The Color Purple: Feminine, Rare, and Royal

By admin in Art Tutorials > Color Theory

Purple Flowers

Purple (or violet) is one of three secondary colors along with green and orange. Its traditional complementary color is yellow, which sits directly opposite it on the artist’s color wheel.

What purple means to us psychologically:
Purple is an interesting color—we often use the word purple to describe hues ranging from deep blue purple (what you might call indigo) through reddish purple (like maroon) and even on to fluorescent (almost pink) hot purple.

The emotional response that we have to purple depends a lot on where the color falls between red and blue.

A cold, blue purple can be a little aloof (almost austere or snobbish) and many times feel rather old fashioned. Reddish purple on the other hand, tends to feel rich and luxurious.

Is purple a “girl color” or “boy color?”
Purple is traditionally a “girl” color. In fact, women often pick purple as their favorite color while only a tiny percentage of men do. It makes sense then, that purple is seen in women’s attire all the time, yet is practically non-existent in men’s clothing.

Also, women’s preference for purple seems to increase with age—younger females are more likely to favor pink or red.

Purple in society:
Purple Heart MedalPurple was originally known as the color of royalty since purple dyes were so expensive to attain that only kings and emperors could afford to buy it.

Today in the United States, the purple heart medal is given to those in the military who are wounded or killed in service.

In addition, the color purple was at one time widely adopted by the gay community as a symbol of pride.

Pigments found in purple paint:
Pigments used to make purple are often found in blue and red paint as well, like Ultramarine, Cobalt, and Quinacridone. Other pigments include Dioxazine and Manganese compounds.

Common purple oil paints:
Dioxazine Purple and Quinacridone Violet are two common purple paints, and obviously use some of the pigments listed above.

Many artists make their own purple/violet colors however, by mixing blue and red. You can read more about how to do that, if you’d like, in this color mixing article.

Famous purple paintings:
At first I couldn’t think of any famous paintings which were mostly purple or violet, but an email from Cara at The Capricious Painter reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work.

Here’s O’Keeffe’s Black and Purple Petunias.

Black and Purple Petunias by Georgia O'Keeffe


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