Colouring our view of the world

Marion Deuchars is so passionate about colour, she has written about its crucial role in our lives

I’ve always had an interest in colour. Coming from Scotland, where the weather often turns everything grey, I used to love how the landscape would transform when the sun came out. I had a view of the Ochil hills from my bedroom window which became an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours through the seasons.

It was this blend of colours in nature that gave me my first introduction into colour harmony. In the world around us colours juxtapose with one another all the time, but the very fact that they do means it’s often easy to take the striking harmonies they produce for granted. Think about an inky grey sky against a wet green hill, or a bright orange beak against a blackbird’s feathers. Even the bright red poppy, which brightens yellow and green fields around the country, is made redder and more distinctive by the green stem and leaves which support it. Of course, there’s no real need to understand how colour works (unless, like me, you have to!). But just as learning the musical structure of a favourite song or finding out the backstory of a favourite novel enhances our appreciation for those works, so too can understanding colour harmonies enhance how we see.

Colour therefore plays a crucial role in our lives. It can remind us of a place, a smell, a time of year, a person; our memories and cultures are filled with colour associations. They can even have different meanings from one culture to another. For example, in Japanese culture, yellow represents bravery and wealth, whilst in France the same colour represents jealousy and betrayal. In many cultures, blue represents masculinity, whereas it is considered a feminine colour in China. And red – the colour of danger, passion, love and fear in countless western cultures – is actually symbolic of mourning in South Africa.

Above all, colour is something that we can have an instinctive and long-lasting personal reaction to. We either like or don’t like certain colours and we don’t need words to explain why, because our emotive response to colours were there well before language developed – before we gave them names. My favourite colour is blue – which may well be most people’s favourite colour – and I can’t imagine it ever becoming boring for me. There are so many beautiful blues in art. I love Matisse’s blue cut-out nudes, for which he used gouache straight from the tube, painted it onto sheets of paper and then “cut” directly into colour. The French artist Yves Klein fell so in love with blue that not only did he make it the star of both his paintings and performances, he also patented his own shade: Yves Klein Blue.

This book is a celebration of colour. I hope people will find inspiration in the illustrations and learn a few things they didn't know. Most importantly, I hope it encourages people to have a bolder relationship with the colours in the world around them.
Colour by Marion Deuchars is published by Particular Books, at £20