I must have been staring at my white walls today so that color came to me as something upon which I might reflect. In fact, I have been thinking about adding some color to my walls with with some paint or with some paintings. White is neat and clean, but white is white. I was given this truth in a Jerusalem paint store where I was with my friend who was looking for white paint for his apartment. I think he was thinking of on off-white or one of the various shades of white, but the clerk insisted in Hebrew, “Lavan zelavan, “White is white.” Technically, the clerk was correct; there is only one white, but we tend call very light colors white when they are, in fact, hues of other colors. White does not have a hue.
One of the more difficult challenges in life is to pick out a color for a wall. We often have a visual concept of what we like or want, but then our perception of the colors is distorted when we compare the one ‘color’ to many other hues in that color range. To help you, however, paint companies try to describe the hues. For example, one company has a color family called ‘blue.’ Amongst the hues in this family, you will find something blue and resolute blue. These two shades look different, yet strangely similar so the paint company helps by giving the blue hues names…something and resolute. In most cases, however, our minds would say of each, powder blue and grey blue respectively. I’m guessing here that you are able to imagine the approximate color since something and resolute are of little help. Furthermore and to make things more confusing, some hues in the blue family are not referenced as blue. One shade of blue is called ‘salty dog.’ Salty dog blue…hmmm?
Colors bring out emotions. Red, for example, is said to bring out rage, anger, power while green is said to bring out a relaxed emotion and peacefulness. Sometimes the combination of colors evokes a national emotion like pride or reverence. Countries may use the same colors, but the colors do not have a universal meaning.
These three flags use the same three colors with, perhaps, with some variation in hue. To citizens of countries with these three flags, different emotions are evoked, but basically there is an emotion best described as national pride. Citizens of the world all rally under a flag and, as one might guess, negative sentiments are called forth by people who do not want to rally under certain flags. Some flags are well-known around the world while others are not known at all. Few people, I suspect recognize the Panamanian flag (far left, above) and as many would likely confuse the German flag with the Belgian flag, the Italian flag with the Irish flag. See what I mean below.
Colors are important parts of big moments in our lives. Bridal couples probably spend a lot of time choosing colors for weddings and wedding receptions. The fashion industry spends tons of money developing colors and the marketing of these colors (See The Devil Wears Prada). Automobile manufacturers design colors and advertise them to appeal to the age, gender and ‘road message’ they want to convey. There was a day, as the joke goes, you could buy any color car you want as long as it is black. These days, the standard manufacturer car colors are not expressive enough for some drivers so they often have their cars repainted. You have probably seen some of these colorful personal expressions on the road.
As a side note, caskets come in various colors too, but for one funeral I was at, the casket was repainted in a body shop a burnt orange metallic color. Apparently it was the decedent’s favorite color and was not available so the family brought the casket to an auto painting center. It was a vivid color and, as I mentioned before, it was symbolic of a person and brought forth family-oriented emotions. Colors say a lot.
Finally, I need to say something about nature’s colors. These are the ones that we describe as beautiful, awe-inspiring and inimitable. And try as they might, paint companies cannot copy the color of an autumn leaf or the iridescence of a peacock’s fan. Few artists will ever feel convinced that they have captured the density of a raven’s wing or the dustiness of a lion’s mane. Some do come close and when we see it, we are always amazed that such nuance can be mimicked on canvas. But still, we are always more amazed when we see what nature can paint.