January 31, 2005

Color Your World

Filed under: Art and About Kids — admin @ 1:43 pm

I am a fan of the Home and Garden section of the newspaper, and a card-carrying member of the home improvement/do-it-yourself club. I find that a design project, or even the smallest repair, provides a tremendously satisfying creative outlet for me.

Paint color is a topic often covered in the newspaper, on television and in magazines. Usually, professional designers and artists encourage the reader or viewer to be bold with their paint color choices, urging them to stray from the mind-numbing pull of builder’s white, beige or, for the ultra-daring, grey-blue.

I happen to adore color, so I agree with those battling to rid this culture of vanilla decorating. However, an article about paint color in a recent Contra Costa Times Home and Garden section got my ire up. A sidebar about Style Notes read, “For those who are nervous about bold colors, start with a child’s room or a study. Those areas are more forgiving than public rooms.”

What I don’t like about this statement is the re-enforcement of the faulty notion that bold color is for kids, or that we can hide behind kids as an excuse to express the colors within ourselves. Rather than stating, “those areas are more forgiving,” the second sentence of the Style Notes should have read, “Children are more accepting.”

Elementary school classrooms are often bright displays of primary colors, inviting a child to enter and learn. But once we hit high school, the oppression of beige, white and grey-blue becomes the environmental color palette.

An article in Child magazine showed pictures of the wonderfully colorful and creative ways in which children’s hospitals are decorated throughout the United States. Abstract and vivid mobiles are hung from a glass ceiling in Philadelphia. Whimsically dressed cow statuary greets the children in Houston. A purple, red and yellow locomotive sits in the emergency room in St. Louis. I would love to see how medical statistic would be affected if adult hospitals were as cheerfully and inspirationally decorated.

I envy the colorful world in which children get to grow up. What I don’t understand is the loss of color in our surroundings once we leave childhood and the perception that beige, white and grey-blue are synonymous with maturity. It seems more like lethargy to me.

There are businesses generally perceived as fun places to work, and that reputation is often reflected in spiffy wall colors. Fun restaurants follow the same recipe, and I don’t mean Chuck E. Cheese, but rather Chow and those of its ilk. A lot of hot retailers also know that happy colors mean happy customers. For some reason, “serious” businesses and cube farms stick to the psychologically uninspiring beige, white and grey-blue. Can’t employees or customers be productive and happy at the same time with a little lift from a red wall? I wouldn’t be surprised.

I know for some folks, beige, white and grey-blue actually cause your heart to flutter. I’m not talking to you for you are the lucky ones for whom walking into a bank must be sheer excitement itself. But for anyone else who dreams of living in a more colorful world but for some culturally bizarre reason thinks this is the province of children, please know that you can be free of this misperception. Artistically expressing yourself through color, and being acted upon by the properties of color, is a true delight of the human experience.

Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Society rewards us for conforming in so many ways that in this one inconsequential area, I encourage you to fight the power with all the spunk, vigor and wild abandonment of a two-year-old.

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