Seeing Red

The agony and the ecstasy of Red. I have a love-hate relationship
with this color. Last fall, I attempted to paint with Red, and ended
up with what looked like a pink carnation massacre. But now, I
think I may be ready for Red. It is pretty widely reported by many
studies that people respond strongly to Red with increased heart-
rate, increased speed & strength, as well as increased anxiety
or exuberance. Responses vary with color intensity levels, the
amount of the color, as well as the individual.
While digging for more facts about the color Red, I am getting
both history and science lessons.
  • According to the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), because of its high visibility, Red has been the color named first most often by civilizations as they developed words.
  • Red has the longest wavelength that can be seen by the naked eye, fatiguing and irritating if viewed for too long, yet energizing in small amounts.
  • Recently Starbucks made the news with their decision to phase out 'natural cochineal extract' (crushed beetle blood) as the Red dye in their strawberry drinks and baked goods.
  • According to Victoria Finlay, author of Color: A natural history of the palette, natural cochineal extract has been used for centuries to make Red dye, still used in Cherry Coke (additive E120) as well as in cosmetics, food, beverages and fabric dyes. Cochineal extract of the Americas is a much more intense Red than that of its European relative, the Polish Cochineal.
  • Unlike hummingbirds who can only really see Reds, most insects cannot see Red.

Detail of recent painting

Recent painting, 24" x 36", acrylic on canvas