Some things I have learned about the colour orange

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   The colour orange is a vibrant, warm hue that is often associated with energy, creativity and warmth. It is a secondary colour created by mixing red and yellow, two colours I have written about in previous blogs. Orange is commonly found in nature in the form of fruits and vegetables.

Here I will explore briefly the history of the colour and how it is made, as well as looking at its symbolism, meaning and its use in art and design.

Historically, the colour orange acquired its name from the fruit of the same name, which was first cultivated in China over 7,000 years ago. The word “orange” comes from the Old French term “pomme d’orenge”, meaning “apple of gold”. The French term is likely a modified version of the Italian word “arancia”, which came from the Arabic “naranj”, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word “naranga”. It was not until the 16th century that the colour orange was given it own name, as prior to that, it was simply referred to as “yellow-red”.

One of the earliest known uses of the colour orange was in ancient Egypt, where it was used to decorate temples and tombs. The Egyptians made a pigment called realgar, which was a bright orange-red colour, from arsenic sulphide. This pigment was used to paint ceramics and even as a cosmetic for the skin.

In China, orange was considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity. The colour was often used in clothing, furniture and art and was also associated with the Buddhist deity, the Amitabha Buddha.

In western culture, orange was not a popular colour until the 16th century when it became fashionable amongst the wealthy. The Dutch royal family, the House of Orange, helped to popularise the colour in Europe and the shade known as “Orange” became one of the official colours of the Netherlands.

Orange is made by mixing equal parts of red and yellow. The specific shades of red and yellow used will affect the resulting shade of orange. For example, using more of a warm, orange-toned red, such as cadmium red, will produce a warmer, more vibrant shade of orange, whilst using a cooler bluish red like alizarin crimson will create a cooler, more subdued orange.

Orange can also be created by mixing other colours, too. Try mixing red and green or blue and yellow. These mixtures will create less vibrant orange, being a rather more muted shade.

In addition to being mixed with other colours, orange can also be made by dyeing or painting onto various materials. For example orange dyes can be made from natural sources like saffron, turmeric and annatto, a food colouring agent and condiment made from the seeds of the Achiote tree. Synthetic dyes can also be created from chemical compounds.

In fashion, orange is a popular choice for both casual and formal wear due to its association with the autumn (fall) season. It is commonly used in outerwear garments such as sweaters and jackets. The bright neon version which is often referred to as tangerine, is popular for ski jackets and summer beach wear alike.

When designing your interior, orange can be used to set the mood. More earthy oranges used in abundance can create a warm, cosy living room for wintertime along with an open fire. A lighter shade of orange more on the peachy or coral side of the colour spectrum can help to create a calm and relaxing environment.

The colour orange is associated with a range of meanings and symbolism depending on the context or culture. Generally, it is associated with warmth, energy and creativity. The following list contains some of the most common meanings associated with it.

Energy and excitement: Orange is a vibrant and energetic colour which is often associated with excitement and enthusiasm. It is often used in marketing and advertising as it grabs one’s attention and creates a sense of urgency or excitement. The Surrey Artists Open Studios (SAOS) annual event has used orange signage every year so that people are alerted to the event. It also stands out against the green of trees and hedges found outside most homes, thus easily identifying one who’s owner is taking part in the event.

Warmth and comfort: the warm cosy tones of orange are often associated with comfort, home and hearth. It is a popular colour for autumnal and winter fashions and home decor.

Creativity and expression: Orange is often associated with creativity, another reference we can associate with SAOS, and self-expression. It can be a bold and unique colour which stands out from the crowd.

Health and wellness: In some cultures, orange is associated with health and wellness as it is the colour of many fruits and vegetables which are considered to be nutritious and healthy. Think carrots, pumpkins, mangos and of course oranges themselves which are often used in healthy breakfast meals. Orange light can be used to treat depression, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and other mood disorders. This is because orange light can stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.

Orange is also used in safety equipment, especially clothing, as it is highly visible and can help to the wearer to stand out in lowlight conditions. Think railway workers, police, firefighters and ambulance crews.

Spirituality and enlightenment: in some eastern religions, orange is associated with spiritual enlightenment and the search for a higher truth. In Hinduism, orange is considered to be a sacred colour associated with purity, spirituality and religious devotion. The colour has a rich history as well as a variety of meanings for different cultures around the world.

As I mentioned earlier, orange is a secondary colour on the colour wheel and is created usually by mixing red and yellow. The wavelength range for it is between approx. 590 and 620 nanometres, making it one of the longer wavelengths of visible light. Like all colours perceived by the human eye, orange is seen thanks to specialised cells called cones which are located in the retina. Studies have shown that the colour orange can stimulate appetite and increase food intake and restaurants often use it to increase sales.

However, many years ago I went to see a hypnotist who had me place orange dots around my house to help me reduce my food intake. Clearly that didn’t work.

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