The swirling blue river, the purple hills and the huge pink flowers tell Dorothy and Toto that they are in a special and different place. They have arrived, blown in by a whirlwind, from black and white Kansas to technicolour Oz.
Dorothy feels, as well as sees, the effect of colour. She skips along in her crimson shoes, following the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. She has entered the scintillating world of colour. (Sorry but I am ignoring the insistent spelling prompt. I am Australian and colour needs a ‘u’ otherwise it looks all wrong)
Colour is Everywhere
We are so used to colour in our everyday life that we take it for granted and don’t realise its effects on our choices and our psyche. When we dress, decorate our house, prepare and choose our food, we unconsciously engage with colour choices.
Unlike animals we see in glorious technicolour due to the rods and cones, the light receptors in our eyes. Cones are the ones that detect and interpret colour so we are lucky to have these little guys. Humans have three types of cones so we see a huge range, with millions of different colours.
Dogs and other animals only have two, so their world is not as radiantly technicolour as ours. Their rods are the receptors for low light or night vision and that is where the animals do better than us. They can skulk around in the night quite well without tripping over chairs and stubbing their toes.
What is Colour?
So now you know how we see colour, but let’s understand exactly what colour is. Here, it gets a bit scientific, but hang in there, the fun bits will come.
We are surrounded by all sorts of invisible waveforms called the electromagnetic spectrum. There are x-rays, infra-red, ultraviolet or UV, lots of different waves that are like, the now ubiquitous wi-fi, which is everywhere. These waves have different wavelengths. The shorter the wavelength, the more intense the wave is and the more damaging to human tissue, eg x rays.
Visible light is one such band of waves that varies from violet at 400, to red at 700 nanometres in wavelength. A nanometre is only very small, 1,000,000,000 smaller than a meter. Way back, Sir Isaac Newton studied light and discovered its ability to break into seven colours as it passes through a refractive glass prism.
Et viola! he discovered the rainbow of light recognisable from the sky. After it rains, there are water droplets in the air that act as tiny prisms, splitting the light and creating the beautiful phenomenon of the rainbow. Science after all, is just a confirmation to understand the wonderful natural world.
Science also tells us that we see different coloured objects, due to the wavelength of the light reflected from that object, because all other wavelengths or colours have been absorbed. So, a red apple is red because only the red wavelength is reflected our way into our eyes and processed by our cone receptors. White objects reflect all light wavelengths and black objects absorb them all. This also explains why white is cooler to wear and black warmer.
Colour as Therapy
So why do different things reflect different coloured light? Well, that’s a good question and at the same time a mystery. Answers vary from God made it so, to complicated explanations on the matter of various substances. Just be happy with the fact that the trees are green because their leaves reflect only green light which is proven to be a restful colour for us humans.
Blue and green, the colours of nature, are good for us. We feel this when we enter a natural area or sit under trees. Their light, and also emitted oxygen as they photosynthesize, are good for us.
This brings us to the subject of colour therapy or chromotherapy, using colour to heal or motivate. ‘Chromo’ refers to colour, so chromotherapy is therapy using colour to heal physical, mental, and spiritual issues. Dating back to ancient times, colour therapy is one of the most holistic and simplest therapies involving immersion of the human body with light of assorted colours.
All light forms have varying wavelengths and frequencies so light is a vibrational energy. Different colours affect our body cells in different ways. Chromotherapy uses this concept to adjust our creativity, energy, and mood, clearing stress and inducing restfulness and balance.
Find Your Own Colours
We instinctively reach to colour when we decorate our homes or dress ourselves. Mostly we know what colours we like and that is a good instinct to follow. But unfortunately, we can become slaves to fashion and fads. Our cultural context even influences our choices. For instance, in Asia white, not black, is the colour for mourning and this ‘pink for girls, blue for boys’ concept is not instinctive as it is in the West.
The latest fad in Australian suburbia is white minimalist living and working spaces, my pet peeve. I hate these with a passion because I am a colourful girl who loves colour, hence this article. If you love white minimalism, then either you exit now or read on and be enlightened, excuse the pun.
Okay, I do admit that white minimalism allows the owner of this space to inject a little colour via scatter cushions or art, but you are still left with great swathes of whiteness, in my opinion. This is very confronting for colour lovers. The same applies to clothes, white shirts, white trousers. I would spoil those in no time as I eat lots of fruit that inevitably for me, drips and stains. But each to his own. If you embrace white because you like the clean vastness of it, great, but go white because it is expressing the inner you, not because it is the fashion.
Your personal palette
Finding your own therapeutic and beautifying colour palette is fun. I had mine done years ago and used this experience to explain it in my latest book, Colour comes to Tangles. I include an excerpt here as it is self-explanatory and saves me reinventing the colour wheel, so to speak.
Vidisha the colour therapist character treats her client, Tanya to the ‘colour me beautiful’ ‘discovery process.
Excerpt from Colour Comes to Tangles by Joni Scott
“Vidisha draped a brilliant piece of pink cloth around my shoulders. ‘Now, there, that is better. Notice how your skin glows and your eyes shine?’
She removed and then replaced the large silk scarf. Yes, there was a difference, and it was not just the covering of my embarrassingly stained shirt. I definitely looked better in pink. My eyes seemed greener and my skin glowed.
Then the pink disappeared, and Vidisha draped me with a shimmering turquoise. ‘Oh, that is beautiful!’ I exclaimed. ‘And now you look beautiful, Tanya. This colour is lovely on you.’
I blushed. Beautiful? How could I be beautiful when my reflection seemed so plain compared to Vidisha’s exotic appearance? There seemed no comparison.
‘Tanya, you are, I believe, a spring personality. Adventurous, brave, and fun-loving.’
‘Yes. But to confirm this, we will drape you in a few wrong colours. Red and navy blue, even black.’
She drew away my beautiful cape of turquoise and draped me with red, then navy and lastly black. None of these colours liked me. I looked drab and dull, as if the sun had gone behind a cloud.
‘Oh,’ is all I could say.
‘Yes, oh. Now some magic again!’ A soft, lemon yellow appeared around my shoulders and again softened my face and I glowed again.
‘There we go. Now your homework, Tanya, is to go home to your cupboard and take out the right colours for you according to this chart. I want you to only wear these until our next session and let us see how you feel. If you don’t have any of these colours, then you may need to buy a few shirts or drape yourself in a scarf. Your skirt or pants can be a different colour but nothing too different. No red, navy or black. Denim is acceptable though.”
Let Colour into your Life
Tanya, my character acts on the colour advice and transforms her life and along the way falls in love and discovers India, the most colourful of continents. She thanks the day colour burst into her life and into Tangles, her hair salon.
So, how about letting colour into your life? Colour yourself beautiful. Experiment with colours, holding your shirts and dresses up next to your face. You will find some enhance and some distract from your appearance. Even better, seek out a colour therapist to enhance your appearance or even help with depression, anxiety or confusion.
Suggested reading (as well as my book!) is The Little Book of Colour by Karen Haller. Karen is a world renowned colour expert and her book is not only fascinating reading but beautifully colourful as well.
They may be able to point you to happiness so you can skip along the yellow brick road like Dorothy. Don’t forget to take Toto, though, animals are great therapy too. A topic for another day.
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Photo by martin bennie on Unsplash
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.