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Emotional Color Wheel: Practicing Emotion Identification in Art

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Color is a powerful tool for creative expression and self exploration. It is said that color is the language of the soul, and it is no wonder why different cultures have attached different meanings and symbolism to different colors over time. Colors are all around us, and they have a powerful effect on our emotions and memories as well as our engagement and response to our environments.

Colors can have a profound effect on our moods and state of feeling. The colors we see around us are often subconsciously associated with different feelings, thoughts and memories. These associations can in turn influence the way we feel and react. In fact, studies have shown that colors can even affect our behavior and judgments in different circumstances.

Color is one of the most powerful tools an artist has to express emotion. Through color, we can evoke moods and feelings that would otherwise be difficult to communicate. Color symbolism is the use of color to express specific emotions or ideas. In art, color is often used to create moods or convey messages. When you understand the symbolic meaning of colors, you can use them to intensify your paintings, making them more expressive and evocative.

For instance, red is one of the most powerful colors in the spectrum, and it is often symbolically associated with passion, love, excitement, and energy. When it comes to stimulation, red is highly energizing and can increase our heart rate and blood pressure. It is a great color for attracting attention and making a statement. However, too much red can be overwhelming and cause feelings of anger or aggression.

Blue is often considered the color of sadness and depression. It can also be associated with calmness, serenity and relaxation. Blue is often associated with calmness and trustworthiness.

Green, another color in the cooler tone of the color spectrum, is often viewed as the color of envy and jealousy. It can also be associated with wealth, fertility and growth.

As outlined above, the use of color is a universal language that incorporates various patterns of associations into a shared symbolic understanding. How we feel about ourselves and the world around us can be expressed in many ways, including the colors we choose to use in our artwork. Color can be used in art therapy to help people explore their personal emotions and feelings as well as explore avenues of growth and transformation through the overlap, repetition, mixture and/or deep exploration of color. Often we might struggle to identify what we are feeling or how we experience various emotions, and color can often provide a medium through which we can begin to externalize what is unable to be seen or verbalized.

In art therapy, when we discuss emotions with children, we can use the symbolism of color to help them identify and understand their feelings. For example, blue might be associated with sadness, while yellow might be associated with happiness. This can help children label and understand their emotions more clearly. A child's emotions can be difficult to understand and navigate, but with a little bit of knowledge about color psychology, you can help them identify and discuss their feelings in a way that is both meaningful and productive.

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