Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
~ Emily Bronte
A clear fall day sets a perfect backdrop to enhance the warm colors of autumn’s leaves. Highlighted by the depth of an endless blue sky and a waning summer palette of green, the hues of changing leaves — yellow, crimson, orange — appear extraordinarily vibrant, inspiring energy and exhilaration.
Fall gives us nature’s last explosion of color — colors that are glowing, vivid and sharp — before winter’s bleak void.
The Theory and the Science
Why do autumn’s leaves glow?
In the summer, the abundance of chlorophyll in the leaves makes them appear green. But as the cold weather approaches, the chlorophyll begins to dissipate, revealing various shades of reds, oranges and yellows.
These autumn hues are analogous colors — those in juxtaposition on the color wheel — and when they reside side by side, they glow. In addition, when the complimentary colors of the blue sky, opposite of orange, and the remaining leaves of green, opposite of red, provide a background, the fall palette vibrates madly.
The Psychology and the Symbolism
Why is a fall day so exhilarating? It is not only the crisp, chilly air that invigorates on a lovely autumn day, but the warm colors of fall are highly stimulating to our senses and our soul as well.
From a brilliant shade of crimson to a rich burgundy, red exudes power. Red is the symbol of life and love. It is bold, passionate and exciting. Red stimulates desire and increases adrenaline, blood pressure and heart rates. It is a hot color that attracts attention, signals danger and prompts action.
Orange is a wildly flamboyant color, welcoming and confidant. From a deep terracotta to a frothy shade of apricot, orange is mentally stimulating and encourages lively social interaction. It is a dynamic color, quickening the brain and boosting ambition. It also stimulates the appetite. It is the color of the extrovert, invoking vitality and adventure.
Yellow is a cheerful color, heightening optimism and clarity. It is the most visible color, the one the eye sees first.
Yellow also triggers the release of serotonin and increases the metabolism. It promotes happiness. From a deep amber hue to a lively lemon shade, yellow is a warm color that enhances concentration and creativity. However, too much yellow can be overpowering and can cause agitation and anxiety.
Incorporate the Exhilaration of Fall Colors into Your Art
Use the theory and psychology of color to evoke feelings in art. Color is one of the most powerful tools the artist has in her toolbox. It can create a mood or convey a message. It can relax or stimulate the viewer. Color can lead the viewer’s eyes, add balance to a composition and help share the incandescent bliss of an autumn day.
Ora Sorensen (orasorensen.com) was born in New York but grew up overseas in such countries as Libya, Turkey, Iran, Holland and Thailand. Her paintings are collected worldwide and have been shown in numerous exhibitions.