The Colour Real

31 Mar

Community in Full Color

By Sylvia O'Brien:

Being Canadian & in the colour business I can't help but be charmed by the landscape of some of our east coast cities. St. John's Newfoundland, for example (see photos) 'thumbs it's nose' at the harsh climate with a cityscape full of colour, not only with it's Victorian / 2nd Empire buildings, but also with it's simple box rowhouses. The area of St. John's in the photographs is known as Jellybean Row. So let's see...we have a black house (licorice) next to a red one (cherry) next to a blue one (blueberry) next to an orange one (mango) next to a green one (lime) next to a yellow one (lemon) and so on. A delicious visual. Sort of 'mind candy'.

st johns 2jpg

What a streetscape! I spoke to local photographer Peter Hanes & the person responsible for the accompanying photos. He is a 'mainlander' living in St. John's. According to Hanes - " I do find that the coloured buildings bring spirit to the downtown area. It's an interesting mix when you see bursts of colour poking through the grey, which is something that makes St. John's unique." The weather, I can attest, is no joke. I've experienced periods of between 3-4 weeks without any sunlight, "I've lived here for 7 years & I'm still not used to it. It is true that the grey weather affects moods, mine at least. I can see the kind of psychology behind brightening up that area of town. There's a lot of fog where we are because of cold air coming from the north, meeting with warmer air coming from the south, we're right on the border so to speak. If anything, things like the crooked streets and bright colours of St. John's , make living in a harsh climate more tolerable."

gower street puddle

St. John's is not the only Canadian east coast community that incorporates a polyglot of colour language. In the province of Nova Scotia, Halifax & Lunenburg both make the most of the endless number of paint colours available to them. The phenomena of such bold colour statements on exterior surfaces is also found in Kulusuk, a village in Greenland, and in Longyearbyen, a town in Norway. What do all these locations have in common? They are all on the water and have bleak winter conditions...and long winters. Being situated at the waters edge has it's drawbacks. If the sun isn't out, the water is grey, the sky is grey, the fog is grey, most of your surroundings are grey...creating a hostile environment. Too much exposure to grey can cause depression. Energetic colour can counteract all the dreariness brought on by grey, so psychologically it's good to lift the atmosphere with high chroma hues like this. It also helps define the community as one with a sense of humour and a 'take that, Mother Nature' kind of outlook.


This article was contributed by Sylvia O'Brien, Creative Director of Colour Theory, a Toronto (Canada) based commercial colour & design firm. Her motto is "Colour...get it right the first time ".

Sylvia can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through

Photo credit: Peter Hanes Photo


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Color Objects encourages you to get a better eye and appreciation for colors and characters. To get a special selection of pics and info for you, we find designers and artists that make colorful work from all over the world. There's a lot of character in colors, and having a closer look will change your view of the world and people around you. So we share a host of pics and info from design, art, cultures and the natural world. All about colors.

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