Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Speak in Color

As artists we have a lingo.  You know, "Art speak", so to speak!   We talk about composition, values, texture and so on.  Those unfamiliar with our language are confused by our vocabulary.  Some of my Facebook friends post amusing things that have  "math" or "grammar" that sometimes I don't get, because I don't fully understand their "Speak".  We all know and use some language that only those in the know, know!  Some specialized speech with words fully understood only to those who are familiar with their words and ideas.

Within the language of art, I've noticed I speak a particular dialect.  I speak color.  No, not the language of color.  Analogous, primary, hue, chroma, tint are terms used to describe different properties of color.  I mean I speak actual color.  "Look at the Ocher in that wheat field" or "did you see the Viridian shutters on that house?" And "those geraniums are the perfect shade of Scarlet Lake!"  Other artists who paint understand me clearly.  They nod their head in agreement or sometimes chose their own descriptive paint color to further narrow in on the exact hue.  Then we all murmur "oh, yes, much better choice!" As amusing as it may seem, it makes perfect sense to us!    

Yes, I speak in color.  I used to say things like "that's a lovely shade of blue".  Now I use the exact name that corresponds with the tube of color:  "what a lovely shade of ultra marine."  Once when a young lady working for an Italian cruise line told me her name was Azura, I knew not only what her name meant, but that her eyes had inspired her parents to name her that.

But beyond its many names and hues, Color allows us- the visual artist- to express themselves without words.  Color itself speaks.  Besides my speech, I use it to speak through my art.  I use color to reflect a mood or I change natural colors to intensify or exaggerate an element or else dull it to give it less importance in the painting.  Color evokes emotion and sets the tone for a painting.  The many ways and uses for color are too many for this short post, but such a powerful tool needs to be understood to be used well. Like a spoken language we do well when we learn how to use it to communicate our intent as clearly as possible.  I am still learning!  

Just a thought.  


  1. I really like your blog. I can relate. I'm still trying to find my 'voice' because I am stuck in the trap of wanting to do everything that I'm not focusing on one thing. How do you decide what to focus on when you love so many things? This is my daily struggle.

    1. Erin, you have to focus to learn and become proficient at anything. If it's a skill set, focus on one, say color or composition (for example) at a time until you have a good understanding. If it's mediums, my advice is the same. If you try it all, you won't be
      Excellent at any!