Why are we drawn to some colors, repelled by others?

This question is at the heart of an art exercise, “Forbidden Colors,” described by art educator/therapist Peter London in his wonderful book “No More Secondhand Art.”   I adapted the exercise for a course I taught years ago, “Creative Renewal,” that was a series of ten workshops.   In this adaptation of “Forbidden Colors,” an assortment of crayons — lots of crayons! — is passed around the studio, and students are asked to look through and each select just one crayon: their least-favorite color.  What color would that be for you?   The rest of the exercise, with guidance in the form of questions, time for facilitated discussion, and several drawing exercises, is an exploration of why the “Forbidden Color” has been rejected.  And the exercise involves each student doing all of the work for that workshop ONLY in his/her chosen “Forbidden Color,” — that least favorite color — all the time guided to become mindful of what the color means, how it came to be rejected.  In the process, this unwanted color is often reclaimed.

When I did the exercise myself, in advance of leading the workshop, several colors competed to be my “Forbidden Color.”  Mustard yellow?  Pale grey?  Pallid pink?  I chose the pink crayon.  And as I worked, for hours, completing different drawing exercises using only that pale pink crayon, I discovered why I had rejected the color: I thought it was weak, fluffy, overly feminine, drained of real color, not serious.  And so I had avoided using pink in my work.

Reclaiming pink, I saw the color in a new way.  So much tender loveliness: flower petals, sunrises, the blush on peaches, babies’ cheeks, puppies’ tongues.

Recently I’ve been working with a lot of pink fiber, exploring layering pink merino with other colors and fibers to create thin, opalescent and glowing felted scarves; felting very feminine scarves with pink roses as the motif and ruffled edges cascading all along the lengths of the scarves; hand-carding pink fiber and strips of pink silk fabric to spin funky art yarn that is pink — and is also very expressive!

There’s been a lot of research about how and why color affects people.  Topics include Color Therapy; Crystal Healing; Vibrational Energy of Colors; Chakras.   Culturally, fashion experts like Pantone unveil their color “Forecast” for the season ahead.  Is this forecast just a way to get us to think our clothing is out of date?  Is it a way to get us to rush out and buy new things in the “hottest” colors?  Or is it on a more subtle level, a cultural response that is as holistic and organic as it is a marketing manipulation?  Do we yearn for soothing honeysuckle pink in a springtime of difficult times?  Embrace Lipstick Red when the economy just won’t rebound and we’re heading into another cold winter?  I suspect that color trends reflect both: marketing and a deeper longing.

Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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