Monday, April 11, 2011

musings on the color violet

Recently I have been thinking about the color "violet".  OK.  It began when I read on HGTV's blog post that violet was voted the color of the month for April--beating out pink and grey--although just narrowly. Violet--hmm!! Interesting choice. A color we all know--but do we really know it?  What color is violet? Is it purple? Lavender? Magenta? And why violet--why wasn't green in the running? Or yellow? What was I missing?

Now I love the pictures on that blog post--but I must admit I can't imagine an entire room done in violet. It just feels unsettling to me. Too rich and intense. But HGTV uses the color as an accessory.  Love that a room can be decorated around just one strong piece. A bit of wall painted what they call violet. An accent piece. Great concept. But--as they admit--their violet is a bit pinker than I had associated with the color violet. A bit closer to magenta. What is this color?

It is time to check out on Wikipedia. Fascinating discussion--so many different colors for violet--different tones, different wave lengths. Do check it out here. I learn that Sir Isaac Newton used the word as one of the spectral colors. If both purple and violet are used in a color way, violet is more blue. Violet can be the color in between magenta and blue.  But then there is electric violet, vivid violet, dark violet. Violet the color of the flower--different from lavender and lilac.  Look at all these colors of violet I found on that Wikipedia site--well worth the read.

Color icon violet v2.svg

More research on the Internet. I find out that based on the way we see things, violet not blue could be considered a primary color. This goes back to Sir Isaac doesn't it?  Colors reflect light different ways that can be measured. Fascinating--although the science goes over my head. Check it out here. I learn that in Eastern religions violet is considered a calming color--related to the Chakra. You can check it out here. Not what I would have expected. Do different cultures see colors differently? 

Returning to Wikipedia violet is the color used in Great Britain to wrap chocolate since violet is considered the color of royalty. Violet as colors of Lent and Advent. This is familiar territory. The term goes back to the Latin for that little flower the violet.

I remember violets as a child-- picking handfuls of them,  holding them carefully and putting them into a tiny glass of water. So precious. How long it takes to create a bouquet--using my fingernails to pluck the tiny stems until finally there is that essence of color. Searching them out in the grass. Sugared and dainty on ice cream.  Finding the wild white and yellow violets--isn't that an oxymoron. I think of the violets that now grow in my garden. Not the delicate wild flowers but big clumps plants that spread and have to be dug up with a spade fork in huge clumps. Moved to better locations. Composted.

And violet in my work. I agree with HGTV--a color to be used as an accent. A bit here. A bit there. Violet placemats.

Hints of violet in the purses and eyeglass cases. Not too much.

The progression of the colors of the sky in first light.

Color progressions of violet and blue. And I wonder if violet is one of those colors that can be whatever we want it to be--regal or calming, inspired or electric. At the edge of the visible light spectrum. Hidden like the tiny violets from which it got its name. Or bold like the colors of the sky. In April isn't there just the slightest tinge of violet in the blue of the sky?

Yes, there is something fresh and spring like there. Maybe May is the month that should be green? What do you think? Do you use violet in your work? Is it the color of April? What color is violet? And I must also thank colourlovers for bringing this discussion to my attention.


  1. Hi there ! I'm an artist who stumbled upon your art via The American Visionary Arts museum and Baltimore Craft show- Interesting post on color, I picked up a book not too long ago called " Chromophobia" by David Batchelor. I haven't begun reading it but it's about the historical and culture background of color.

    Also, I admire your work a lot.


  2. Thanks so much Becka. I will have to check out that book--love the title.