I’ve recently gotten into doing a lot of mindfulness work and other than achieving it’s main objective of increasing inner peace in my life it’s had a lot of smaller ripple effects. One of these is how I see color. I live in rural Maine and one of the best things about living here is that nature is everywhere, and because we have such pronounced seasons it’s always changing.
I’ve always deeply loved nature but I’d never before been present enough to notice it quite as deeply as I do now. I’ve especially noticed the extraordinary way that nature puts colors together. It’s like living in the most fantastic art show of color and lights but it’s so pure and unobtrusive that we have to still our minds to even notice. Once you do it seems downright insane to worry about something when in the midst of nature but of course I still catch myself doing it all the time. When I’m fully present with nature a few flowers in a field have the power to move me to tears.
Noticing nature’s uninhibited use of color has made me realize that I have way too many conceptualized ideas about color and what looks nice. We all know that color is a huge part of style and trends, that’s why there are even color forecasts from Pantone. Supposedly companies even project four years into the future what colors people will want for various appliances and that marketing influences us on color preferences. We’ve been taught at early ages what colors clash or look bad together. While having this knowledge of color can be incredibly helpful for graphic design and marketing, I think it also has the potential to hold our art back. It also even limits our own appreciation of the colors we see in everyday life.
So if you find yourself stuck with your art start to look at color with an open mind again. Let nature be your teacher. Is mustard yellow really ugly in itself or have we been taught that it is? Does blue really evoke the color of sadness or is that a silly cultural assumption? If blue is a sad color why does a clear blue sky make us feel so very happy?
It’s true that we intuitively know that cool colors calm and hot color invigorates on some level. The complimentary colors and science of the color wheel still applies, but realize too that the beautiful of the color wheel is that it’s infinite!
Of course you can argue that if we are in the business of making things for people to wear or things to grace people’s homes we have to be sensitive to trends. However most people looking for handmade items or art want something OTHER than what is marketed to them everywhere. Our main selling point is being authentic and unique. So I challenge you to find a color or color combination that’s daring, and that really speaks to you. Then go see what happens with it.