The question of what color(s) to paint the walls in the studio had me collecting and comparing paint chips for weeks. My last two studios had white and off-white walls. Many artists say those colors, along with very pale gray, reflect light best and don't skew their color perception. So at first I decided to go that route and chose a clean, bright white for the walls and ceiling.
Big mistake. Once the white paint went on, the look was cold and clinical. It made the space feel as charming as the inside of a food freezer. This I couldn't live with. It was back to the color chips for another try.
Most of my work -- along with my personal taste -- runs to warm colors. I'm happiest when surrounded by sunny hues. Give me light and bright and I'm delirious with joy. (My idea of hell is being stuck in a room with beige or taupe walls and brown furniture. I find that to be very depressing.) Determined to inject warmth and color into my space, whose furnishings are mostly white, I settled on what I thought would be the perfect shade of pale golden yellow. I bought a sample bottle, painted a 2x3' piece of heavy white paper with it, and left the paper taped to the wall for a week to see how well I liked it. Then I bought a gallon and started painting.
Another oops. What had looked lovely on the color chip and the painted sample sheet looked perfectly awful on the wall. When my husband called it "D.O.T. yellow" he was absolutely right. It was the same color as yield signs and school buses. Much too intense, it bathed everything in a French's Mustard sort of glow. I couldn't live with this color, either, so it was back to the color chips yet again.
This time around, I lucked out and found the very shade of pale yellow I had always envisioned for my studio space: Gold Buttercup 310A-2, from Behr. I painted three of the walls with Gold Buttercup, and painted the gallery wall with Behr's Ivory Invitation 310A-1, a derivative of Gold Buttercup that's a value or so lighter. The ceiling was left bright white. Together these colors are just right for my purposes and psyche. Every time I walk into the studio now I feel uplifted.
I think the colors selected for an art studio will largely depend on the kind of art being made, and the interior lighting situation. If I were painting portraits or realistic subjects where paints must be mixed with dead-on color accuracy, I probably would have gone with white for the studio walls. But the abstract and mixed media pieces I create are more forgiving when it comes to such things, and the pale yellow I used doesn't seem to reflect back into the room in a problematic way. It's warm but unobtrusive, while Ivory Invitation provides an inviting yet neutral backdrop for work displayed on the gallery wall.
Why is it so hard to pick just the right colors? After all, it's not hard for me to choose or mix colors when painting a canvas. I think the difficulty in getting color for the walls right must be due to the scale involved and the many variables that affect color perception in the physical environment -- shifting shadows, the movement of the sun, and the gradual change from cooler light in the morning to warmer light in the afternoon. What you see on a color chip may not be what you get when you paint the walls due to the way humans perceive colors in our surroundings. As my experience shows, getting the wall color right can be a matter of trial and error. In this case, the third try was a charm. Anybody wanna buy a gallon of "D.O.T. Yellow?"