The Color Red – The Force of Life

Red berries, red lips, red roses – red has been a prominent color in my art work for the last few years. To me it’s a deliciously dynamic, beautiful, vibrant and powerful color that makes me feel alive and that I seem to use intuitively again and again.

Red is a very emotionally intense color that is highly visible and able to focus your attention quickly. It is the color of fire and blood – our life force. Did you know that standing in a room painted in red increases your metabolism, respiration rate, and blood pressure? No wonder it is associated with passion and willpower, even violence and aggression. The expression “seeing red” is thought to be based on the physical characteristics of anger, including redness of the cheeks.

The symbolism varies though, depending on culture and era. Being the first color developed for painting and dying, red became associated in antiquity with war, wealth, and power. In the medieval period, red held both religious significance, as the color of the blood of Christ and the fires of Hell, and secular meaning, as a symbol of love, glory, and beauty. Yet during the Protestant Reformation, red began to decline in status. Viewed as indecent and immoral, red fell out of favor. After the French Revolution, red gained new respect as the color of progressive movements and radical left-wing politics.

In some cultures, red represents joy and good luck and is a traditional color worn by brides in China and India to frighten away evil spirits. The phrase “paint the town red” is associated with celebration, partying, abandon, fun, and excitement.

What emotion does the color red provoke in you? What is your favorite and/or often used color? Why not explore that color further and make your own color study?

Book suggestion: Red: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau

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