Purple is magic! Purple comes in many shades, from pale soothing lavenders to dark dramatic full-strength purples. In art, purple is made from calm and stable blue and the energetic, dangerous passionate red. Depending on which red and blue you use and depending on if it’s a warm or cool colour, makes a big difference. This basic purple can be manipulated in ratio to change the colour. It can also be mixed with white to make pastel colours and black to make it dark and dramatic. The tube colour purple is always purer and more vibrant than when you make it yourself. If you take a good basic tube of purple colour, for instance, dioxine purple, this is a good starting colour to manipulate. By adding more blue, red or white …. the list goes on and on, you can change the colour to your heart’s content. Try it!
Uses of purple in art
If a colour you are trying to mix doesn’t work, try adding a touch of purple, be very careful with it as it is very strong and can take over your colour mixture. Instead of grey, you can use purple in shadows on the ground, on a face, on a glass, or in the sky, there is no end to purples versatility. Purple is good at creating depth and is much more interesting than grey. In general, a wash of diluted purple tends to bring a picture together.
Many modern-day artists have used purple to great effect. Georgia O’Keefe painted Waterloo Bridge in 1903, Andy Warhol made a screen print of a purple cow in 1977, Francis Bacon used purple liberally to name but a few.
Some interesting facts about purple
Before synthetic dyes were invented, only the wealthy people used and could afford the colourant purple. Material dyed purple was reserved for royalty, emperors and of course the clergy. Purple was discovered by the Phoenicians 3000 years ago. They found that purple could be produced by collecting and refining the seashell, called, Bolinus Brandaris. This was very costly as a very small amount was produced by an immense amount of seashells. It took about 12.000 seashells to make about 1.5 grams of dye, about enough to colour one toga. This was all produced in the city Tyre, in the Eastern Mediterranean. To this day you can still buy water colour called Tyranian purple, named after the city. Now modern chemistry is producing brilliant pigments that normal people can afford.
Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity and mystery. Purple is the colour of mourning in many cultures, Italy, Thailand and Brazil. The purple heart medal is awarded to American soldiers for bravery.
For me purple remains a magic colour!