Flirting in the Color Field

Color is a big part of my job. I spend a lot of time thinking about color: different color combinations, saturation, complementary colors, the warmth or coolness of a hue … I could go on and on. I’m also interested in the psychology of color which is more typically used in advertising and marketing than in fine art applications.

I have recently become a bit enamored with Color Field painting which is a style of painting that originated in the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940’s. Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman are outstanding practitioners of this style which is characterized by expanses of pure color that fill the canvas. I have been incorporating some aspects of Color Field into my abstract artwork. But I keep thinking about the psychology of color as well.

Consider Barnett Newman’s Right Here (1954) in which a bright blue line runs down the left side of a light (baby) blue, canvas. According to color psychology the blues should elicit feelings of trust, cheerfulness, and sentimentality. People should feel this is an honest, sincere, down-to-earth piece of artwork although it is possible women may like it more than men. And I have to say, I like the piece; would definitely frame and hang the print. Yet, I don’t think it’s necessarily a family-oriented, friendly painting.

By the way, despite the fact I’m from Philly (rated the most angry city in the country – again) the unfinished artwork at the top of this post is friendly, cheerful, and confident according to the psychology of color … if you have an issue with that – keep it to yourself.


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