Color Makes Us Feel: A Photo Essay

Because I’ve spent too many years hiding from all things gray, literal and metaphorical.

Wendy Cohan
7 min readJan 30, 2020


Art Gallery in Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico. Photo by Wendy Cohan.

Color theorists postulate that, as humans, we exhibit a tendency toward either chromo-phobia or chromo-philia — a fear of, or love of, color. For example, beyond “builder’s beige” or neutral whites, we’re all born with an instinctual preference for our own unique color palettes, or, not much color at all. Because colors, like scents and sounds, provoke an emotional response. They’re “charged,” in a way that makes us feel something, and respond accordingly.

How does the photo below make you feel? Happy, perhaps? The way you feel in the summertime? This glowing green-gold is the particular color I’ve recently chosen to feature in my bedroom, mostly because I don’t like to be cold. And I’m here to tell you it’s impossible to feel cold on a winter night, or a freakishly-windy day, when you have a soft, marigold-colored quilt keeping you warm, and reminding you that summer will come your way again — in every sense of the word. Wrapped in its warmth, I feel protected and ready. I am not waiting for anything. I am content.

Flowers near the Gold Fork River, Montana, August. Photo by Wendy Cohan.

I’ve always responded strongly to color, and not always positively. For instance, I dislike many shades of green, particularly pea-green and army-green, colors I associate with my father. Even though he left our household when I was very young, he left a tremendous amount of pain in his wake: hurting children, a grieving wife, pea-green walls in “his” man-cave, and green army-surplus cast-offs in the basement. These somber greens left behind almost an odor of sadness that clung to all of us. I also still get the heebie-jeebies when I encounter the deep, joyless green that evokes dark memories of my neighbor yelling at her children while standing on her porch surrounded by shade-tolerant hostas.

“Blue very profoundly develops the element of calm.”

Vasily Kandinsky, On the Spiritual in Art

As a counter-balance to a rough start in life, I craved LIGHT in the form of bright yellows and blues, while my sister craved the…



Wendy Cohan

Author of character-driven women's fiction, short stories, and essays. Her contemporary romance, The Renaissance Sisters, debuted May 23, 2023.