Saturday, August 3, 2013

Color My World

Writing about color is almost as difficult for me as trying to replicate it with paint. So I'll mention a couple of musings about color from one of my favorite books, Color, A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. She says her first challenge in writing a book about colors was that they (colors) don't really exist, or rather they do but only because we see them as interpretations of vibrations that are happening. In other words, she explains how our brains translate wavelengths telling us that the tomato sitting on the kitchen counter is "red". Finlay goes on to say that if you open an artist's paint box, you will find stories of secrecy and myth, sacredness, profit and loss, poison, cruelty and greed among other things. I'm telling you, this book is fascinating whether you are an artist or not. We all have intimate relationships with color. Give it a read.

I have a friend who brings me the best presents each time he visits me, sometimes even mailing them to me if he can't make the trip down. They are not precious jewels or candy or silk scarves. He knows me better than to bring those things. Instead he offers me nature's most colorful creatures, ones that I can't ever do justice with paint and paper. Maybe that's his idea of a little joke.

This week he arrived bearing a tin that was chock full of Blue Mud Dauber wasps (deceased of course), an insect I have never seen at The Crooked Little House. I am not a huge fan of wasps but my friend knew I would love the coloration of these insects, glistening with iridescent blues and violets that shimmered in the palm of my hand under the studio lamp. And of course I had to at least try to sketch them. But my efforts failed miserably, my hands unable to reproduce what my eyes so keenly observed.

But when I think of the one color nature offers that truly makes me awestruck each year it has to be the color the berries on the American Beauty Berry Bush. Come late summer, these clusters of berries that have been forming in clumps along the branches suddenly take on a reddish, purplish, pinkish hue that cannot be copied with paint no matter how many times I try. Right now, the berries are small yet prevalent on my three bushes. There is no hint as yet of the color to come, but when it does, it will once again cause me to stare in wonder. I of course will once again try to capture the image knowing that I will inevitably fail. But I just can't turn my back and walk away.

"There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun."
                                                                Pablo Picasso


  1. Color is a wonderful thing, as best as we can interpret it.....
    what is the color of friendship....the color of a smile....the color of steam from a hot cup of tea...the best of things,lack color.....the rest, we leave up to talented people like you, Elizabeth.

  2. You're very king Patricia. Thanks for that. I think the color of friendship, like love encompasses all color, changing and shifting with each day. And isn't that more exciting than only one shade?!