The Mediterranean has the color of mackerel, changeable I mean. You don't always know if it is green or violet, you can't even say it's blue, because the next moment the changing reflection has taken on a tint of rose or gray. - Vincent Van Gogh
I feel Vincent here-
Not in the Mediterranean- (maybe someday) but in Missouri, or Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Florida and New Mexico.
I have painted in all of these places and each one has their own specific light. The same colors in an oak tree look different depending on where you are painting them.
And not only the location, but the season, time of day, and weather all affect color so drastically that if you painted the same tree every day for a year, you would see that tree very differently- as a living organism, a changeling or chameleon.
I'm getting ready to do the Augusta Plein Air event and it has me thinking about the way an artist must look at the world.
When I teach drawing, I say to draw what you see, not what you THINK you see. Betty Edwards book "Drawing on the right side of the brain" teaches all about this.
Because we have formed symbols in our heads since we were children and first learned to categorize the world. We stopped "seeing" essentially to create a linear system in our brains so that we could comprehend the world more logically.
Everyone is happy when the 4-year-old draws a tree or a face. We draw the symbol for a tree- a green circle and a brown trunk, or a circle with two eyes, nose and mouth.
These symbols only become a problem once we try to draw realistically. We are stumped and our brains work against us. Proportions, values, foreshortening are all conundrums that we are forced to solve. And the only way to solve them is to retrain our brains to really see what we are looking at. We have to bypass our logical, neatly categorized brain to do this. It takes practice.
And it is the same with colors. Colors are affected by everything. We are literally looking out on a prism every day and no color follows the rules!! Greens can take on violet, turquoise, yellow, or pink in a single day. But that's what makes it fun, and different every single time you go out into the sunlight and paint. It also makes it difficult, but I am learning to try to embrace that as I continue to learn and grow as an artist.
It's really not a bad lesson to apply to every part of our lives - Challenging what we think we know- allowing openness, growth, and the ability to change our minds as we look at the world around us in a new light.
Thanks for reading- With love and gratitude always for you- Gretchen