Commentary: The Fascinating Role of Colors

By Louis A. Zona

I happen to like green automobiles. I think, though, that I am in the minority.

Green is the color of the Earth, which together with the sky on a beautiful summer day, makes for an amazing duo. As I think about it, green is my favorite everything color.

I love my green sports jacket, the green trim on the house across the street and even my green shirt and matching green tie. And I get teased that green is my favorite color because my driver’s license says so.

One should never challenge anything that is said on one’s driver’s license. And, of course, everyone’s favorite green is the color of money. “Dollar bill green” has to be everyone’s favorite color of money, although the $50 bill sure is a beautiful thing when one occasionally ends up in my faux leather green wallet.

I remember that the smartest kid in my first-grade class was a know-it-all named Billy who was also the teacher’s pet. A nun named Sister Mary Verene loved to ask questions. She loved to show the rest of the class just how brilliant her favorite student was by asking questions of Billy on topics such as spelling, geography and history as the class was asked to sit and marvel at Billy’s incredible mind.

The toughest part of this display of Billy’s exceptional mind (according to Sister Verene) was his answer to Sister’s question,” What is your very favorite color?”

“Actually,” Billy answered, as I remember, “as a male person, blue is my favorite hue. But there exist hundreds of shades and tints of blue. If you are choosing blue, it probably is ultramarine blue since it also is made from chemicals that are readily available, as opposed to cerulean blue or cobalt blue, made of high-end chemicals.”

Was I deserving of Sister Verene’s insensitivity by her pointing out one child’s intelligence over another? On the other hand, I probably was jealous of Billy back then.

Fast-forward 50 years: When someone advised me to get a blue car, I had to tell him, “No, green is much more beautiful than blue,” even though I may or may not believe it.

Truth be told, Billy was an impressive dude, and I promise not to take it out on the color blue. The symbolism of blue as the color of masculinity and royalty and pink as the color of femininity appears every time a child is born. Of course, the male or female child can safely wear yellow and be in the middle category. In other words, it is safe to give a yellow blanket to either a male or female child.

Then there’s orange, which I understand was Frank Sinatra’s favorite color. In fact, a Life magazine cover shows Frank sitting beside his pool wearing his orange turtleneck sweater. The color orange does, however, take unfair criticism at times. Even a certain politician is sometimes ridiculed about his unusual orange complexion.

Red is one of the primary colors along with yellow and blue that, when mixed with one of the other primary colors, creates the secondary colors orange and purple. Tertiary colors are made by mixing secondary colors.

The fascinating role of colors in our lives appears when you examine the psychological impact colors make. The famous post-impressionist artist George Seurat felt that warm colors (those associated with the sun) appear larger and even can lift our spirits when placed into our environment.

He also believed in optical mixing, where colors placed next to each other optically mix within our eyes to produce additional colors.

Our language associates colors. For example, if you are feeling blue today, you are down. Green means that someone is jealous of you (the green-eyed monster). Red is associated with rage, and yellow with cowardice. White signifies purity, and black the very opposite.

When I was a kid, I watched Westerns on television. Gene Autry always wore a white hat and rode a golden stallion. Most of the bad guys that he chased out of town wore black.

I think that I will look at my driver’s license once more. I assume it says that my eyes are still green (and, I hope, not red – and definitely not pink).

The loss of the Super Bowl by the white-shirted San Francisco 49ers proved in the eyes of some that the red of the Kansas City Chiefs may be more motivating. It is that the red football cannot easily be observed. On the other hand, red as a background to green is explosive (complementary colors).

Color, believe it or not, can have a temperature. Again, colors associated with the sun are warm colors, and cool colors relate to the Earth. Warm colors have a size to them. Cool colors recede.

Interior designers wanting to make a room appear larger will paint it in warm colors or the lighter shades of most colors, but cool colors dominate. A person who has psychological issues generally does not want to spend time in cool colors such as blue, purple and brown.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.