Over the past few years I’ve noticed that tints and shades of orange have been showing up in my work from rust to aged shellac. I know that one of the reasons I am drawn to orange is that it is an in-between color…it’s a combination of red and yellow (also known as a secondary color) and I find those kinds of colors quite appealing. My curiosity has led me to find out more about colors, their origins and history, their emotional and psychological impact, as well as their cultural and spiritual significance. So here is a little bit about the color orange…
The name comes from the Sanskrit word for the citrus fruit naranga. In the societies of ancient Europe, Egypt and China the mineral orpiment was used to make the color and the painter Renoir used a chrome orange made from the mineral crocoite, but these mineral based orange pigments were quite toxic. In the early 1900’s synthetics were developed to replace them. Today we have bright and clear hues from single pigments such as cadmium orange, perinone orange and pyrole orange.
A wonderful example of orange in art is Mark Rothko's Orange and Yellow (1956). Rothko stated that his goal was for color to "express . . . basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom. . . . The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point.”
The color psychology of orange is uplifting and is one of optimism (think about how sunsets make us feel). It is said that the color offers emotional strength during difficult times and can assist in recovering from grief. It is also said to rejuvenate the spirit. And speaking of spirit, orange is the color of transformation in Confucianism and in Buddhism the color saffron (yellow orange) is one of illumination-the highest state of perfection.
Lastly, there is an incredible book that was an invaluable resource to artists and naturalists before the invention of photography. Werner's Nomenclature of Colours was a color guide that gave detailed color mixing tips. The online version is well worth the exploration. Check it out here.