The 3 positive qualities attributed to Grey in The Colour Potential card pack.
The 3 positive qualities attributed to Grey in The Colour Potential card pack


Judging by the card readings I have been doing recently, it would appear that a lot of people don’t like grey …

They seem to view it as a negative …

It is true Grey tends not to inspire, that the exciting elements Grey might have been permitted have gone to Silver.

Instead Grey remains a background colour.  It exists as an aftermath – the remnants of an event that has gone before;  dust emanating from the collapse of buildings; ash, the remains of a fire;  cobwebs, the product of prolonged abandonment.

The architecture and the sculpture that remain from Antiquity are also an aftermath. In their heyday the buildings and statues of Ancient Greece and Rome would have been highly coloured, employing the most lustrous of metals and the most powerful of pigments.

Today all that remains is the restrained grey of the base material.









Grey has little symbolic visual currency worldwide, whether secular or religious.  In the icon painting tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy grey is a colour never to be used.  As a blend of black and white, grey represents two opposing forces: namely the Black of evil and the White of Divine Light which, when mixed, represent a nothingness.

Christ Pantocreter Icon by Francesca Howard, egg tempera and gold leaf on wood,
Christ Pantocrator icon by Francesca Howard, egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, 9″ x 7″

As a decorating choice, Grey can provide a calming and sophisticated environment and an excellent compliment to stronger or brighter colours.  As a sartorial choice, Grey is seen as sober, trustworthy and lacking in vanity.  As a choice for monks’ robes, grey indicates a life of inner reflection and quiet, an absence of pride and the rejection of worldly pleasures;  as a supporting colour for many school uniforms, it indicates sober judgement and responsibility;  as a man’s suit colour, it indicates that the wearer is neither flashy nor morally dodgy, but instead a man of integrity – if a touch on the boring side.

I am currently teaching a course on the Italian Renaissance and I wonder whether it ever would have happened if the Classical statues and buildings had remained highly coloured.  Somehow I don’t think statues in full make-up would have been the correct fit with the Medici Humanism and the search for restrained perfection.

Even though Grey rarely takes centre stage and may often be what is left behind, it nevertheless remains a colour of understated authority, integrity and reliability.

Where other Ancient colours have dissolved into the ether of ages past,                     Grey endures …

YOU GOTTA LOVE THE GREY! by Francesca Howard, oil & acrylic on canvas, 24x24"
YOU GOTTA LOVE THE GREY! by Francesca Howard, oil & acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″


  1. I couldn’t help thinking of those awful scenes after the 9/11 attacks – people covered in grey ash, like ghosts. And of course, black and white is also yin and yang, the balance of heaven and earth. I have a grey sitting room and find it very calming and the perfect backdrop to the incidental colours of a room., but it has taken me some years to come around to actually appreciating the colour. I wonder if it’s a subconscious acceptance of age – grey hair, grey nomads, etc! (By the way, your paintings look terrific – do you sell them?)


  2. Yes! All of that. For such a ‘nothing’ colour, Grey can really be quite emotional. I had forgotten about the 9/11 ash covered figures – you are right, very ghostly and most disturbing. A Grey sitting room sounds wonderful and would be most calming – especially as a contrast to the riot of colour that is the Aussie landscape.

    So is Grey a colour that the Chinese embrace as a balance of Heaven and Earth, or do they take the view of the Orthodox that the mixture represents a nothingness?

    And thank you for the lovely comment about my paintings! Yes, I do sell them – YOU GOTTA LOVE THE GREY is £270.


  3. Great post, thank you. Some of the greys I love. The bark of the plane tree on the road opposite where I live. Also the greys in Whister’s Nocturnes although looking at some of those online they look more blue than grey! There’s a softness to grey I really love. Today has been a grey old day but now the sun is going down and all that grey is being turned purple and pink. Pretty fantastic!


  4. Thank you, Victoria.
    Yes, softness is a great adjective and not one, I suspect, many people would attach to grey. As you say, it can be soft and I like to think furry too(!). And you are right, there are greys all around, and in such variety.
    It is a great colour!


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