As human beings, we live in a world saturated with color. While we may have a limited range of vision according to then broad electromagnetic spectrum, we can still see a wide varieties of colors. We often choose to allow these colors saturate our lives. We paint our walls and our nails. We choose to have colorful cases for otherwise bland electronic devices. We paint with a wide variety of colorful paints.
But why do we do we choose the colors we do?
Think about the color of your bedroom: why did you choose it? Did it invoke any emotions or memories?
We tend to associate colors with meanings, whether we realize it or not. As we experience different things in life, we begin forming color connotations. These connotations definitely differ from person to person, even culture to culture. For example, black is associated with death and mourning in many Western cultures, but Chinese and Hindi cultures associate white with death.
Art therapy can really reflect different emotions through symbols that may be meaningful to only the individual. Color can be a huge symbol in this regard.
In order to effectively view our art as therapy, we have to understand the meanings that we put into it, intentionally or unintentionally. For example, my mandala had a large section that was colored various shades of pink. For most people, this symbolizes femininity or beauty, but I view pink as a shallow color that expresses incomplete happiness. This interpretation of color meant a lot to me in understanding my own artwork.
If you are attempting to do art therapy by yourself, you will need to think about what different colors mean to you. A great way to do this is by creating a Color Wheel of Emotions.
A color wheel is a simple idea that is used to educate children about how colors can be mixed. Think about using a color wheel of emotions to educate yourself about the emotional associations you have with color.
To begin, draw a circle and split it into 6 to 8 different parts. These parts can be equal or not, that’s entirely up to you!
Think really hard about what emotions different colors bring to you. Does red make you angry or happy? Does orange make you think of an event in your life that makes you peaceful? Fill in the sections of your wheel with the colors and include the emotions or memories you associate with that color. (This would be a particularly cool tool to include in your art journal!)
There are many fun variations of the color wheel of emotion. Carolyn Mehlomakulu’s article “Color Your Feelings: Art Therapy Intervention” has a great explanation of how-to create a good color wheel. She is a licensed therapist, so it is particularly helpful!
If you can’t think of any associations for a certain color, try this article. It includes a list of possible associations and even has some explanations of the colors in various cultures.