Imagine my surprise when I discovered Goethe of Faust fame (yes, who made a pact with the Devil) is known as an early colour analyst. He published Theory of Colours, his treatise on the nature, function and psychology of colours, in 1810.
In the 1980s I pitched a story about colour to the now defunct Verve magazine, which published several of my freelance articles (on Machu Picchu, STDs, revolutionary face creams etc). Ever since I’ve paid attention to colour, knowing that it affects us in many ways.
IN OUR HOME
Light colours are expansive and airy, making rooms seem bigger and brighter. Dark colours are sophisticated and warm, making large rooms look more intimate. To create an illusion of space in our small Vancouver condo, we painted most walls light grey. (Some designers use mirrors for this same illusion, but I say no to that tactic.) However, Glen and I are not grey — unemotional and indecisive — individuals. So we added colour, by painting interior doors crimson, chartreuse and teal and by purchasing furnishings in orange, red and lemon. We think the combination of colours better reflects our personalities, as well as presents a welcoming milieu.
IN OUR WARDROBE
Psychologist Carole Jackson wrote a popular book in the ’80s outlining a four season scheme to determine colours of clothing and accessories best suited to our skin complexion and eye colour. My mom treated me to a “draping” session, for a cost of $45 at the time. According to the system, I was wearing the wrong colours: black instead of brown, white not beige. Of course we didn’t have to heed the results but I did, for one reason because shopping became more straightforward. Each season gave a full set of fashion fabrics from which to choose, and I sought the warm hues of autumn — rather than the cool ones of winter. I started dressing not just (allegedly) to enhance my appearance but also to project a trait: brown for responsibility, red for energy and green for balance.
IN OUR FOOD
Studies show the more colours we eat in our diet, the better for our overall health. That really means our meals must feature a variety of fruit and vegetables. But we mustn’t fill our basket in the produce section with strawberries, watermelon and tomatoes, healthy as they are. Substitute a red item with oranges or blackberries, for instance. “While there may not be much to compare between dinner and Dior, this much seems true: there appears to be more reason to eat the spectrum of colours than to wear them.”
IN OUR PERSONALITY
One personality test (go ahead, click on the link for fun!) deems me pink. Years ago I dismissed this colour, judging it too girly for me, a self-proclaimed feminist. Yet later on, I grew fond of it. Because pink’s a happy, hopeful colour. It lifts my mood. Now I wear pink, unashamedly, and also place pink accent pieces around our home.
As for Goethe’s theory? He assigned qualities to colours: “beautiful” to red, “noble” to orange, “good” to yellow, “useful” to green, “common” to blue, and “unnecessary” to violet. Then he attributed the qualities to four categories of cognition: beautiful and noble (red and orange) to the rational; good and useful (yellow and green) to the intellectual; useful and common (green and blue) to the sensual; and unnecessary and beautiful (violet and red) to the imagination.
A full palette of colour in our lives holds a key to happiness. Do you colour your life happy? •