Holi is a hindu two-day spring celebration in honor of the divine love of Radha and Krishna, symbolizing the force of life and good over evil. Holi is also called “festival of colors” and consists of friends and family covering each other in hues of yellow, green, violets and more. Inspired by Holi, we want to talk about the significance and meaning of color in art.

Color Theory: What is it and why is it important?

The theory of colors is based on scientific understanding and artistic research. Knowing colors means knowing how different colors contrast or complement each other, what certain combinations communicate and what mixes well.

Color theory is used to experiment and innovate new shades as well as replicate and reproduce others. Usually, a color wheel is used in color theory to organize different categories of colors: primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

An artist’s eye for color usually needs to be exercised as it’s a great skill to evaluate different ranges of color without representation. For example, when beginning a new acrylic painting, an artist tends to lay out the paint, make mixtures, adjust them and then apply. Many have described doing color charts as a meditative experience and important in the process of expanding one’s artistic vocabulary to gain a richer visual aesthetic.

As an artist, knowing color theory can also be essential to building a unique brand. As art collectors, there are benefits to knowing how to evaluate the message and value behind different art work based on color combinations and uses.

How Artists Use Color

Similar To Stream by Kübra Turhan
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When it comes to painting landscapes, an artist like Kubra Tuhran in Similarly to Stream can choose to express the scenery through naturalistic colours. The colours in this piece resemble and recreate the colours in real life as they are seen by the painter’s eyes.

Summer Glow by Mykola Ampilogov
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Henri Matisse once said “When I put down green it doesn’t mean gradd, and when I put down blue it doesn’t mean sky”. This piece called Summer Glow by Mykola Ampilogov from Gallerima’s collection of impressionist art is both an exaggeration and manipulation of natural colors in a landscape. The playfulness in art opens a revolutionary space for the world to be perceived beyond expectations and representations.

Water Charms by Twiggy’s Art
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Monet taught us the beauty in shimmering lights on water and the effect of movement through soft coloring, paying close attention to what colors are in company with each other to achieve a certain appearance. In the oil painting Water Charms by Twiggy, we see the rocks are intimately close to each other but harmoniously contrast through the blue and green reflections. Although many colors in the painting contrast each other, they blend well and create a shifting illusion thanks to color theory.

Oranges by Kseniya Scher
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In Oranges, Kseniya Scher uses warm colors that intensely draw the observer in. The soft and hazy bluish background accentuate the bright oranges on the canvas. Not only are the colors used to fulfill a dynamic between the different elements in the painting, but certain tones communicate certain emotions. For example, blue is related to sadness while red is connected to fury. Painter Wassily Kadinsky (1866-1944) was one of the most important figures in the rise of abstract art and biggest advocates of arousing feelings in the observer through colors.

Cold Colors Versus Warm Colors

Time flies by Ilay
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Green and blue are considered cool colors, while all colors can be applied with cool undertones. Relaxed blue colors are also known for awakening spiritual feelings, especially when blended with earthy tones like shades of brown, they add a calming effect. As we see in Time Flies by Arte Ilay, cool colors can give a coastal feeling. The painting is a perfect example of how cold shades can bring the outside in – resembling the tones of the sky, clouds, sand and sea – creating a tranquil atmosphere in the room that it’s in.

Click to explore blue art on Gallerima

Warm colours have yellow undertones and have a very wide range of emotions they can convey. Red, orange and yellow all have the potential of arousing the mind, activating one’s appetite and stimulating inner emotions. Reds make beautiful statements, not always sharp and intense, but also sensual and deep. As in Verceighty’s limited signed print “Class of 88” based on the retrowave paintings, we see how tasteful and versatile warm colours can be even in contrast to the cool surrounding details:

Class of 88 Limited Edition Signed Print by Verceighty
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Click to explore red art on Gallerima

The meaning of colors: Symbol Chart


Green: Nature, good health, envy, fertility, spring, renewal, youth

Black: Power, sexuality, elegance, wealth, mystery, mourning, detachment, remorse, evil

White: Purity, innocence, winter, sterility, marriage, death, birth, peace

Purple: Royalty, spirituality, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, honour, arrogance

Lavender: Femininity, grace, elegance

Red: Energy, love, passion, aggression, fire, blood, war, sincerity

Gray: Security, intelligence, modesty, practicality, sadness, boredom

Blue: Tranquility, unity, trust, depression, appetite, conservatism, water

Pink: Romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance, calmness

Brown: Earth, stability, comfort, simplicity, endurance, hearth

Orange: Balance, enthusiasm, warmth, vibrance, attentive

Beige and ivory: unification, pleasantness, simplicity

Last Words
Thanks to the wonderful Holi-tradition which occurs this week, we’ve now learned that colors are not only meaningful as beautiful visuals but as communicators as well. Artists today who are naturally gifted in the ability to see aesthetic value in everything still have to study color theory, as it takes another level of understanding to truly connect an idea with careful consideration to colors.

If you’re interested in learning about art and color in relation to home decor, read our guide to choosing visual art for your home. Happy Holi!