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My Favorite Color?

When asked what my favorite color is, I hesitate to give a definitive answer. I suppose it's like asking a musician what her favorite note is. It also reminds me of the song Flowers Are Red that Harry Chapin sang years ago. This narrative song told about a child in school who loved to draw pictures and used a variety of colors. His teacher reprimanded him not only for doing art at the wrong time, but also for not using the correct two colors for coloring flowers. He protested that there are so many colors, and he wanted to use them. I don't believe the song was just a commentary on local color versus perceived or arbitrary color, but also a song about creative freedom versus performing in a prescribed way and conforming to the status quo.

Don't get me wrong. I love it when people have favorite colors. An artist friend of mine has green as his favorite color even though he works with many different colors. However, it's not just any green. He's very particular about it. For many people there is an emotional connection to those colors and reasons behind them. I like hearing the stories that influenced their choices. I just struggle to pinpoint a color or colors as my favorite. I like using a variety, and different combinations often help convey a variety of ideas. When one considers computer graphics technology, most screens can emit millions of colors. Who would have thought that so many colors existed?! The One who created light (Genesis 1:3-4) also created color, texture, form, depth, and contrast.

For those who struggle to perceive or differentiate colors, choice of color or color preference may not be as much of an issue, and appreciation for value, texture, form and contrast may be more important. The black and white photographs of Ansel Adams are timeless treasures. There's also nothing like a good charcoal or graphite drawing, or a masterful sculpture. Even some paintings are not heavy on color variety or intensity, such as the abstract expressionist painting Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock. There is also beauty in the muted colors found in some of the amazing paintings of Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Andrew Wyeth or James Whistler.

An entire industry is built on color, believe it or not. The Pantone Color Institute represents the current trends in color as it is used in the fashion industry, interior design, digital marketing, gaming, etc. They even elect a Color of the Year and give a full explanation of why it was chosen and what it represents. Every spring and fall the institute also comes out with a new set of colors that are trending and can be seen emerging in the western world if one is observant to those trends. Years ago when the print industry was larger than the current digital world, Pantone provided color recipes for use in four color offset lithography as well as spot colors. The printed samples they provided showed not only the color, but also numbers representing an amount of each of the four cyan, magenta, yellow, and black colors. This system was based on how color photographs were produced. There is some science to color theory and deciding what colors work well together. Nowadays with colors being produced digitally in a seemingly effortless manner, Pantone offers a good deal of color consultation and names of colors to help define them.

This is nothing new. Many companies have their own names they have assigned to colors. For example, the Bainbridge "Mocha" mat color differs slightly from the Sherwin Williams "Iced Mocha" paint color. I really don't think adding ice changed the color of the mocha. Perhaps it was the type of coffee, cream, or chocolate that was used! So there really is no standardized system of color names, which is a good thing in my opinion. Color really is quite subjective, especially concerning what one likes or doesn't like. That's why God created so many different ones for us to enjoy. Just watch some amazing sunsets or sunrises, for example. They change with each passing moment.

I learned from a cultural and language teacher named Danny Lopez that The Tohono O'odham people of the Sonoran Desert have names of colors in their language based on their natural surroundings. The literal translations into English show that the colors are based on the natural objects. For example, u'am masad means "yellow month," because in March the desert blooms with yellow poppies. Purple is based on the saguaro cactus fruit which has a purplish red color. The word for "brown" comes from the grime that accumulates on the inside band of one's cowboy hat after years in the desert. Many cultures have similar ways in which the names of colors originated. If you think of it, the color name orange in English came from the fruit. I highly doubt that the fruit was named after the color. We are still inventing names for colors, such as seafoam or coral or charcoal.

Come to find out, colors or combinations of colors are generally not copyrightable, but there are of course exceptions based on "source identification function" and other legal trademark considerations. Who gets to decide what is an "acceptable" color? The answer is no one and everyone! What is your favorite color or colors and the story behind them? Or are you like me and don't really have one? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

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