Color Me Cheerful

Remember how new crayons smelled on your first day of school?  I started first grade with a box of 48 of these wonderful waxy-oily sharply pointed colors. Our granddaughter started kindergarten this week and I’m guessing her box is much bigger. (There are now 133.) She may not know it, but color research tells us her red one will wear down first.

In 1903 Binney Smith introduced what has become an American tradition, with this familiar yellow and green box. It cost a nickel and had eight colors.  The Crayola name, coined by Binney’s wife, Alice, comes from craie, the French word for “chalk and ola from “oleaginous.

Names have changed over the years–and new ones, based on user focus groups, continue to be added. Prussian Blue was changed to Midnight Blue during World War I. Flesh was changed to Peach in 1962 when it finally dawned on people that skin tones do vary. And in 1999, the Crayola company changed Indian Red to Chestnut.

For all the wonderful names given these cheerful colors, check out the chart which includes Ultra Cool Colors with twistable barrels that emerged in 2000 as well as fluorescent colors which appeared in the 90s with names such as Atomic Tangerine, Hot Magenta, Outrageous Orange Blizzard Blue,  Radical Red and Neon Carrot.

Colors tap the deep roots of our archetypes and offer truths that need no persuasion to be real. Colors pulls the heart along a rainbow path familiar to anyone who has ever stood in dripping sunshine and looked up. Or any five year old artist who has created a cheery rainbow for her Grandmother.


“Color is the language of light; it adorns the earth with beauty. Through color, light brings its passion, kindness and imagination to all things: pink to granite, green to leaves, blue to ocean, yellow to dawn. ”            John O’Donohue, Beauty



[Portions of this have come from a book to be published next year with the working title: Color: The Language of Light–How Color Feeds the Soul. It will be published by Divine Arts Media.]



photo by: tlindenbaum