The Human Psyche Through Color and Light

What you see is what you get. This is true because the vast majority of us are primarily visually stimulated.  Let’s look at how our environment influences our state of mind.  We’ll begin with an examination of color.  Color has the greatest overall affect on the human psyche.  Warm colors induce a sense of excitation, appetite, invitation, and collective social behavior.  Cool colors induce a sense of calm, repose, reflection, and quiet.  Knowing what colors to apply to a specific environment helps control the human reaction to that space.

The psychology of color changes from culture to culture. So we will concentrate on western civilization as our primary reference point.  Let’s take red for instance.  Now I’m sure you associate red with emergencies and danger, but do you additionally think of passion, love, wealth and power.  Orange may strike you as autumn, pumpkins, and Halloween, but it also suggests clarity, celebration, success, fame, friendliness and warmth.  We can all agree that yellow and sunshine go hand in hand, but it also alludes to intellect, stimulation, and springtime. It’s revealing, demanding, and intense. Green is a pretty easy connect with nature, but it also gives off friendliness, practicality, frankness, and most of all calmness.  Dignified purple as we all know connects with royalty, but it also suggests commitment, drama, and poise. Loyal blue also suggests royalty, integrity, restlessness, and honesty. Blue is also the most popular color in our culture.

Before we continue, let me say that what I’m going to share with you is completely politically incorrect.  If that bothers you perhaps you should sign off now, because I’m going to use concepts like influence, manipulation, inducement, and power, all of which have been banned from most social discourse.  It is however, a fact of life that your environment affects your state of mind. Your state of mind affects your physical well being.  Your physical well being affects your resources of energy, and energy is what it takes to survive.  Therefore, knowing what colors give off provides you with a powerful tool for influencing emotional conditions.

The next important factor that should come under your scrutiny is the manipulation of light.  Light is what empowers color.  Without light color disappears.  Therefore, understanding the qualities of light empowers you to manipulate color in a variety of ways.  I’ve often said it’s better to manipulate than be manipulated.  Become aware of the power of subtlety.  Be a quiet mover and shaker in your world and reap the benefits.

Natural light is the most full-bodied light.  It does however have the capacity to be overwhelming at times, and it changes with the seasons, and the direction of exposure, and the time of day.  So, understanding natural light is critical to getting positive benefits from it.  If for instance you were planning a workstation, you would not wish to position it in front of windows exposed to direct sunlight.  Glare produces negative physical and emotional reactions.  That is why we created sunglasses.  Better to have direct sun light slightly shaded and originating from above and behind you.  In this way you avoid excessive heat and reflected glare.  Natural light emanating from two or more directions reduces shadows and consequently visual fatigue.  If the natural light is restricted in one direction, it can be supplemented with artificial light in order to create an even distribution.  Natural light is considered a full spectrum light except that conditions such as time of day, season of the year, compass orientation, and weather conditions can cause the light to tend towards one color or another.  For instance, a southern- exposure will augment the yellows, oranges, and reds, while a northern exposure will play to the greens and blues.

Artificial light falls into a number of categories.  Incandescent light (environmentally incorrect) heats a tungsten filament until it glows favoring the warm colors. It is the most common but more energy inefficient than other choices such as fluorescent lighting with tends to emphasize the cool colors.  There are spectrum-balancing alternatives, but they are more expensive.  Tungsten halogens have a filament surrounded by halogen gas.  As the tungsten burns off the reaction with the halogen gas create an intense light source. Tungsten halogen lamps cost more but last longer and produce more lumens per watt.  Low voltage tungsten halogen lighting has a small beam spread, is energy efficient, and produces superior accent lighting on art pieces.

Firelight, candlelight, and lanterns create combustion lighting.  It is particularly useful as mood lighting.  It creates a warm cozy atmosphere, which tends to the warm shades.

The point of all this light conversation is to punctuate that color and light interact and change one another.  Never pick a room color based on a color chip under fluorescent lighting in some paint store.  Always purchase a pint or quart if that is the smallest quantity for sale, take it to its intended location and apply it to the surface you wish to transform.  Witness the spectrum it embraces under the influence of the available lighting.  If it is natural lighting observe the color variation over a changing spectrum from morning till night.

One trick for acquiring exactly what you want, is to purchase a small quantity of pure white, and black.  If the color you purchased looks different in the chosen environment, mix in one direction of the other until you get the desired affect.  Then take a sample of the adjusted color back to the paint store and have it computer color matched in the quantity you desire.  This one suggestion will save you from living with disappointment over not achieving the affect you were looking for

Life Is Art – Live It

The Sterlingman