What is the role played by colors in art therapy?
Art therapy is the process of understanding your deep-seated emotions through the process of art. It focuses on creating artwork that would help your therapist decipher your deep-rooted emotions and thought processes, specifically those which cannot be explained verbally. This therapy can be used to bring out emotions associated with PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, stress, anxiety, etc. Painting or sculpting involves colors. The use of different colors in art therapy can provide a huge insight into the person’s deeper emotions and thought processes.
Art therapy can have many different forms. It can be done in the form of sculpting, painting, drawing, coloring, sewing etc. However, for this post, I will specifically focus on the use of different colors in art therapy and what is the significance of each of them.
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Colors of emotions
Emotions are not visual, thus it’s very difficult to associate a specific color with a specific emotion. The color of emotions may change according to a person’s culture, thus there is no universal description of which color signifies what emotion. People also tend to associate a specific color with a specific emotion or feeling. Thus, to understand the significance of emotions, I will be using universal descriptions. You can use this list to understand the colors you work with or you can also use your own color associations to understand what you’re feeling and what you are painting.
Significance of different colors in art therapy
Grey is one of the neutral colors in art therapy. It has been known to be the color of dullness or neutrality. It also signifies numbness or apathy. Grey as a color is neither wrong nor is it right. It is more neutral than white. It usually signifies indecisiveness or that the person is afraid to choose a specific side. It may also signify that the person is scared and feeling invisible. Gray is also used as a symbol of depression as it signifies constant and continuous tiredness or sorrow. When all the colors are muted, you reach the color gray. So grey can also signify muted emotions or emotions which have been forced towards the back. The person using different shades of grey may not be feeling anything at all. The above-mentioned observation is to be used when the entire artwork comprises of gray shades.
However, if gray is used with other vibrant colors like red yellow etc., it signifies rationality as well as stability.
Black can be considered as the color of mystery or sorrow. Out of all the colors in art therapy, black is the one color that encompasses in itself all of the darkest feelings like sorrow, despair, or grief. The reason why black signifies all these feelings is because as color, black cannot become any darker. Similarly, these emotions of sorrow or grief cannot increase. Black signifies a void in which the person feels that they are stuck in and are unable to come up to the surface. Black is also used to depict emotions one might be ashamed of or ones that the person does not wish to acknowledge. Black is the color of isolation and domination.
Red signifies ambition, energy, passion. Of all colors in art therapy, red is an indicator of love and desire. Red is indicative of fierce feelings that are overwhelming and completely guiding the person towards the goal which is more important than anything else be it love or anger.
Orange is considered as the calmer version of red. It signifies more rational thoughts. Orange can be indicative of optimism or joy. It is also indicative of motivation but without the overwhelming feeling which comes with red. Orange indicates social activities, cooperation, teamwork as well as extraordinary behavior. Orange may also be indicative of reckless as well as instinctive behavior.
Brown is the color of the Earth. Of all the colors in art therapy, this one signifies a down to earth persona. Brown, just like the forest floor, is indicative of stability, conservatism, reliability as well as permanence. Since it is the color of the ever-present dirt, humans mostly used this color as one of the primary colors. Brown may also be indicative of foulness or dirtiness.
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White is a color that is present in every artwork and painting. It is indicative of perfection, purity, light, spirituality as well as innocence. If you look at a white sheet, it is complete on its own. The color white is indicative of confidence and calmness. Any and every color can be neutralized by adding white to it, making those colors look cooler and less overwhelming. Similarly, emotional calmness can also neutralize any other overpowering emotion like anger or sadness. White is also the color of spirituality and enlightenment, a symbol of balance in life as well as amongst the colors.
The color yellow is the color of enthusiasm, joy, happiness, and cheerfulness. Yellow is the brightest of all colors and symbolizes optimism. The color yellow tends to brighten everything which is placed next to it. However, yellow can also be indicative of cowardice and stubbornness.
Green signifies spirit, youthfulness, and hope. Out of all the colors in art therapy, green symbolizes safety, balance, and calmness. Green is also the color of life in general. It is also indicative that things have been done in the right way. Green implicates peace as well as harmony. On the contrary, green can also harbor negative emotions like spite, jealousy as well as maliciousness.
Amongst all the colors in art therapy, blue is the color of stability, wisdom, rationalism as well as loyalty. It is indicative of trust, calmness, and faith. Blue is the one color that indicates the mind rather than emotions. It follows logic instead of the gut. However, blue can also be associated with feelings of sadness and melancholy.
Purple is the symbol of spirituality, creativity as well as independence. It is referred to as the color of magic and mystery. Purple can also signify narcissism, immaturity as well as pride.
Pink has been referred to as the color of being silly and immature, lightheartedness as well as recklessness. Pink also signifies femininity, gentleness, caring nature as well as romantic love. Pink can be indicative of the ‘quiet’ feelings as well as a feeling of detachment from reality.
What do you think about colors in art therapy? If you made an abstract, which colors you choose to put in it and why? Which colors do you associate with the most? If you would like to share your story with everyone, please write it down in the comment section below. If you want me to feature your stories in my blog post, feel free to contact me on any of my social media channels. I would be glad to share your story with the world.