Dreaming in Color - Color is Powerful with Jean Wells


Color is the big idea in your work. It emphasizes feelings. I am sure you have heard someone refer to moody blues, say red is a passionate color, or that green is associated with relaxation and growth. Violet is dignity and royalty, orange is confidence and enthusiasm, white is innocence and beauty, and yellow is sunshine and happiness are other color associations. What associations do you have with each of these colors? How do they make you feel?

Get out your journal, or a piece of paper, and write down the color names above and then think of a word that you associate with each color. You might try this exercise with a friend. It is a great conversation to have with someone, and you will learn even more about color in the process.

In this post, I am focusing on the emotions and associations tied to primary and secondary colors on the color wheel. Let's jump in with an example from my journal.


Today, I received a packet of Dwarf Teddy Bear sunflower seeds in the mail. The message said “A gift from your Sisters Garden Club! Sunflowers, the official flower for 2021, represents loyalty, adoration and happiness. Grow in pots or in the ground.” What a nice act of kindness to receive these on a cold, rainy, winter day! It makes me want to send you some sunshine from my garden last summer. Sunflowers are my pride and joy in the garden, and I can always depend on seeds from the past summer to sprout in April.

Yellow is the color of sunshine and always makes me feel warm, even when it is a soft pastel yellow. I feel hopeful when I see yellow for some reason. How about you, how does yellow make you feel? In quilt making, I use yellow when I need a light value, or a bright bit of color.





Green has been my favorite color for as long as I can remember and in the last few years bright yellow green has become my go to color. At the Stitchin’ Post the employees call this shade of green, “Jean Green”. For me, green is a calm, refreshing color that symbolizes growth and renewal.




We use our color associations when putting an outfit together for a special occasion (maybe a lunch date with a friend), when we are trying to come up with a new palette for a quilt, or when choosing new colors for a room in our home. It is the most emotional element the quilter has in their toolbox to work with. You become a “Colorist”!




Blues aren’t just moody after all, are they? They can be subtle, bold, uplifting as a beautiful fall sky. When you mix red and blue together you get violet.




The iris is a perfect example of complementary colors with the soft yellow center. See how the green acts as a neutral in this photograph? I always say in the classroom when someone is stuck that some form of green might save the day. In the next photo, the purple center in the yellow flower is very intense.

As we move to red, think about being alert or in danger, as red is used to warn others about danger or to caution them in situations. There is strong beauty in the color red. I enjoy seeing it move to red/violet in the close up image of a dahlia below.




Orange is the last hue in our basic color examination. It is a happy color and is associated with fall and Halloween. It can also be a dangerous color when it comes to forest fires, as you can see from the last photo that Betty Daggett shared with me from the fire in Gates, OR.IMG_1331 IMG_0972


Clues are everywhere: magazines, Pinterest, museums, travel, scarfs. Study how other artists use color. The more you study this work the more you realize that color is an individual choice. Doug Phillips chose these colors to paint the garage door at their home. When you see his wife Tonye’s quilts, you can certainly see a connection.



Color is your special way to tell a story. Associations with colors will influence your use of them in your work. There have been times when I was asked to use a particular color in a commission quilt or group challenge that I did not care for. However, with that challenge I pushed myself to look for other colors that I liked that might play well with it. Be adventuresome and enjoy color challenges as you develop your favorite combinations.

Each month I select fabrics for new pencil packs to help get you started with your own color experiments. This month’s three new pencil packs remind me that spring is on the way.


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My books also offer more color ideas and many exercises to get your creativity flowing.

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