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dreaming in Kodachrome

November 22, 2009

Color, vivid complex color, shapes everything I see, and adds meaning to all of it. Most human beings who have normal rods and cones in their eyes see color and color no doubt adds meaning to their experiences, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I have what I think of as a “color sense”, and a related sense of “color harmony”,  that are so critical to how I experience the world I would include them in my personal array of physical senses: sight, feeling, smell, taste, sound, color sense, color harmony sense.

Kit Whitfield’s post, “Watching the Same Movie“, inspired me to mention it. I only realized I had them as discrete entities maybe three years ago. Before then, they were just something I took for granted.

I first noticed them when I got serious about interpreting my own dreams, which was +/- three years ago (hence the post title). As I combed through my dreams for important symbols and motifs, I realized that colors in my dreams were essentially encoded data that I could use to understand what was happening, and why. Colors, either individually or in groups, tell me how people feel about themselves and their place in the world. Are they happy generally, and/or right this minute? Are they conflicted, do they feel welcomed or alienated? Do they like themselves? Are they in an environment that’s healthy and nurturing for them, or not?

So, interpreting one’s own dreams, great; but can my color senses be used outside my own head? Yes. Looking at someone’s art tells me a lot; however, everyone isn’t an artist. But most people’s outfits and settings they control (their homes, their offices or cubicles, etc.) will also give you a lot of data, if you know how to read it.

The color channel basically tells me the emotional story of people around me. It’s sort of like a transcript of what body language tells you – so you can keep reading it, even after individual gestures are long gone.

And related to it is my color harmony sense. Do colors “want to be together”, or not? I find it physically painful to look at colors that don’t want to be together. But what do I mean by that? Whenever I make art, the colors involved tend to be mixes of hues – I’ll never use “pure red”, “pure yellow”, or “pure blue”. I only ever use secondary (orange, green, purple), tertiary (red-orange, yellow-green, blue-violet, etc.), or other tones. If I have a set of elements in a grouping, even if they appear to be the same color, I won’t make any particular effort to “standardize” the proportions. That is, if it’s three red-violet triangles, I don’t try to make them exactly the same shade of red-violet. I like analogous color schemes [colors next to each other on the color wheel – for instance, yellow, orange, red], but I always include some sort of contrasting shades, whether they’re complementary, split-complements, triadic, etc.

Disharmonious color schemes to me are evidence of internal or external conflict, leading to disrespect, mistreatment, or coercion of some sort. When I look at a color scheme like that, it appears to me like some of the colors want to run screaming out of the plane they’re in, but they’re trapped.

In all of my art, there are “conversations” going on between elements, and everyone is influencing everyone else, even if said influence is not visible. And those interactions are “friendly” or “neighborly” – maybe no one’s mind is changed, but everyone relates to everyone else as an equal, things are learned, and all are enriched by the contact. And therefore, overall, it’s harmonious, it’s beautiful, and it’s dynamic. It’s life unfolding before us, in its unpredictable way. It’s a grand adventure.

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