Color Theory In Nature

Color Theory In Nature

by Barbara K. Stump, MA

Here in Michigan, we are fortunate to see and enjoy all four seasons. Some of us prefer one or two over the others. I have to admit winter to me is not one of my favorites, but I do enjoy the feeling of being in a snow globe on a blustery snowy day.  The fresh snow is beautiful and glistening. Do you have a favorite season?  Do you enjoy a certain season more because of  the weather or possibly the colors?

I am writing this blog in a transitional period of my life. I  just sold the house I had owned for  25 years, and raised my two boys in, to build a new life together with my husband in Traverse City, Michigan. It’s a bittersweet feeling, and it seems fitting that this phase of my life is occurring during the fall season. To quote F. Scott Fitzgeral, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”  Autumn can also signal an opportunity for adopting a new outlook. It is  a beautiful time to enjoy the changes in the scenery, fall decorating, pumpkin carving, hiking colorful trails, picking apples, baking, tailgating, and football games. I have to laugh because the last two are priorities for my husband, and maybe for some of you reading?!

So, in my move to northern Michigan, I feel blessed to be surrounded by nature.  I love to go on hikes with friends and my dog, Maple. While walking with her this past week I collected several fall leaves.  I’m obsessed with the way leaves change colors and how each one is unique.  As I was picking leaves up I thought to myself these would be good visuals for my readers. Wherever you are in your knowledge of color theory, appreciating colors around us can alter and improve your experience of living.  Here are a few key terms and color schemes to assist you:

Hue: Is another word for color

Palette: The range of colors used

Primary Colors:  Red, Yellow, and Blue

Secondary Colors:  Violet, Orange, and Green (made by mixing two primary colors together)

Tertiary Colors:  Red-Violet, Red-Orange, Yellow-Green, Yellow-Orange, Blue-Green, and Blue-Violet (made by mixing one primary color with one secondary color)

Tint: Adding white to a hue, and or a lighter color to a design

Shade:  Adding black to a hue, and or a darker color to a design

Tone:  Adding a complementary color to a given hue will tone it or gray the color

Warm Colors: Includes hues red through yellow

Cool Colors:  Includes hues green through purple

Complementary Colors: Two hues that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. For example yellow and violet.

Accent Color:  Is a hue that is used for emphasis in a composition or design

Monochromatic:  A single hue color design with tints, shades, and tones

Analogous:  A group of three to four colors next to each other on the color


Triadic:  A group of three colors evenly spaced on the color wheel. For example the primary or secondary colors

Gradation:  The gradual and seamless transition from one hue to another, also including shading or tinting a color

Saturation:  The intensity or dominance of a color

Achromatic:  Void of color, only using black, white, and grays

The way colors are seen by you will at all times inform the way you interpret, express, and possibly share your feelings.  It is unique to your own style and individuality.  Making the choice to embrace what we see every day can be mood altering and fun. As Ferris Bueller said so eloquently, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” What do you look forward to doing this fall? We will be talking more about colors in the future, and not just having to do with seasons. However, If you visit a pumpkin patch by yourself, with friends, or loved ones, snap a few pics of your time there. You may even carve a super cool pumpkin or make a pie. Whatever you do, this is an opportunity to share! We would love to see you enjoying the beautiful fall colors here in Michigan!

Barb is an Art Education Consultant and G3 Contributing Writer. Her current series ‘Art for Everyday Enrichment and Mental Health’ will be released weekly on Thursday. Her upcoming series ‘Art Passport’ will look at ways that we can use art to transport ourselves to happy times and evoke feelings of peace and comfort.