Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Colors

Fall brings a change to color palettes in all areas of our life. The colors associated with holidays, merchandising, and nature take on the hues of a smoldering fire. Science, weather, myth, and symbolism all play an influential role in the colors we experience.

What causes the orange moon of autumn? During the fall, the moon lies close to the horizon. From this position, its light has to travel twice as far to reach our eyes than it does when the moon appears directly overhead. Pollution, smoke, and cloud particles, along with dust stirred up during the crop harvests, creates an obstacle course and scatters the light. The short wavelengths of blue, green, and purple are pushed off their trajectory toward earth. As a result, the long, strong wavelengths of yellow, red, and orange win the honor of bathing the moon.

Weather and biology control the intensity of fall foliage color. As the days shorten and temperatures drop, trees signal their leaves to seal off their connection to their stems. The process of photosynthesis stops, and the radiant green hues start to lose their vibrancy. The lack of water triggers chemical reactions. Carotene, a pigment also found in corn and carrots, causes maples, birches, and poplars to turn yellow. Anthocyanins, also found in all red and blue berries, black currants, and purple sweet potatoes, are responsible for brilliant red and orange foliage. Tannins give the oak leaves their distinctive brown color.

All Hallows’ Eve on October 31 marked the end to the old Celtic calendar year. Celts hollowed out turnips, beets, and rutabagas, placed a candle inside. They decorated windowsills and porches to welcome home spirits of dead ancestors and ward off evil. American immigrants adapted the tradition, and the bountiful, large pumpkin offered a super-sized lantern. Because Halloween was celebrated after sunset, the blackness of night came to be associated with the holiday. The pumpkin signifies the radiance of light.

Mother Nature branded the fall palette and imprinted it deeply on our unconscious. We can take the associations we have with fall colors—the bountiful harvest, the completion of a cycle, the warmth of the fire, the celebration of magic and mystery—and apply them to our built environment, using them to influence behavior and create mood.

Autumn colors can be gregarious, open, adventurous, intoxicating, glowing, and sustaining. Who wouldn’t like to experience that?

Colour Studio's favorite fall colors...

Dramatic Oranges
Benjamin Moore: 2167-20 Pumpkin Pie
Pratt & Lambert: 8-16 Orange Spice
Brilliant Golds
Benjamin Moore: HC-7 Bryant Gold
Benjamin Moore: HC-10 Stuart Gold
Deep Reds
Pittsburg Paints: 331-7 Autumn Ridge
Pittsburg Paints: 432-7 Brick Dust
Warm Browns
Pratt & Lambert: 33-22 Dansbury Downs
Pratt & Lambert: 33-20 Cafè Gris

Content & Writing: Jill Pilaroscia
Photos: Jerry Levy
Design & Production: Naomi Kuhmann


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