The question I have been asked to answer is why color is such a powerful force in visual art.
Because we are animals that see certain colors. Dogs enjoy a wide palette of scents, and we converse in colors. Color helps us find fruits and things that are good for us, and we lack the ability to sniff them out.
Color seems wired to the brain in humans. This wiring is plastic, as no color is really assigned a universal meaning. “I am Red” has color speaking in first person, connecting itself with passion, anger, sex, heroism, romance, aggression, life, and fire. And where those associations are common, they vary culturally. In “Made in the Shade; Annals of Commerce,” Leslie Harrington explains that “‘in India, red evokes romance or happiness, but in Korea, it evokes romance or fear.'”
Assigned meaning of color can change in a short amount of time, as illustrated in “Code Pink,” where author Lauren Sandler explains that assigning blue as a boy color and pink as a girl color is only maybe 70 years old. It had been switched previously, and before the 20th century, there were no gendered colors.
From 1997 until 2008, I worked for Kinko’s, now FedEx Office. I ran the color department, and printed many signs and banners. I love color. Love it. I used to wonder if I was one of those people with an extra kind of cone on their retinas – super color seers. I took an online test, and I am not. I do pay a lot of attention to colors, though.
My favorite use of color on the internet is the Color Oracle at astro.com. (It’s under the “free horoscopes” tab.) One at a time, choosing from a grid of colors, you choose first the color you like the best, and then choose the color you like the least. You repeat this until you have filled all of the blanks. Then it interprets what is going on in your head right now. For me, it is eerie right. And when I feel differently, I make different color choices. Try it out!