Nature Is The Model: Color Complements

Blue and orange are color complements.

My painter’s eye is mesmerized by the colors in nature that change with the season and circadian rhythms of the Earth. It’s autumn in the Northeast, when the days shorten and the longer nights are chilly. This signals the trees to stop their food-making process. As the chlorophyll breaks down, the leaves burst forth in bright colors. This last celebration of their foliage, before it falls and winter arrives, is one of the greatest art shows in the natural world. It is a time to enjoy harvest fruits, wear a cozy sweater, and rake leaves into the compost. 

Nature is the model for art and life. After this October walk, my painter’s spirit moves my hand to flow like an extension of my brush and watercolors. Observing color complements in the natural elements creates a visual contrast and excitement that takes my breath away. If I look to see to remember these splendid shapes and colors, I can draw upon this moment again and again, in my sketchbook and quiet meditations. A spectacular vista of warm orange treetops contrasting with a cool blue cloudless sky is an image that I will keep in my color memory as a ready remedy for a gray day.

Our color memory is imprinted by the tones and hues that spark an emotion or expression. Color is around us everywhere and in everything. It is a primary way we perceive the world that informs the senses. Color is a physical phenomenon of light. Visible light is a form of energy. The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is the color we see. There is a rich and ancient history of chromotherapy and how color is used to promote health and well-being in the environments we live in, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and in common aspects of daily living. 

A color wheel shows the basic dynamics of how it interacts in the spectrum. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet are the seven consistent colors seen when light is refracted through a reflective medium. ROY G BIV is an acronym for the order in which they appear. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These three colors make up all other colors. Blending two primary colors creates a secondary color. Red + blue = purple, blue + yellow = green, and yellow + red = orange. The color wheel illustrates these and shows the tertiary colors which are a primary mixed with a secondary. Complements are the opposite colors on the wheel. Red complements green, blue complements orange, and yellow complements purple.

There is a harmonious balance when two color complements are visually activated, whether in nature’s palette, a painter’s image, or everyday things. We enhance our color wellness when we perk up a purple dress with a yellow scarf, garnish a red tomato with green basil, or see orange foliage in a blue sky. It is this interaction of opposites that inspires a sympathetic response. Color is emotive and expressive in ways that create positive effects that are immediate and lasting, personal and collective. The energy sparked by its complement gives each color a vibrational quality that stimulates the senses and promotes wellness. Nature is a model that shows us how to combine and enjoy colors for beauty and a better life.