A Rainbow-Centric Dive into the Color Palette

Color in art is extremely important--but why?


Because whatever you are using in your interior scheme, your art is going to complement or add to that. Color has been used by interior designers, advertisers, and artists to influence enhance our environments. Color in art can evoke a mood or create a response in the viewer.


Cool colors are blues and greens. Blue invokes a calming effect. It reduces blood pressure and appetite. Most spas, hotels, and medical offices use blues and greens. This is highly popular here, as we are a coastal community and it is a great way to bring the outside in, and create a tranquil atmosphere, as some of the homes here are second homes.


Warm colors have a yellow undertone, and can be associated with emotions ranging from happiness to violence. Red, orange, and yellow fall in this category. They stimulate appetite, excite the mind, and are activating.


So let’s take each color, and look at the emotions and connotations they can manifest.


Red is the color of power, romance, excitement, and ambition. It also stimulates the appetite (remember when everyone was painting their dining rooms or kitchens red?) and the lighter colors like pink make everyone look lovely and pair well with green.

This is a total power bedroom-remember red is the color of romance--Because of You” by BF Reed

Great large expressionist piece, “No Storms Ahead” by Catherine C. Martin that has all these fantastic pink tones!

The red in all these pieces make an arc and make them relate to one another. “Fireflies at Dawn I and II” by Fritzi Huber and in the middle an abstract by Kevin Bass. Furniture by Decades of Decor.

Orange is audacious: it is the color of creativity, boldness, liveliness. It signifies youth and fearlessness. It is used in many logos and company advertisements-even New Elements Gallery’s logo. I painted my door orange.

“City Start” by Bob Rankin has great pops of orange and coral. This is such an energetic piece.

Also from the Home Show 2020 this is “The Watchers” by Marlowe. Great figurative piece with lots of gorgeous orange.

Dawn breaking over the marsh “Morning Meditation” by Janet Triplett is soothing but has great energy.

Yellow is the next warm color and it is a little tricky. Yellow is associated with sunshine, happiness, and wisdom-it evokes a positive mood if it is a sunny and deep yellow. Pale yellows tend to lend themselves to less positive connotations. In Southeastern North Carolina, we tend to associate it with summer and easy living. Here are a few great paintings with yellow:

Gorgeous contemporary painting “La Sorpresa” by Sheila Keefe Ortiz is a great example of a gorgeous yellow palette that conveys sunshine, rebirth, renewal.

“Change of Plans” triptych by Rachel Frey. This piece is sunny and fun-I would love to see it in a boardroom.

Double whammy--Nancy Tuttle May abstract and a Kevin Bass abstract both with yellow--

Moving onto green--really popular here on the coast as well. Green is the color of harmony, security, and conveys feelings of tranquility and peace. Here are a few great examples of original art that soothes the soul--

"Journal Series" mixed media abstract painting by Kevin Bass with gorgeous greens perfect for a contemporary dining room.

Beautiful for a foyer or over a small bar.

“Fiesta Key” by Victoria Primicias would be perfect in an office or dining room.

Blue is the most popular here by far-it is really having a moment, and why not? It is the color of the sea and the sky, evoking a feeling of expansiveness and space. It is calming, cooling, and quiet. Let’s take a look at some great blue compositions:

Client’s dining room featuring an Ann Parks McCray sailboat series and a Sally Sutton water scene.

“Sea with Storm” by Katherine Wolf Webb has so much emotion and the horizon looks endless.

Frosty blues bring down your body temperature a couple of degrees in “Among Friends” by Kimberlee Maselli.

Purple is regal and dignified. The paler shades like lavender are incredibly restful. The darker shades are usually used in smaller doses as they can get a bit overbearing.

Surreal painting of woman in landscape--“Spirit of Woman-Spirit of Earth” by Ann Parks McCray has many shades of purple.

“Beyond Words” by Kimberlee Maselli brightens this vignette and has a regal quality to it as well as being incredibly restful.

The neutrals--white, black, brown, and gray--all have their own emotional connections, but in most of the cases with my artists these colors are used as foils for brighter colors. White is associated with innocence, purity, cleanliness. Most designs I see have white walls and a white sofa, so it is rare I get white paintings as there would be little contrast. However, here are a couple of examples.

“Uncharted Territory” by Kimberlee Maselli is light and ethereal because of her use of white in the work.

“Window to the Soul” by Nancy Tuttle May uses a great deal of white which accentuates the greens and pinks in this piece.

Black is a little controversial here in our community as many artists brag that their color story doesn’t contain black at all-here we show you how black can bring down a big color palette or create a big emotion.

“Ascension” by Sally Sutton--Sally uses a lot of black in her composition to pop her colors and add tonality.

“The First Magnolia” by Sheila Keefe Ortiz uses black to convey the circle of life-the transition from the abundance of summer to the realization that fall is upon you.

Brown is steady, dependable, restful. Brown is really difficult for us to sell here and I just think with a coastal community it is rough. That said a mountain gallery will have much to choose from. Here is my favorite composition.

“Cecilia" by Catherine C. Martin from “Bright Lights Bold Strokes.”

Gray can be melancholy, but mostly I think of gray as restful and relaxing. It is again a great foil for other colors.

“Rainy Days” by Todd Carignan makes me want to curl up with a book.

Janet Triplett’s “Tranquility” – just like the title says--beautiful sunset piece with gray purple and orange.

So the most important point about color in art is what it means to you the viewer--I am always surprised at the strong reactions people have to color when they are shopping for art. What sorts of activities will be pursued in the room that you plan to place the art? Will there be games played and lively conversation? Is your entire home your haven from the world, or is that how you see your bedroom? Tight color stories create cohesiveness, and more color creates an atmosphere of stimulation. Are you a vintage lover? Certain color stories really convey that vintage vibe. In the end, it is all about what you love, and you should only have colors you love in your home that create the vibe you are working towards.


So until next time, buy some art for art’s sake.