Sometimes it rained, but mostly it was just dull, a land without shadows. It was like living inside Tupperware. – Bill Bryson
That was the travel writer Bill Bryson describing a winter in the UK.
I read that quote years ago and it’s stuck with me. I often think of it when we experience several grey days in a row.
I love where I live, but, like Bill, I don’t love the lack of sunshine during the winters.
And mainly that’s because of the lack of COLOUR!
In his classic text ‘Color psychology and colour therapy’ Faber Birren theorises that ‘unrelieved monotony’ of colour – or lack of it can be mentally and emotionally distressing.
So when the occasional sunny day does arrive it’s precious and amazing and I feel myself come to life.
As a person with a pretty developed visual sense, I feel it’s the bright, vivid kaleidoscope of colours, shadows and high contrast of a sunny day that makes it so uplifting.
And I really think that’s the main reason I love spring. We get more sunny days, and sunny days mean colour!
As this article by the BBC’s Mark Easton highlights, wellbeing statistics and scientific studies actually refute that warm sunny weather by itself makes us happy, but confirms that it’s the change from grey skies to sun that makes us experience a ‘lift’ and effectively brings us to our senses – literally:
Immediately following a rain shower, when the sun bursts out and sparkles on puddles through clean, fresh air, colours brighter and senses somehow keener, those moments are profoundly exhilarating. Perhaps it is not the sunshine that matters so much as the pleasure we get when our weather changes. – Mark Easton
Whether I’d feel as sensitive to and uplifted by colour if I was exposed to bright sunshine all the time, I just don’t know. Maybe one day I’ll live for a few months somewhere tropical and find out!
Paint as a sun substitute
But I know that during the many, many, grey days we have here in the UK, I am drawn again and again to the brightest possible colours to paint with. It’s one of the main reasons flowers have been a focus of my artwork (you can check out some of the flowers I’ve done here).
This week I’ve started this anenomie painting. It’s the brightest pink/purple you’ve ever seen! You can follow my progress by liking my Facebook Page here.
For me, the paint emulates the revitalising effects of a sunny day. It gives me a true lift.
Try it for yourself. If you’ve had a few cloudy days and it’s left you feeling a little flat, get out your paints, sketchbook and a large brush and paint a whole page or two with your brightest possible colours. Observe how it makes you feel.
and as a shade substitute?
And if you live somewhere bright, sunny and colourful all the time, please share with me your experience of painting and colour. Are you equally compelled to paint with bright colours, or do you crave the muted, misty hues of cooler climes?
Let me know in the comments, I’m really interested to know.
A crash course in colour
If you’d like a crash course in colour and it’s importance check out this compelling little video which will also give you a ‘colour lift’ itself!: