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Colours: Their Wonderful Names to Conjure Images in the Mind, Brightening Lives

Author:

I love colours - the names of colours, their derivation and their uses. I want to encourage writers to use more variety in descriptions.

Colours of Paint

Oil Paints: Look at the names!  Wonderful!

Oil Paints: Look at the names! Wonderful!

Splashes of Colour

Look at a range of oil colours in tubes large or small, look at a tray of watercolours and its mixing tin, look at a box of pastels in tissue paper! Whatever your preferred medium, whatever you go on to paint, the colours themselves cook up a carousel of connotations.

Since I was a little girl, I have loved colours, green being my favourite, but I have been intrigued even more by the names themselves, the richness and depth of their origins.

Descriptions of Colour

From one end of the spectrum to the other there are colours, from green to red. No, no! It’s not green! It’s ‘Chartreuse’, ‘Jade’, ‘Bottle’, ‘Forest’, ‘Mint’, ‘Russian’ or ‘Sea’; I could go on.

Nor is it red! It’s ‘Vermillion’, ‘Burgundy’, ‘Chestnut’, ‘Damask’, ‘Flame’, ‘Oxblood’, ‘Poppy’, ‘Titian’; you will have your own favourites.

In between, you have all manner of shades, the whole playful palette.

As a bonus, you have not just one-word names. You find Cerulean Blue, Burnt Umber and Lamp Black – is that a contradiction in terms?


Images of Colour

What thoughts or images do these names conjure up? To me, Burgundy says wine, a mellow depth of hue which tickles my taste buds by mere suggestion. Jade transports me to Hokitika, in the south island of New Zealand, to the deep greenstone which is their unique version of jade. Ultramarine gives me an image of the far reaches and depths of the sea – it’s ‘ultra’, beyond the range, out of one’s grasp.


Palette of Colours

Colour Block Pastel Square

Colour Block Pastel Square

Origins of Colour

Some colour-names come from the element or soil that forms them, such as Cadmium Yellow. Cadmium is an earth mineral, white’ish until processed into its yellow form. It is expensive as it takes much to produce the final colour pigment.

Another that I think sounds great is New Gamboge. It is yellow to orange and comes from a resin of a few trees found in Asia, from the Garcina genus, particularly in Cambodia. The name is derived from ‘cambugium’ just like Cambodia itself.

The next is not easy to pronounce but is a beautiful rich blue: Phthalo, also known as Thalo blue, is an abbreviated name for paints made with the pigment Phthalocyanine Blue, or PB15. All rather scientific, isn’t it?


Box of Pastels

Soft, Gentle Pastels

Soft, Gentle Pastels

Change of Colours

Here are a few colours I hadn’t heard of, all a base for other colours: Hansa Yellow, Pyrrole Red, Payne’s Grey. I’ll leave you to look those up if you are so inclined.

I’ve also found seafoam, blush, egg nog, and neon watermelon. Those terms just make me smile.


Worlds of Colour

Colours, of course, are everywhere, colours make our world. You might, or might not, be surprised to learn that there is yet another dimension, a parallel world of colour.

Some people see abstracts in colours. This is called synaesthesia and those who have it can be referred to as synesthetes. Without going into too much detail, it’s to do with stimulation in one sensory or cognitive pathway leading to stimulation in another. It’s giving a visual aspect to abstract concepts.

Thus, days of the week, or notes of music, or emotions, can each have a different colour. The colours will be different for each individual.


Variety of Colour

Words, like colour, can move from bland to colourful to multicolourful. They brighten up our lives and writers can use them to brighten up others’ lives. So we can make up our own colours, linking them to objects or emotions. We can swell the hearts and minds using the whole spectrum and more, variations on a theme, pushing the boundaries of the hues themselves, as well as using their origins to give depth and meaning.

So here’s a challenge! Describe an object, scene or person, using colours, but in an unusual way. Make up colours if you like but don’t use the basic, well-known colours we refer to every day. You can put senses into colour-ways if you like, or just invent shades that are exciting. I’ll give you an example.


In Praise of Willow

Willow me white, willow me green,

it’ll be the worst feeling I’ve ever seen.


Willow me pic-white, willow me finch-stripe,

then I can feel the image of tree-pipe.


Willow me flow-lime, willow me sway-grime,

shades of the weather in pliable moss-slime.


Willow me sun-quince, willow me lemon-dew

flowers to herald, weeping-bottle leaves new.


Willow me air-drops of holly-gloss swirls

as autumn strips willow of auburn-sun curls.

AFC 2021


If you're still stuck, here's a photo I took from my back door. Describe this scene without using the obvious colours. Above all, have fun!

(Don't forget to let me know if you write a response!)



Photo Prompt

Wonderful Colour!

Wonderful Colour!

Sources and Responses

https://janeblundellart.blogspot.com/2016/09/gamboge.html


John Hansen:

https://discover.hubpages.com/literature/See-You-Real-Soon-a-Nonsense-Poem


© 2021 Ann Carr

Comments

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 09, 2021:

Hello Mary! Thanks for your visit and comments. I wasn't aware of New Gamboge either - I just happened to be looking through some colours at random. Never know what one can find!

Keep safe and well.

Ann

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 08, 2021:

I love colours, too. I have plenty of paints and textiles because of this love. However, I have not known New Gamboge. Thank you for the introduction.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 08, 2021:

I looked into Linda's theory about colour perception being a gender thing. It seems that it is! So if you're interested in reading a little about it, then go to the link below. It's intriguing and can be followed further.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/men-and-...

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 08, 2021:

Hello, Shauna! Thanks for popping in and leaving your lovely comment.

I don't ever put white on a wall - I find it too stark. And I don't use grey as I find it depressing (a personal thing).

Interesting that your brother is a colour-blind artist. I can't quite get my head round that but I suppose it depends on the impact and extent of his colour challenge. I'd love to see the painting you speak of, if you can email me a photo of it.

I too like purple and it is the perfect opposite to green (and blue)! To me, purple is deep and vibrant and goes with lots of other colours. I'm not a great fan of blue; purple lifts things in a much better way. Do you know the poem - 'When I grow old, I'm going to wear purple'? Can't remember the author off-hand. It's often regarded as an old lady's colour but I can't for the life of me see why! Maybe it's traditionally so. Images, you ask; royalty, because it is a rich, lush colour; depth of character because it seems to absorb so much. I always feel comfortable in it. It soothes me.

I too find that photo of mine calming. It does look like flames but it actually reminds me of the rich, vibrant and mellow colour of autumn, I suppose because it's on the trees. I happened to step outside at just the right time, rushed in to get my camera, and managed to catch it before it faded. Sunset passes so quickly!

Great to see you and I hope you're keeping well and safe.

Looking forward to seeing your brother's painting.

Ann

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 08, 2021:

Ann, I love this article and I love color. In fact, there's not a white wall in my house.

My brother is an artist. He's also color blind. It's interesting to see the color combinations he comes up with. He just finished a painting yesterday that is breathtakingly beautiful. I wish I could post a photo of it. Perhaps I'll email it to you.

My favorite color is purple. What images does purple conjure up for you?

BTW, I love the sunset shot you took. The orange/yellow sky almost looks like fire, yet the emotional effect when I look at it is not violent, rather calming.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 07, 2021:

Thank you, Eric. Colours are very important to me. Great to have two artistic sons! My younger daughter can write and she makes lots of things. My older daughter loves art, though doesn't do much herself. Were the Easter Eggs decorated? Sounds like fun.

Good to see you today, Eric! Keep safe and well.

Ann

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 07, 2021:

What a great read. I did not know of the benefits here. I just love colors. Both my sons are artists and it brings great joy. This made me think of the fun with Easter eggs.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 07, 2021:

Lora, you've made my day with your generous comments! That geisha painting of yours sounds wonderful - congratulations on the merit award!

Yes, I do enjoy some art work - watercolours, pastel/charcoal drawings and pencil sketching are my favourites but, like you, I don't do much of it these days. Perhaps we should both get back to it because, as you say, just dabbling with colours is fun and therapeutic. I'm glad to have inspired you to do some more.

Thank you for such kind words, Lora. Much appreciated. For some reason your comment appeared twice but I've approved both as I like it so much!

Take care.

Ann

Lora Hollings on February 06, 2021:

I love your article on color, Ann. I have dabbled in painting, mostly watercolors, and your article brought me back to those wonderful days when I took my first painting class and bought those little tubes of paint. And now that you mention these colors, they are all starting to come back to me. I love cadmium yellow, vermillion red, thalo blue (which if I remember correctly has some green mixed with the blue) and brown umber, Davy's gray, (a beautiful combination of gray and blue) and yellow ochre, another one of my favorites. I painted a geisha using primarily vermillion red for her dress and holding a samurai warrior's helmet and it was the second painting I did after a landscape. What made it so memorable for me was that I entered it in an art show with the encouragement of my teacher and actually won a merit award! I still have the painting, of course, and the ribbon. I have done a few more paintings after that but I have to say that other life events took priority so I had to put my painting on the back burner. But after reading your article, I think just dabbling with those colors is such a rewarding experience in itself that I'll have to make time to do more painting. As writers, we also need a much greater knowledge of colors and use these amazing names to create more vivid imagery in our writing. Are you a painter, too? You certainly are very good with words and you imbue your descriptions with much life and color. I always enjoy your writing!

Lora Hollings on February 06, 2021:

I love your article on color, Ann. I have dabbled in painting, mostly watercolors, and your article brought me back to those wonderful days when I took my first painting class and bought those little tubes of paint. And now that you mention these colors, they are all starting to come back to me. I love cadmium yellow, vermillion red, thalo blue (which if I remember correctly has some green mixed with the blue) and brown umber, Davy's gray, (a beautiful combination of gray and blue) and yellow ochre, another one of my favorites. I painted a geisha using primarily vermillion red for her dress and holding a samurai warrior's helmet and it was the second painting I did after a landscape. What made it so memorable for me was that I entered it in an art show with the encouragement of my teacher and actually won a merit award! I still have the painting, of course, and the ribbon. I have done a few more paintings after that but I have to say that other life events took priority so I had to put my painting on the back burner. But after reading your article, I think just dabbling with those colors is such a rewarding experience in itself that I'll have to make time to do more painting. As writers, we also need a much greater knowledge of colors and use these amazing names to create more vivid imagery in our writing. Are you a painter, too? You certainly are very good with words and you imbue your descriptions with much life and color. I always enjoy your writing!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Vidya. I appreciate your kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed this. It was fun to write!

Ann

VIDYA D SAGAR on February 06, 2021:

A very interesting article Ann. Nature has such a rich hue of colors. That is the reason we feel so rejuvenated in the midst of natural surroundings. I love colors and have dabbled in them quite a bit in my childhood. You have given a very good description of the varieties of colors and images they conjure in our minds. It was interesting to read about the origin of colors and its visual impact on people.The poem is excellent and the picture is beautiful. It was fun reading this article

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Brenda, for your lovely words. Yes, colours can transport us to wherever we like. I used to do more sketching and I should get back to it now that I have this extra enforced time! It's therapeutic.

I was lucky enough to go to New Zealand a few times and bought some greenstone jade at Hokitika - beautiful stone and beautiful place.

I hope you manage to take up the challenge sometime.

Take care.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Chitrangada, for your lovely comments. I'm pleased that you enjoyed this and appreciate you support.

Ann

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on February 06, 2021:

I love this article. I have always wanted to try my hand with the craft of drawing.

I did purchase a little kit, but it sits waiting for a sunshiny day.

The names are amazing.

I like this..Jade transports me to Hokitika, in the south island of New Zealand, to the deep...i wish I could be transported to an island right now to get away from this snow & ice.

The poem is excellent. I have saved article so that when I find time...maybe I can attempt your challenge.

Take care.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Denise, for that important snippet of information. Why didn't I think of that! I'm glad you liked this. You know far more about colours than I do, that's for sure.

Thanks for reading and leaving your kind comments.

Ann

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 06, 2021:

Excellent article about the variations in colours. I enjoyed reading and learning from it.

When I started oil painting, during my younger days, I came across interesting names of many

colours, such as burnt sienna, cobalt red, crimson red--all variations of red. Same is true for other colors, with a long list of different names.

Your picture at the end is beautiful. Seems like a golden hour picture.

Thank you for sharing this interesting information.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 06, 2021:

Lamp black isn't really a contradiction in terms as the paint was made at one time from the soot scraped from lamps to make the sooty black pigment. I love colors and paint so this was fun for me. Thanks.

Blessings,

Denise

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

That's such a good question, Linda! I think it depends on many things but I wouldn't think it's gender based. Part of it is how interested someone might be in particular colours, I think. We all see colours slightly differently anyway, so it's a matter of judgement/opinion, though the basic colour should be identifiable as slightly more specific than red or blue perhaps! Some must be learnt too, as there are many people who wouldn't know the more unusual names. You've given me something to think about and I'm going to research that - thank you! (My father was an optician so I have that tangent as an interest too.)

Great to see you today and thanks for your super input. BTW, colours would be particularly important for you when you present your excellent dishes; I've noticed how well you set everything on the plate, with perfect balance to whet the appetite even more!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Devika, for your lovely comment. We need a bit of colour and brightening at the moment, don't we?!

I hope you're keeping safe and well.

Ann

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on February 06, 2021:

Ann, this should inspire all of us. It is so easy (lazy) to simple say, "red, white, blue" but there are so many nuances . . . which brings me to this. Is the recognition of those subtleties innate or learned? My husband says "red" and it's really magenta, or "green" and it's aquamarine. Is it the interference of that Y chromosome?

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 06, 2021:

Hi Ann, Your specific explanation about colors are great and I like bright colors. Names of colors as you explain here in detail is interesting to know of and you have certainly brightened my day.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, manatita. Yes, we can create images and colours with words. I wanted to emphasise the point of livening up the names of colours themselves; similar idea but more specific.

I appreciate your kind comments.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Mel, for your charming comment. I'm so glad you like the poetry (don't worry about the 'feed' thing, I hate trawling through that) and I'm over the moon about 'wonderfully rhythmic' - you're too kind.

Yes, bright colours lift us, as long as they're complementary and not too 'in your face'! Green eyes are unusual - lucky you, I'm jealous!

Thanks again for your lovely words and for taking the time to read, Mel.

BTW, I'm enjoying reading your Crow Land.

Ann

manatita44 from london on February 06, 2021:

Ann, this one feels short to me. I was just beginning to enjoy it. We are so alike with 'words' and 'colours', for me, it's kind of hard to distinguish, as I take a word and create so many colours!

Here's an example: Light --

lustre, glow, gleam, ray, glimmer, candescent, iridescent, emanate, rainbow, horizon, sunrise, sunset and dawn. Chuck in moon, stars, sun, andromeda, nebulae, carousel, candela, candle, lamp, lanterns, spark, fire, burn, the heavens, shimmering ... A lot here, but you get the drift.

A charming piece from another innovative and creative mind. Kudos to you!

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on February 06, 2021:

I really love your poetry. Sometimes I cannot comment on your poems, because your articles do not show up on my feed, but your poetry is wonderfully rhythmic to read, and they do paint a picture with a wide palette of colors. I never know if I am spelling palette correctly.

I was just thinking the other day about how colors affect us physiologically as human beings, particularly colors of spring, floral colors. An attractive female in a red or pink dress is certainly going to get a man's attention more than the same woman in a more subdued tone, such as blue. We subconsciously associate these colors with fertility, I think.

Green is also my favorite color. I have green eyes, which are my only source of vanity when I look in the mirror these days. Great work.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Hello Ravi. Yes, the beauty is that many connect particular colours of their own with emotions, as I mentioned. The 'red with anger' etc are stock phrases but I like to take it further and make it much more personal.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your input.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Nithya. I'm glad you enjoyed this. Without colour we'd be lost, wouldn't we? So much to gladden our world.

I appreciate your visit.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Hello Tuli! Those are good phrases referring to colour and I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thank you for the compliments.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

I liked your description, Peggy. 'Pumpkin-spiced hues' - lovely. You wouldn't believe those trees are leaf-less and grey in the daytime at the moment, would you?! That sunset created a blaze.

Good to see you and thanks for dropping by.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Dora: Thank you for your lovely comments. I find it hard to believe that you're not observant!

Some people are superstitious about green but I find it soothing, and yes, energising too, depending on the shade. There is the light, bright green of fresh growth, then the dark of evergreens and the delicate mid-greens of the fern. Of course, people see colours differently too, which is a whole new scope of discussion!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

Thank you, Ruby, for your kind words, also referring to colour! I notice that you and Peggy have come up with 'pumpkin' as a description. I didn't think of that, probably because pumpkin is not so common here - all the more reason to use the colour though!

I dashed out yesterday evening to take that photo as the sunset was in just the right place. I have never seen it on the trees like that and it reminded me of autumn.

I appreciate your support.

Ann

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 06, 2021:

I enjoyed reading about colors, the way you have presented these colors make them all the more vibrant attractive. Thank you for sharing.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 06, 2021:

JC Scull: Thank you. I don't know of a specific word for that angle but I think the colour names themselves can be onomatopoeic, such as 'red' - bam, in your face; 'blue' is open ended and calm; 'pink' sounds prim and dainty; 'black' is harsh and threatening. Interesting thought!

Thanks for the visit.

Ann

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on February 05, 2021:

Interesting take on colors Ann.How about linking colors with emotions? One color for every emotion; green with envy , red with anger, and so on..Colors can be interpreted in so many ways.

Tulii Banerjee from Kolkata on February 05, 2021:

"Life is like a rainbow"... "Color is a power which directly influences the soul"... "I prefer living in color" ....

What an interesting and lovely presentation Ann!

Love this excellent article.

Tuli

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 05, 2021:

Under a grey sky, the midrange of your photo is ablaze with warm pumpkin-spiced hues of color kissed by the golden rays of sunlight. I enjoyed reading this article and your poem.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 05, 2021:

Green is my favorite color too. It's an energizer. The challenge sounds like it's over my not-very-observant head. I like your unusual topics.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 05, 2021:

The picture is ' picture perfect ' I love the winter colors, pumpkin orange is one of my favorite's. I enjoyed reading your poem. Your use of words do brighten the subject.

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on February 05, 2021:

Hello Ann,

I wonder if there is a word equivalent to onomatopoeia but for colors. Excellent article by the way.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 05, 2021:

Hi, bill! Glad you liked this. I don't know why more writers don't use all the alternatives available, not just with colours but in every aspect of writing. So many tools to use but not enough craftsmanship. Nobody's perfect but we should all at least keep trying!

Always good to see you here. Hope you have a great weekend too, bill.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 05, 2021:

Thank you Pamela. Glad you learnt something here and that you liked the poem. I enjoy colour matching too, as it's surprising what mixes and matches away from the traditional.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 05, 2021:

Thanks, John. Glad you liked the poem. Yes, the charts come up with all sorts of strange names, depending on the paint company. It's good to have a more precise definition of a colour too.

I'll look forward to reading your response to the challenge!

Ann

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 05, 2021:

Which leaves me to ask an obvious question: why don't so many creative writers take advantage of all the choices we have? Why do some insist on saying the "blue waters" or the "green lawn?" Bores me to tears and shows me either a distinct lack of imagination or a streak of laziness, you know?

Well of course you do, and my rant is now over.

By the way, I loved the article.

Have a brilliantly happy and safe weekend, my friend.

bill

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 05, 2021:

This is a wonderful article, Ann. The world of colors is fascinating. You listed some names that were new to me. I enjoy learning, and I did learn a few things in your article. I like your willow poem also.

Thanks for sharing.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 05, 2021:

Ann, you just have to look at the paint chart in the hardware store to see huge array of colour names and they are being added to all the time.

I enjoyed this hub and the interesting way you presented it. Your poem is wonderful, and I am inspired to take up your challenge.

I don’t use alternative colour names often enough in my writing. I have written a poem a few years ago called “Green” but it described the array of things coloured green but didn’t describe the different types or names of green.

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