COLOR MOODS - by Victor Jorgensen

Have you ever experienced art which resonated on on a deep emotional level? For many of you, it may have even served as part of the inspiration led you to becoming artists yourselves.

Then if a work of art has something emotionally compelling about it, you might think of the colors. Were they used in a very original or dramatic way? Was it color that caused the emotional impact?

And does color give us the potential to infuse this emotional impact in to the art that we produce? I think, it definitely does. As visual artists we rely primarily on color rather than words to communicate our feelings. Eighty percent of visual information is related to color.

Here are two very supportive quotes from artists who were famous for their use of color. If we take the advice of Henri Matisse, he suggests,
" Seek the strongest color effect possible.. the content is of no importance."


And Georgia O'Keeffe was definitely talking about communicating emotions with color when she said, "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way--things I had no words for."

So, how do we best take advantage of color to communicate the emotional mood that we intend? The place to begin is with the artist's emotional tone, and translate that in to color. By the way we arrange color and tonal values, we create the "Color Mood". Because the subject and composition are not doing it by themselves, the colors are an essential part of the mood. By "Mood", I am talking about the feeling, or the state of mind that is transmitted through the art. During the process, we might want to be aware of our own mood , because that will probably influence the color choices, and the outcome.

We have both biological and psychological responses to color. Together the purely biological responses mix with the more subjective psychological responses to create our emotional response.

Biological response can be measured in the change of blood pressure, appetite, or the increase or decrease of heart rate.

The psychological response comes from several things; the effect of warm and cool colors, personal preferences, and color symbolism. The association between color and emotions become interwoven with symbolic meaning. We learn this at a very young age through our culture, religion, and personal upbringing.

Picasso was talking about color symbolism when he said "There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun."

Some common psychological responses to color have worked their way in to well used phrases, such as..."So mad he could see red", "Feeling blue", or "Being green with envy".

Although each of us experience color individually and uniquely, being aware of of the emotions generated by different colors is helpful in planning our personal palettes. Deliberate color choices will give a deeper expression to our mosaics, because colors do bring about specific, and often strong, responses. Especially when they are very saturated. The saturation, or intensity of the color has more effect on mood than the hue or value of the color.

Each of the colors have a range of qualities with psychological associations.

Why are Red, Orange, and Yellow considered to be "Warm Colors"? Because they have the psychological effect of making us feel warm due to the associations with fire, heat, and sunshine. These colors advance visually, and are very eye-catching.

Red sets an exciting mood. It is the color of passion and power.

Orange gives off a friendly, inviting mood. It is lively and happy, more welcoming than seductive.

Yellow has a radiant enthusiastic mood. It is the color of sunshine, and it grabs attention.

The "Cool Colors"- Green, Blue, and Purple, have the psychological effect of making us feel cool because of the associations with deep bodies of water, open skies, or maybe mountains on the distant horizon. These colors recede visually which make them excellent choices for backgrounds.

Green exudes a tranquil soothing mood. It is the primary color of nature and growth. The color of the heart chakra, and In our culture it also has the symbolic association with money.

Blue has a restful and serene mood. It can also be cold like ice, or calm like a lake.

Purple has a mysterious or fanciful mood. It can be elegant or playful, the color of dream states and fantasy.

As we combine any of these colors, the effects will change depending on how we use them. The perception of colors become altered by; what other colors are placed near them, the percentage of the area that they occupy, and the texture will alter the perception slightly also.

Van Gogh had a great understanding of the perception of color. He said "Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make a more arbitrary use of colour to express myself more forcefully...To express the love of two lovers by the marriage of complimentary colours...To
express hope by some star. Someone's passion by the radiance of the setting sun."

When we combine colors, we are combining their emotional qualities simultaneously.

An effective palette includes a group of colors that interact on a visual and symbolic level, and therefore on an emotional level. On a visual level the principles of color theory can be used to create harmonious
color combinations. On a symbolic level our colors are linked to the meanings understood by our social rules and culture.

The effective palette also works on an emotional level. And the artist can fine-tune the emotional impact by the way the palette is used. By the percentage of each color used, by the placement next to other colors of the palette, a little by the texture, but especially by the saturation levels of the colors.


For instance, a Playful Mood is achieved by a palette consisting of light, fully saturated bright colors. Pure hues, like crayon colors, and this could include white.



A Nurturing Mood comes from a palette that is made of rejuvenating warm earth tones, especially when it includes shades of natural green.


A Peaceful Mood comes from a palette which combines serene earth tones, like the colors of the sea, sand, and rocks. This palette is similar but more subdued than the colors in the Nurturing Mood palette. And even though the colors have a low saturation and are subtle, they are very important, because they make the colors next to them look good.

A Romantic Mood would use the less intense, softer tones of red. All of the pinks, pale orange, or peach could be included.


This is only a partial list of possible color moods. By going back to the visual and symbolic qualities of the individual colors, the artist can combine them to create any mood that the artist wishes to express. Please remember, it is the resposibility of each artist to examine and determine their own feelings for the colors, and not proceed entirely by generalized color mood formulas.

So, for a few specific examples:

Add cheer with yellow.

Cool colors can lend a calming atmosphere, while pinks and peachy tones conjure a romantic mood.

Dark, rich colors can lend a sense of drama or mystery.



We have an incredible range of beautiful colors available to us for creating our mosaics, more than ever before in history. And as visual artists, these colors give us the language we need to communicate our feelings artistically. We DO infuse our mosaics with emotional impact; and we do it with color.

Contributing Mosaic artists supplied the following images, Click on the mosaic images above to go to their respective websites:

Karen Ami- "Circle of Friends"- Playful Mood example
Julie Richey-
"Santa Fe Shower"- Peaceful Mood Example
Yulia Hanensen-
"Pink Peony"- Romantic Mood Example
Victor Jorgensen-
"The Swing"- Nurturing Mood Example

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