Red and green being opposites on the colour wheel are described as complementary colours. An interesting terminology ‘complementary’. So what does it mean and how does it show itself? I first went to the on-line thesaurus where I not only found some superb synonyms but also some excellent notes. I particularly liked:
complementary describes an addition that produces completeness or perfection in something.
Yes, that’s just how these two colours together make me feel. Green is a huge part of my work and it just seems to beg for a touch of red to be thrown in somewhere. Having researched the colour theory for both I have come away with a huge mix of contradictions in apparent traditional meanings of these two.
Red is described on one site as being associated with passion, courage, energy, sex, attraction and magnetism, sensuality, forcefulness, self-assertion, physical vitality, warmth and action. Elsewhere I found descriptions such as fire, violence, warfare, importance, danger and anger. Two quite different interpretations but with something in common – strength. That’s what I see in red and how it affects me – it imparts strength, confidence, energy, power, concentration and faith in myself.
Green is first described as associated with money, prosperity, communication, employment, fertility, success, health, harmony, new beginnings and renewal. On a different site it is shown as a down to earth colour which can represent new beginnings and growth, renewal and abundance but also envy, jealousy and a lack of experience. It can also be energizing and vibrant depending on the saturation and brightness. For me it feels comfortable, familiar, a feeling of starting afresh and the renewal and growth written above.
When using complementary colours they can fight with one another when used in similar proportions and can cause a piece of work to become too busy and tiring on the eyes. I prefer to use them in roughly 80%-20% proportions. In the case of red/green I tend to have more green as red will dominate because it is the first colour light ray on our visual spectrum to hit our eyes and will always demand attention so by using a lesser amount I even out the effect between the two.
The mix of green and red together can be seen to good effect in this picture by Claude Monet Coquelicots (translated as Poppies, Poppy Field or Poppy field in Argenteuil depending on where you look) painted in 1873.
The red in the foreground is very pronounced and abundant with the daubs decreasing in size and vibrancy as they retreat into the background. The characters, both foreground and at the top of the hill, have been positioned right at the edge of the poppy field in a diagonal line helping the eye to travel from the front, up the hill and then along the tree line to discover the tiny house and the further expanse of field. A wide range of greens has been used from deep and strong with definite strokework in the front to muted and a blue/green further afield giving a softer impression.
A lovely picture in my opinion. I like Impressionism and the colour mixing effects.