Art Festival Newsletter | September 2022


Readers of this Newsletter, know that I am endlessly fasciated by color - the art and science behind the choices we make when creating our own work. 

To that end, this edition will focus on the use of color in art.

Throughout history, there have been numerous iterations of color theory, which is a set of guidelines for mixing, combining, and manipulating the color spectrum.

The first color wheel has been attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, who in 1706 arranged red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet into a natural progression on a rotating disk. As the disk spins, the colors blur together so rapidly that the human eye sees white. From there the organization of color has taken many forms, from tables and charts, to triangles and wheels the history. Color theory developed further in the 19th century to incorporate aesthetic and psychological principles. These in turn influenced technology, design, and art.

The color wheel is a circular diagram that illustrates the relationships between different colors. Here is a brief guide to the colors in the color wheel.

1. Primary colors: Primary colors are colors that are combined to make a range of other colors. Traditionally, these are red, yellow, and blue. When mixed, these three primary colors can form many other colors.

2. Secondary colors: Secondary colors are the result of mixing two primary colors. In the traditional color model, the three secondary colors are green (yellow plus blue), orange (yellow plus red), and purple (red plus blue).

3. Tertiary colors: Tertiary colors are the combination of one primary color with one secondary color. There are six tertiary colors on the traditional color wheel: magenta (red-purple), vermillion (red-orange), amber (yellow-orange), chartreuse (yellow-green), teal (blue-green), and violet (blue-purple).

4. Complementary colors: Complementary colors are colors that are found opposite each other on the color wheel. Complementary color schemes include blue with orange, red with green, and yellow with purple.

5. Analogous colors: Analogous colors sit next to each other on the color wheel. Analogous color schemes include yellow paired with chartreuse and green; red with vermillion and orange; and blue with teal and violet. The three colors in each pairing share a common hue, so they appear to match.

6. Warm colors: Reds, oranges, and yellows are referred to as warm colors.

7. Cool colors: Blues, greens, and purples are referred to as cool colors.

8. Monochromatic: A color scheme is monochromatic when it only features shades or tints of a single hue.

9. Neutral colors: Blacks, greys, whites and shades of beige are often referred to as neutral colors.

In my opinion, the color wheel itself is not actually that important (other than the obvious historical and scientific significance). What is more important is the theory behind the color wheel. Once you understand this and the basic relationships between colors, then the color wheel itself becomes a visual prompt for your color mixing.



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Expert Advice and Action Plans from Leaders in the Field


Georgia O'Okeefe

Master of Using Color to Change Perception

The Georgia O'Keeffe quote above shows how strongly she felt about color. The power of Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork derives from her mastery of essential elements of line, color, and composition. She is a wonderful example of how color can change perception.

Georgia O’Keeffe played with a wide range of brightness in colors. The strong, vibrant tertiary color schemes she used in the paintings created a sense of energy and vitality.

It is perhaps O’Keeffe’s landscape paintings. that are best examples of how she focused on changing the mood by her use of color, and the play and placement of light and dark elements.

In the painting “Lake George (formerly Reflection Seascape)” (1922), we could see how O’Keefe used cyan blue as a baseline and played with a wide range of brightness in it. Also, she mastered the use of “dark color” and “bright color”, which raced across the middle of the canvas.

Same in the painting “Lake George Reflection” (1921–1922). Without the black and white added in the middle of the canvas, this painting would have the same glorious intensity and counterbalance.

It worth mentioning that O’Keefe was very creative and bold in depicting the same theme (Lake George) using totally different approaches. The shape of the subject was not that different in these two paintings, however, because O’Keefe applied very different color palettes, the paintings elicited different kinds of emotions from us: the first painting conveyed a feeling of calmness; the second painting used shades of red and green to express power, while the analogous colors (red against purple, blue with green) reduced the tension.

Colors help tell a story, and even when designing the same theme/topic, as seen above using various color palettes evokes different emotions from the viewers.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Lake George (formerly Reflection Seascape)” (1922). Image copyright: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Color palette picked by using Coolers.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Lake George Reflection” (1921–1922). Image copyright: Christie’s and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Color palette picked by using Coolers.

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Common Color Symbolism

Science has proved that color affects our moods and the way we view our world. While perceptions of color are subjective, some affects have universal meaning. 

If you’ve ever had the blues or been so angry you saw red, then you’re familiar with the powerful ways in which color can describe intangible ideas and emotions. In art, color symbolism refers to color’s ability to signify meaning to a viewer. While there are some universal associations people have with different colors, their meanings differ from culture to culture.

There are a range of cultural influences that affect one’s view of a specific color, like political and historical associations (flag colors, political parties), mythological and religious associations (references to color in spiritual texts), and linguistic associations and expressions.

Let’s look at some of the most common symbolism in popular colors. Color symbolism is prevalent because color is important. It’s a crucial form of communication for human beings. We use it to represent ideas, feelings, and emotions. We also process a lot of information through what we see.

The amount and variety of symbolism in colors is truly endless. However, here are a few shared interpretations. 

The Color of Life

Red. Red has a range of symbolic meanings through many different cultures, including life, health, vigor, war, courage, anger, love and religious fervor.

The Color of Love

Red or pink. A visually hot color, red represents passionate, sexual love. Or, the exact opposite—jealousy, anger, and revenge.

Pink is a softer hue, suggesting a gentler kind of love. It’s a delicate and provocative color.

The Color of Happiness

Yellow. The return of a yellow sun and the subsequent bloom of spring flowers is enough to make most people smile after a long winter. This is one of the reasons for yellow’s connection to happiness. It’s a bright, youthful color, radiating warmth and joy.

The Color of Hope

Yellow or green. In Canada, families display yellow ribbons on the walls of their home to keep hope alive for loved ones at war. The United States and Europe associate green with hope due to its relationship with springtime and a sense of flourishing. Think growth, nature, rebirth—these are all connected to the color green.

The Color of Peace

Blue. It’s cool and calming, and often associated with the sea and sky. Blue instills a sense of inner stability.

The Color of Jealousy

Green. Back in 1603, William Shakespeare referred to jealousy as a “green-eyed monster” in his tragic play Othello. These days, the idiomatic phrase “green with envy” is common in the West.

The Color of Death

Black. Always an interesting color because of its inherent antagonism. Black is sometimes referred to as the absence of light. This is why black is considered in many cultures as a sign of mourning, loss, hopelessness, and mystery.

Ironically, the opposite of black, which is white, does not signify life. Instead, in some cultures, it represents death as well.

Useful resources

In just one click, an online color palette generator can help suggest hues that look good together or give you historical references to great painters for inspiration.

  1. ColorLisa: a great resource to check and learn color palette masterpieces from the world’s greatest artists (rank in alphabetic order)
  2. Colormind: Are you feeling stuck on selecting even a single color? Colormind has pre-selected palettes that are ready for you to use. All you need to is to pick the one that appeals to you and your project.
  3. ColorSnap: a useful tool for designers (especially interior designers) to pick color palettes from either artworks or other kinds of photos.
  4. Coolers: a website that allows you to upload any picture and then generate a color palette automatically/manually. It’s good that you can export the color palette by creating collages.
  5. Canva: quick color palette generator. You can easily upload any picture, and it will use the hues in the photo to create a palette containing 4 colors.
  6. iColorpalette: another tool that allows you to upload any picture and generate a color palette. You can manually select colors from the image and download the color palette in different formats.
  7. Brandfolder: quick color palette generator. You can easily upload any picture to generate a color palette. It also allows you to easily copy the HEX code for colors.
  8. Paletton: osimply start with the color wheel and click a base hue you’d like to use. Paletton then inputs it into a large square with smaller hues over it. You’ll be able to see how different tints and tones look with your base hue—all at one time. Additionally, the site allows you to toggle color schemes from monochromatic to triad to “freestyle” and more.

Thanks to

Contact Robin Markowitz at
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