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Harmony in Color Essay

“Colors seen together to produce a pleasing affective response are said to be in harmony” (Burchett 28). Burchett spearheaded an analysis of color theory in order to clarify and define the mystery of color and what draws man to colorful paintings, like a butterfly to a multicolored flower.  The systems of color that need to be rediscovered are found through several color systems, formulas, and principles forwarded by expert scientists who have probed into man’s tendency to be touched by color and his appreciation for it.

Harmony is crucial in every sphere in this case art and color interpretation. Color harmony is important to industry, art, fashion, natural science, animation, psychology etc. where man and animals project certain reactions toward color. Researchers have come with many propositions to find out what exactly appeals to the mind, making it receptive to colors that are in sync.

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Color interpretation is often individualistic and also conforms according to culture. First of all the eyes construct color in light. The spectral balance explains this peculiarity. The lens refracts rays and focuses them on the retina which predicts and enhances the optic image. Electromagnetic waves help to relay different shades, hues, and patterns of color. It is the unfortunate lot of a few to be color blind. The determination of culture bears a heavy weight in the color harmony since each culture has a different set of values that govern beauty, synchronization, sentiment, and symbolism.

“Different colors differ in the quality and intensity of their affective tone … the differences become even more pronounced when people from different cultures are considered” (Shachtel 168). Therefore colors project various feelings often standing in association with an already familiar element of nature.

The modern guide to shades is the color wheel which generates a kaleidoscope of color which gives the color range of color where the tints move from black, dark color, lighter color, to white; hence the segments of color provide primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of color. Nonetheless “the major shortcoming has been the failure to deal with the three basic perceptual dimensions to color: hue, brightness, and saturation” (Wright 232). These three subdivisions of color make chromatic harmony what it is. Like the refracted rays of light through a prism, looking at light and color unearths several dimensions.

Color harmony is not isolated since it can only be appreciated as far as it evokes and transmits certain feelings (called the affective response). For example, warmth and passion are represented by red, coldness equates to blue-grey and bliss is chromatically evinced as a rosy pink etc. Other instances abound from which the artist can draw such as the earthy brown, the green vegetable, the sky-blue, the grey clouds, black night, yellow sun and the list continues. The darkness of the night or the dullness of an overcast sky transfer morbid, melancholy sentiments while the light of day conveys buoyancy, cheerfulness, and optimism.

These affective connections define the chroma in which “color may be considered to be the most universal notion, permitting to assume the unity of both a man and an environment” (Serov). Consequently man’s relation with his environment is conditioned by color which provokes an emotive response from him when observing color or nature.

According to Burchett, the eight attributes of color are order, configuration, area, association, similarity, attitude, and tone (Burchett 20). The order of color is crucial to the uniformity, synthesis, juxtaposition, and harmony of color. Also in the naming of colors, blue-green as opposed to green-blue makes a marked difference with respect to color codification. The Munsell Color Order system dictates that the hue, value, and chroma have to be diagrammed in tandem with specific shapes (e.g. circle, square) which ushers in a mathematical aspect of color. This rigidified structure places colors on an equal distance from one another, using primary colors such as yellow, purple, blue, red, and green.

A colored tone signifies the depth of the color (which determines whether it is a lighter or darker variation of the same color). There are an infinite range of tone values. One expert on color, Henri Matisse says of tone: “The relationship of all the tones the result must be a living harmony of all the tones, a harmony not unlike that of a musical composition” (Chipp 134). The attitude of a color has to do with personality and what message the color gives or invokes, namely the character distinctions in a loud color versus a faded color.

The Coloroid and the Munsell Color systems attempt at harmonizing color by chromatic spectrum, through a carefully structured, graduated color conversions. The Coloroid Color system, masterminded by Professor Antal Nemcsics, provides a structure whereby people can easily identify harmonious color, setting up a chromatic balance and the color ranks. In the Coloroid system, the most important features are the color hue, brightness, and saturation. One of the main principles of the Coloroid system which promotes melodious color is its “aesthetically uniform color-space” (Neuman). Here, the observer sees the progressive change from one color into another on the spectrum.

“The fluctuations range from minute gradients fragile enough to be quenched by artificial illumination to abrupt, linear, and sometimes almost crystalline transitions both of hue, and up to a point of value” (Fried). The synchronized transitioning from one hue and another, one tone to another, is the main objective. Just as scales are represented in music in movement from one octave to the next, color must stick to this gradual succession. The Munsell color system seeks to strikes equilibrium among colors through a lightness-contrast mathematical equation.

In this harmony formula, the variables are the Euclidean distances or the color intervals where “the degree of harmony is a cubic function of the color interval” (Chuang). Another element of color harmony is the hue effect. The color harmonies respond in accordance with the lightness/ brightness, saturation contrasts. As a result, we have a chromatic concord through these color and light values. The hue effect or the Abney effect essentially explains the color’s alteration under white light. The harmonic formula to the hue effect is as follows:

H’=-0.23 – 0.35 sin (h s (ab) + 0.83) – 0.18sin (2h s(ab + 1.55)

Chromatic Difference is a product of the equal-chroma and equal-hue effects principles. Through this equation, the color harmony score is calculated by computing the differences between hue and chroma where the smaller the difference between the two reveals the level of chromatic harmony.The Chromatic Difference Equation is as follows:

H    =1.3 0.07 C 0.0005(C)

Meta‐harmony value is acquired by the defined hue effect function at the meta-harmony value. The Meta-harmony equation is as follows:

ΔM = (ΔLM 2 + ΔTM2)1/2

Through this equation, one finds ΔM the meta‐harmony value is defined by the Euclidean distance on the transformed hue planes. The final harmony value is defined by an H(Δ) function at the ΔM meta‐harmony value. Results have been proven by experimental observations, too.

In conclusion, the harmony of color is a concept which embraces the hue, saturation, and brightness of color. In addition, the unity of color is promoted by the smooth transition to the next just like the scales in a musical manuscript. The coloroid and the munsell systems help incorporate harmonious chromatic values into the kaleidoscopic spectrum of color. All of these characteristics contribute in making the life experience more enjoyable where the senses are very much attuned to engage with the world. The colorful, colored world lies open for scrutiny where we as humans of every hue are touched not only through vision, but also through the very innate color coded system wiring which connects color to feelings and heart.


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