and (dependent on the size of the painting) the shape and size of the room itself.

Red raises energy levels, and in nature red pumps the adrenaline like no other hue. Red has been shown to raise blood pressure and speed respiration and heart rate.

Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and communicates happiness, but remarkably even though yellow is a cheery colour, studies show that people are more likely to lose their temper in a yellow interior and babies also seem to cry more in yellow rooms! So perhaps artists too can get sick of yellow!

Blue is said to bring down blood pressure and slow respiration and heart rate and is considered calming, relaxing and serene.

Greens are considered the most restful colours for the eye. Combining the refreshing quality of blue and the cheerfulness of yellow.

So little wonder that the colour, and not just the subject matter will influence an artists’ emotions. For some artists, ringing the changes and having several projects on the go, utilising different themes and colours will make emotional as well as economic sense!

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