Can colour rescue you?

I’ve asked my friend Jo to write this week’s blog post – you might remember that I went to one of Jo’s art classes in the summer and came back inspired.  As an art teacher Jo is my go-to expert for all matters colour.  At the moment she’s trying to ween me off the flashes of red in my wardrobe and get me to embrace blue!

Jo has an interesting perspective on colour which goes beyond the simplicity of yellow for happy and black for sad.

Can you visualise a safe and happy place?

I have a friend who is suffering from depression and anxiety and was referred by her doctor for counselling. During one of them, the therapist asked her to visualise a safe and happy place. She confided that at the time she simply couldn't do it, as she was so consumed by unhappiness. The counsellor changed tack and asked her instead to choose some shapes and colours that she felt were reassuring and positive. She could manage this and was amazed at how easy it was to do, and has gone on to use this visualising technique to aid her recovery.  It's reassuring to know that colour can rescue us.

What colour are you?

If you stopped for a moment, could you find a colour to make you feel happier and more secure? Once you’ve found it, you’ll be able to use your colour to influence your choice of clothes – and wear them with more confidence, change the colour of your front door to emphasize that home is your happy place, or simply start noticing your colour in the beauty of natural of the outdoors. Colour is important because it’s often the first thing you notice about an object. 

Have you ever experienced a natural high from a colour that has stayed with you? A few months ago, on a perfect blue sky afternoon, I was driving along a country road and from a distance I saw a huge field full of the most amazing purple flowering plant. I was so completely captivated that I felt I just had to get nearer to it so I could pull over and photograph it. As I stood and framed the field with my viewfinder, it struck me that this sensory, almost spiritual colour experience may have been similar to how the painters of the Impressionist art movement aimed to describe scenes of nature in their work. As I returned to my car I noticed that in the opposite field was another crop. This was a mass of textured, richly golden corn, shimmering and ripening in the sunshine. I felt my surroundings so visually fulfilling that I lingered a while to drink in the sheer beauty of this riot of colour. I felt immersed in it from every angle.

Complementary colours

At the time I didn’t think too deeply about it, but reflecting afterwards from my knowledge of colour theory, I realised the emotional effect these colours had on me at that precise moment was because of the purple and yellow being complementary to each other on the colour wheel. As are red and green; and, blue and orange.


It is a scientific process that results in these colours having a distinct visual effect and it triggers an innate physical 'need' from your body and mind working together to seek to pair them and so become satisfied. Complementary colour pairs make the brightest colour combination there is. In the natural world, flowers play the same trick on insects. In our more immediate daily lives, I bet you've never thought why the yellow wrapper of a famous crumbly textured chocolate bar has purple graphics on it. But you’ve probably picked it up and paid for it. It's no coincidence that the reason behind this is due to psychological lure! If you want to test this theory, get an A4 sheet of white and a sheet of card or paper in any one of the six colours just mentioned. Look at the coloured paper for at least 30 seconds and then look at the white one. You should be able to see the complementary of the colour on the white paper.

The colour wheel

The colour wheel has three Primary colours - blue, yellow and red - from which all other colours other than white are derived. Purple, green and orange are the Secondary colours.  Mixing blue and red gives purple, yellow and blue gives green, red and yellow makes orange. Colours like vermillion red, orange and sunshine yellow are from what we call the warm side of the wheel, although red can be a cold crimson and lemon yellow cold also. Greens, blues and purples are thought to be ‘cool’, but again these can have warm equivalents-think tropical seas.


If a Primary colour is mixed with its neighbouring Secondary, this gives a Tertiary colour. As this happens, colours become more unusual. For example, the Tertiary of blue and green is teal. When Complementary pairs of colour are mixed together, as textile designers or artists often do to create tone within a design or painting, they become browns and greys and this is also how black is made. However, because they are derived from a primary and secondary colour opposite each other, these ‘dirty’ colours take on a more harmonious slant and retain balance within the colour scheme, which is why neutral colour is needed.

Colour at home

In terms of flower arranging you might decide to take a colour from a rug or cushion cover as a starting point to choosing and arranging flowers at home. If you want to enliven the mood, use flowers of Complementary colours. When teaching students how to create a piece of Art of their own to perhaps display at home, I ask them to choose colours they like to wear or live with and then encourage them to experiment with mixing them to produce neutrals for tonal depth. Successful interior schemes are not about furnishings in a room being of similar colour, nor being of many different colours. But I do think it is possible to pull a decorative scheme together with a bit of fun, thoughtful creativity and so be able to live at ease with a more developed sense of colour satisfaction.

5-day FREE mini-course

If you’re planning to find your happy with flowers this week don’t forget you can amaze your friends with your knowledge about getting your flowers to last longer. Sign up here for access to my FREE five-day mini course and make a start on getting your flowers to last longer.

If you’d like to join my next 4-week online flower arranging class you can find out more about it here.

Until next time, happy flowers!




using colour in flower arranging
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