I have synesthesia. All it means is I associate colors and moods with letters, numbers, words, but mostly sounds. I see colors when listening to music. Sounds strongly affect me and usually locks me into a mental state of deep thinking and creativity. Listening to something always invokes visions of color and a mood. Listening sparks a memory or deep thought or new experience. Sound is something that greatly impacts my life, mood and artwork. I’m usually listening to music I would describe as chill, relaxing, calming, or soothing. I’m the person who wears ear plugs to concerts, movie theatres, and even church. Loud or music that is too hyper really stresses me out and gives me real anxiety.
While painting you can find me listening to music like that or an audiobook, or podcast. I always work better and get into a better flow state when I am listening to something. I can do a comprehensive list of books and podcasts I listen to later, but one question I get asked a lot while painting is, “what are you listening to?” People will frequently ask how I listen to music and whether or not I have playlists?
Yes, friends I do have playlists. Here is the comprehensive introduction to the music I listen to on Spotify. Each of these are curated playlists for my life and I listen to all of them while I paint too.
There really isn’t a method to the madness. I usually just put on the playlist that I am feeling the most. I usually start with a specific song in mind that I know is in a specific playlist and just let the playlist shuffle from there. You can find my Spotify Profile Here.
Here are the playlists in definitive ranking of what I listen to the most:
This playlist is sweet, calm, and melancholy. It’s probably my favorite of my playlists and often find myself picking around in it or just letting it run from beginning to end. This playlist is 8 hours and 40 minutes of pure reflection and calm. If you’re a melancholy person like me, or just enjoy a good downer, this is the playlist for you. Put it on shuffle and soak in all the feels.
This playlist is more upbeat and playful in comparison to the last playlist. The beats are little faster, it’s more lively and puts you in a good mood. This a positive, forward looking playlist that I always turn on for a pick-me-up.
This was the playlists I was listening to/creating while I was working on my last collection, The Divide. It is a mixed bag and it have different meanings in my mind, but if you haven’t been burned out with those two previous playlists then you should give these a listen too.
I have several other playlists, but I’m going to let you choose your own adventure there. One is all French music, one is just classical music, there are a couple of Christmas playlists, and of course my favorite 80’s music (because 80’s music is basically my all-time favorite). Those main three playlists are what I listen to on a regular basis. Here is the link to my Spotify Profile.
*Note * None of the works of art depicted from other artists were created with the intent to portray their counterpart in nature I point out. All works of art and photographs are for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect the ideas of the artists or scientific photographers mentioned.
“Abstract art isn’t real art because it doesn’t look real. Nothing in the real world is abstract, and abstract art is easier than realism.” I’ve heard many refrains similar to this throughout the years. I paint mostly abstract works and words like this do not offend me, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. My only challenge or question would be, well have you ever thought of abstraction as realism or impressionism? What do I mean?
I believe and propagate the idea that what we perceive as abstract can sometimes instead be “real life things” in an impressionistic state. What do I mean?
First, let’s parse out impressionism just so we are all on the same page. Here is Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of Impressionism: “a theory or practice in painting especially among French painters of about 1870 of depicting the natural appearances of objects by means of dabs or strokes of primary unmixed colors in order to simulate actual reflected light and color”
Here is an example of Impressionism by Claude Monet. The first piece is Monet’s impressionistic painting of the waterlilies in his backyard. Below that is a photograph of his waterlilies I took this past summer. His work is not hyper-realistic, it doesn’t look exactly like real life, it is looser, more vivid, and focused on color and light.
Now here are some pieces that are considered abstract, by some of my friends who are artists. This first piece is by my friend Ann Marie Coolick and when she paints in this style it always reminds me of vegetable cell structure in an Impressionistic form.
Photo by Ann Marie Coolick
Onion cell under a microscope photo by Saurabh Garg
Here is another picture I took at the beach last week and the way the sand was encrusted on the shore, it reminded me of some of my own abstract paintings.
There are so many thousands of examples of abstract art that have reminded me of something in the real world, I’m sure you sensed the same thing. What if what we call “abstract art” was actually impressionist art of normal every day, beautiful things that most people can’t see or don’t notice? I very often think it is.
When people don’t appreciate abstraction, that is fine, and I understand, but it also makes me think that they have a hard time appreciating the little things. They probably don’t enjoy color for color’s sake. They probably don’t celebrate light and its reflection. They probably don’t look at the cell structure of an onion and see something beautiful that needs to be celebrated. Maybe I over celebrate and get too excited about all the small beauty around me, but I think that is one of the most important parts of life. Celebrating beauty around us. Praising God for the color, beauty, and light He infused into the world. A celebration a day keeps the bad vibes away.
It is hard to imagine a life without color. The truth is we don’t all exactly know the colors that someone else sees. We all probably see colors a little differently, different shades, different tones. We know that color blindness exists and some people cannot see colors and instead live in a world of muted colors. Almost more terrifying to me than color blindness would be living in a world of hyper-color. Where every color appeared neon and fluorescent. Could you imagine, only being able to escape bright, burning colors by closing your eyes?
For me, color communicates so much. It has the power to convey moods and feelings like when people say, “I’m feeling blue” or “She was red hot, she was so mad.” Color is used to organize life and bring order, like stop lights, or yellow versus white directional stripes on the road, or when some very organized people color code things (I’m not one of those people, kudos if you are).
There have been hundreds of books written on the psychology of color. Examples might be politicians wearing a red tie to communicate power and authority. Or Hillary Clinton choosing a purple (a mix of red and blue the colors associated with the Democratic and Republican parties) suit on the day she gave her presidential election concession speech symbolizing unity. Many color therapists will tell you never to paint your bedroom red because it can hinder sleep and disrupt the brain as you are trying to relax and fall asleep.
It is for this reason that choosing colors and choosing where they fit in our lives is essential to how we live and the kind of lives we try to cultivate. So I would ask, what type of life and environment are you trying to cultivate for yourself?
I cannot answer that for you, but I can tell you the life and environment I am trying to cultivate. I want my environment to be a peaceful one. One that highlights the natural beauty in the world. It is this ever-present pursuit of peace that leads me to create art that is soothing, balanced and peaceful. I usually use very little black, and almost no reds. Of course, I use those colors when mixing paints, but they are never the focal points of my works.
Color affects me on so deep a level that I cannot describe it except to say, that when I’m in the presence of a lot of red or orange, I can literally feel my stress level rising. My heart beats faster, my eyes feel like they are pulsating inside my skull and my anxiety levels shoot through the roof. Color has the power to place stresses and strains or peace and tranquility simply by their presence in your space.
You will notice I paint with mostly cool tones or pastels. The reason is cool tones are generally associated with peaceful things. Green is usually associated with nature, trees, grass, and peaceful scenes. Blue is often associated with blue skies or glassy waters, both calming things in nature. Here’s the question though…. if the sky was red, and the grass was orange, would those colors be associated with peace and tranquility?
Is color and our experience with color associative, meaning we are attracted to certain colors because of our environments and what we seek. Or do we inherently like certain places or things in nature because the colors themselves are inherently soothing?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg. I tend to be of the opinion that God created colors with inherent properties that would draw out parts of His glory. That different colors themselves have inherent qualities that evoke peace, tranquility, hope, energy, excitement, and more. I believe when he made the world he placed those colors around us with the intention to purposely evoke emotions of peace, of tranquility, and of His beauty. I think that is why it is universally acknowledged that “going for a walk,” or “spending time outdoors” will help clear your mind, refocus you on a peaceful path, and generally lift your spirits.
I think color is more important than we realize. How does color effect you? Or have you never really noticed much of an emotional difference between different colors? If you’re color blind how does your experience with colors or lack thereof affect the way to see the world? I’d love to know your answer to any of these questions! Comment below!
The Evolution of a Painting
This is a custom commissioned piece that was made to order. This piece has cool blues and greys and is contrasted with warm gold and orange tones, which are complimentary colors. The painting process usually begins with a movement or a motion I want the canvas to take on as I begin to paint. I mark out the general flow of the piece and begin layering. My strokes begin thick and coarse and slowly move to soft strokes, and thinned layers to finish. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the process as much as I do. This piece is called Bold Cold, it’s 30″x40″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas. Pin the photos you like!
I have received overwhelming support, encouragement, and interest in my work since I launched my art career. Every now and then, I’ll come across someone who doesn’t want to flat out tell me they don’t like my work, but they’ll pose the question, “what do you think about people who don’t think abstract art is really art?”
I guess my response in return would be,
“what do you think art is?”
Here’s what I think art is: I think that when God created man and woman in His image, He made them to be creators. The fact that we have imaginations and the ability to create is one way in which we are made in the image of God. We are His artwork, and He lets us be artists, whether that is through painting, music, serving others, or drafting complex spreadsheets, it is all creation.
I think that anything that points to the gory of God and anything that is uplifting to hope and faith in Christ is art. Anything that makes you thankful to be alive and anything that helps you enjoy God’s creation is art. I also believe that our purpose in life is to strive to that end.
Here is why abstract art is art, in my opinion. Realism is indubitably art, because it is a direct reflection of people, landscapes, or objects. I think of abstract art as a more base level of God’s creation. I cannot imagine a world without color, light, balance, and shape. I cannot really imagine nothingness, because even when I picture that, there is the color black in my mind, which is the absence of light, but still a color.
Abstract art for me is a celebration of God’s gift of color, light, and form. When painting I’m so thankful for color and for the ability to mix and create colors. I’m thankful that I am able to lay gold leaf into my paintings and see how the light reflects off of those golden pieces of light.
A person who only thinks realism is art is like someone appreciating the human body, but not realizing or appreciating the individual cells, muscles, and bones necessary to make that body functioning. Color, light, form, and canvas balance are the bones, the veins, and the muscles of realism. Realistic paintings rely on color, form, shape and light to be realistic. Realism is the body. Abstraction is the individual parts.
In Genesis 1:3, just after God created the heavens and the earth, He created the light and separated light from darkness. Light is made of wavelengths of color. If God took the time to make those elements individually I think that it is okay for us to take the time to appreciate those elements of light, color, and form individually. He could have made the world and all its elements and inhabitants in one fell swoop, but he chose not to.
I propose, that we can appreciate both realism, and abstraction. Both the whole, and the part are glorifying to God because he made not only a realistic world, but he also made the elements of color, He causes the light to shine, and He is the master of form. Don’t be fooled, even God dabbles in abstraction in nature, like in the dying leaf, or in the swirling sea.
Be a creator and enjoy creation.
How many times in your life have you been asked your favorite color? Probably an innumerable number of times. As a child you may have been asked that question more frequently than any other. It seems like such an insignificant question, doesn’t it? (I feel really stupid when I ask little kids what their favorite color is, as if the child doesn’t deserve the respect of a real substantial question). What does it matter in the grand scheme of life what someone’s favorite color is? I think color does matter, I think it matters more than we realize. We take color for granted. I think color can save lives, change lives, and form dreams.
In The Color Answer Book by Leatrice Eiseman, a world leading color expert, She suggests that colors and color preferences are determined by geography and psychology.
In one excerpt, Eiseman argues that some color preferences are class associated. In other words, you will gravitate toward certain colors depending on your socio-economic status. Historically, only the rich could afford richly colored robes, because dyes were expensive, people associated color with wealth. The poor and lower class citizens would wear plain linens in undyed whites and beiges, because they could not afford dyes. This is how purple became the color associated with royalty. The purple dye came from sea snails in the Muricidae family. They were a rare commodity and so only royalty could afford the rich purple dye.
Eiseman noticed that the color pendulum shifted about the same time as industrial revolution. When dyes and colorful clothing became abundant, lower classes could afford colorful clothing at reasonable prices, the upper classes began wearing blacks, grays, whites, and beige. They began wearing muted tones to, once again, distinguish themselves. Brightly colored goods began to be associated with the lower classes.
It wasn’t until fashion designers began using brighter colors that color became destigmatized again, designers like Versace, Hermes, Carolina Herrera, and Oscar De La Renta.
Today, quality determines class distinction in goods, not color, Eiseman argues. A pair of orange polyester pants might be considered cheap, but if a designer crafts orange velvet pants and pairs it with a silk blouse, suddenly it is high quality and fashionable. While color might not be the determining factor in class distinction any longer, I still think that color preferences are experientially reinforced.
As a child my favorite colors were blue, pink, and white. They made me think of my birthday. I remember all of the fabulous birthday parties my mom threw for me, the birthday cakes, the party games, and the blue, pink, and white balloons and streamers. Blue and pink are no longer my favorite colors because I don’t value birthdays as must as perhaps I once did (still love birthday parties and presents. I wouldn’t want you to be discouraged from ever throwing me a party or giving me a gift <3).
Now, I value other colors for different reasons and for different applications. Everything was pink blue and white as a child. Now I know that different colors serve different purposes in different contexts. And I’ve learned that pink, blue, and white really isn’t the best color combination for anything based on applied color theory (unless you’re throwing a gender reveal party, in which case, blue, pink, and white win!).
From childhood to the present day I still have a strong aversion to the color red. I avoid the color like the plague. You will not find the color red in my wardrobe or home décor. I think it is because I hated cherry flavor cough syrup (I had to drink a ton of that stuff as a kid), and it was bright red. Which is yet another example of experiential color reinforcement, or in this case a deterrent.
I’m enjoying my psychological look at color theory. More on color theory later, but for now, let me know what your favorite colors are, and can you tell me why they are your favorite colors? Tell me in the comments!