I studied colors for a long time. Working on forensic reconstruction of the face of Ramses the Second, I learned how Egyptians used colors 3 thousand years ago. I was intrigued because they used two set of colors : one, very restricted, for sacred stuff, and an expanded one, where they mixed colors , for more casual pictures. (follow links for pictures)
I also knew that parietal paintings found in Lascaux had mostly four colors : white red earth and black. I don't think it's because they didn't have any other colors. I think it was mostly because of symbolic meanings. The same kind of meanings you will find in medieval pictures, in pojagi or ukiyo-e. The system of colors we use for road signals and logos are still respecting the medieval rules of colors created for coat of arms. Colors are deeply embed in our culture.
It is easy to get on the other side of the color perception and consider only symbols. Meanings and symbols generated glorious and simple, beautiful pictures. You can drape yourself in color meanings and enjoy it tremendously.
Clutched between science and symbols, Goethe and Newton make me quite nervous. Their work on color is the basis of most that we know now, but both of their work is tainted with approximation and affirmations with no scientific basis whatsoever.
I studied for a long time. I also studied the fact that we don't really see or integrate a color before we have a name for it. Like there is very little quotes of about blue in Occident literature before the 13th century, when suddenly blue became a very trendy color indeed. We ourselves thrive by trends, and words like turquoise, tangerine , coral and the multiple names of browns bring different palettes to our lives. Language is actually a big part of our color world.
Studying gave me only one certitude : there is scientific rules for color production...But there is none for color use. Unless you consider the part of art that is giving yourself rules about what you are doing ( ex: I will do this in a square. I will use bright colors. I will use only crayons...etc) there is absolutely no rules. There is taste. There is culture. There is fashion. That's it. You can follow, or not : you are free.
Pick something you like. Work with colors you love. Chose your own rules. And break them too.
I remember that brown and navy blue together were out of question for me. I mix them happily now. I wouldn't squirm on an orange and khaki and pink picture now, but 20 years ago I would have found that disgusting. And I would be sorely disappointed now by the colors of my living room in 1992 : cream, grey-blue and pine wood, which I used to love to bits.
So I took another approach.
(to be continued)