Is Gray a Color?


Having just read Meghan Flaherty’s eloquent piece, Ode to Gray in the Paris Review, I’ve been thinking about color again. Flaherty makes numerous points in favor of gray. She refers to gray as “the color, rather than the sound, of silence.”

Flaherty cites numerous others’ disparate thoughts on gray. She refers to a color psychology article, stating that “grey is emotionless.” She quotes the French painter, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres who said, “Better gray than garishness.” And, she shares, “Paul Klee called it the richest color, “the one that makes all the others speak.”

She also writes that, “according to Eva Heller, in her Die wahre Geschichte von allen Farben, only 1 percent of people surveyed named gray as their favorite color.” Contrast that with blue. Supposedly, half the people on earth list blue as their favorite color.

In one of my earlier posts entitled, The Lure of BlueI wrote about what draws my eye towards blue. Truth be told, nearly every article of clothing I own is blue. My office walls are blue. My automobile is blue.

Hmm…maybe I’ve been taking the easy way out all this time…

After reading Flaherty’s excellent article, I vow to seriously think through the possibility of gray being an actual color. I may even introduce a few bits of gray into my wardrobe because, after all, gray pairs so well with blue…

by Rebecca Cochran

The Lure of Blue

Variations of blue

by Rebecca Cochran

What is it about blue? I’ve been aware for quite some time that I naturally gravitate to the color blue. According to an article* I read late last year, half of the people on earth list blue as their favorite color. Granted, much has been written about color theory.

When I was at the North Carolina Museum of Art again over the weekend, I made an intentional visit to Ellsworth Kelly’s Blue Panel. Each time I visit that painting, I try to view it from a new perspective. The work, a purely abstract blue panel, dramatically captured my attention during my first visit to the Museum’s new West Building in 2010.

As I continued my museum visit this time, I challenged myself to become hyper aware of what initially draws me to a work of visual art. Usually, it is color that catches my eye first – and oftentimes, the color is blue. Blue Dancer, sculpted of bronze with a blue patina by the Ukrainian-born avant-garde artist, Alexander Archipenko, is another of my favorites.

Wending my way through all the galleries, I notice that blue regularly lures me into a painting. The incredible blue sky above Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cebolla Church draws me in every time. I notice the sky first. Then, I am drawn in further to her unusual rendering of the church itself.

The cool, dappled, blue light is what first lures me into Renoir’s double portrait, The Daughters of Durand-Ruel (on temporary loan here from the Chrysler Museum of Art). I recently enjoyed the biopic, Renoir, so this work has a current appeal for me. Blue was its initial draw, however.

The same thing happens when I shop for clothing or home goods. Blue draws me to an item first. Then, I notice shape and texture.

As a designer, rather than simply using blue to be agreeable (blue is everybody’s favorite color, after all), I’m going to consciously work to use blue to lure others in. Blue can be a conscious element of a call to action in advertising. A blue button can be used to lure people to purchase online. (Blue links are blue for a reason, after all.) And, I think I’ll make certain to wear blue whenever I have an important presentation to make.

What are your thoughts? What are some other ways we can capitalize on the lure of blue?

*Read the New York Times article here.