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How Does Color Influence Your Mood?

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Erin Hanson, like many artists over the years, creates artwork in a varied palette. Each Hanson piece focuses on a particular landscape, viewed at a specific time of day. Often, these paintings focus on the play of light and shadow in natural spaces. The work can be as stark as the backlit oaks in her Crystal Light series or softer, as in a view of central California on a summer’s day.

Pictured: Crystal Arbor

Pictured: Hills and Clouds

View the pieces above. Each uses a distinct palette and showcases a different subject. Each piece may evoke a complex emotion, but it is hard to nail down what is causing that emotion.

Here’s where we begin to think about art and its influence on mood.

A Thought Experiment

Try this thought experiment:
What happens when you view pieces that are different in the subject but use a similar palette?

Pictured: Saguaro Dusk

Pictured: Cypress Pines

Both of the above pieces use a dusky palette, dominated by blues and purples.

How do the above pieces make you feel? Does each piece evoke a different emotion, or do they both put you in a particular mood?

What if we have a brighter palette?

Pictured: Hop Valley Wash

Pictured: Sunflowers on Red II

These pieces, though two entirely different subjects, are dominated by red. Do they evoke similar emotions or energy just because of a similar palette?

Does Color Alone Influence Your Mood? 

You have likely heard of studies that tell you how colors are supposed to make you feel. Red should make you feel energized - or was it angry? Green should make you feel calm - or was it envious? Color psychology can be incredibly confusing, and it is frankly wildly inaccurate. 

Colors do influence your mood. But the idea that specific colors make every single human being on the planet feel a particular way is simply not accurate. 

In color studies, scientists have found that color may influence an individual's mood, but that influence is based on what they associate the color with. For example, purple may make a person feel angry, while red makes them happy. When questioned, it may come up that a dearly beloved team or university uses red, while the opposing team uses purple. 

Additionally, the subject of art does have an influence on how a piece makes one feel. 

A red rock landscape may bring one joy, while a violent image in that same red color would bring about fear or sadness. 

So, the prevailing theory is that using one color or another alone does not dictate the mood. 

However, one color can remind a person of a particular scene or circumstance that then changes their mood.

How Art Influences Your Mood

This leads us back to art. Artists of all kinds use color to express themselves. But, they also use shape and subject to communicate emotion and elevate the viewer.

Even the most abstract art, art that appears to be pure color, is still using a subject, shape, and more to change your mood and guide the viewer to some new thought.

Consider the abstract style called “color field painting,” developed by Mark Rothko. In this work, color is the subject itself. However, these works are not just one solid color or a swatch from a color wheel. They are a dedicated study of colors, showcasing the colors with complimentary, tertiary, or secondary colors and inviting the viewer to delve into the beauty of color.

This type of painting is as close as one can get to an artist’s interpretation of color - and even this stark view of color evokes different emotions in different viewers.

This is why many artists, including Erin Hanson, choose something more concrete as their subject.

In the case of Hanson, she mainly paints landscapes. You will find the occasional still-life work in her gallery, but the vast majority of paintings are landscapes.

The reason for this is, in Hanson’s words: “I am trying to get my viewers to open their eyes and see their world a little differently. I want people to look at the San Gabriel mountains when they are stuck in their car during 5pm traffic, and see the amazing range of purples that appear when the sun starts setting and the brilliant oranges and sherbet colors in the highlights.”

To accomplish this, Hanson uses a limited color palette, utilizing her long, sweeping brushstrokes to impart energy into her paintings.

Every painter and painting style uses color to elevate and communicate. But most also use a subject and a method to add to that communication or bring a message to the fore. For this reason, viewing art is more than just a method of changing one’s mood. It is also a way to uplift the mind and soul and inspire even more beauty in the world.

Would you like to explore the colors, textures, and beauty of Erin Hanson’s artwork?

Click here to explore her gallery.


ERIN HANSON is a life-long painter, beginning her study of oils as a young child.  Her passion for natural beauty is seen in her work as she transforms vistas familiar and rare into stunning interpretations of bold color, playful rhythms and raw emotional impact. Her frequent forays into National Parks and other havens of nature include backpacking expeditions, rock climbing, and photo safaris.  Hanson's unique painting style has become known as Open Impressionism, which is now taught in art schools around the world. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism, and she is quickly recognized as a prolific, modern master.

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