Spring…A Case Study

As I walk through our neighborhood, the shock of color arrests me.  The blooming forsythia, daffodils, tulip trees, weeping cherries, plum and pear trees seem to POP off the visual landscape.  This year, it made me ask “why”.  As I looked more carefully at the colors jumping out around me, I realized that they do so because of the drab that surrounds them.  The vestiges of winter and winter’s ravaging is actually the perfect backdrop for all the yellows, pinks and whites.  All that gray, brown, muted green, and rust of earth that my eyes had grown so accustomed to, now plays a very important role in ushering in the beauty of Spring:  Neutrals cause pure colors to shine!

Artists know this.  At least we are taught this as a kind of “technique” to making our colors “pop” (a terribly over-used term in artist lingo).  Yet I can’t help but think this is not some mere technique…but is actually what exists in nature…AND in life.  So many times, after having been sick for several days, I have thought that everything tastes better, smells better…everyday stuff just IS better, in the days following sickness.  And even hard and painful stretches of life, when they begin to move away…beauty seems to assault us as the blanket of despair and stress sloughs off.

I want so much to embrace this.  I want to embrace the winter and its grayed neutrals as being the necessary stage for the riotous colors of Spring.  I want to embrace the difficult times as preparation for a heightened awareness and vision of beauty in the future.  Yet something in me wants to holler:  Can’t we just have the Riot of Color?  Can’t we have the POP without the grays?  Can’t we have paintings (and lives) that are just pure color alone?

Well, of course, we can paint paintings with just pure color!!  It is very difficult for me to paint with neutrals.  I once asked an artist whom I admire and from whom I was taking a workshop:  “Do you actually LIKE yellow ochre??  Or do you only use it as a foil for the colors you really like?”   His response was that he actually LIKED yellow ochre!  I could not imagine liking that color…it reminded me too much of what I saw in my babies diapers! That was 10 years ago.  Now I have yellow ochre on my palette.  Go figure.  I must admit I do not use it as often as I use cad yellow, but I have grown to appreciate it’s muted goldenness and how it plays and works with other colors to enhance them.  I now also have black and brown on my palette…and I use them all the time.  What’s happening to me?

Perhaps as I age, I see the beauty in the grays, browns, ochres, and yes, black.  Perhaps I see now that within each of these colors exist many other colors…if I just take time to really SEE them.  And perhaps I’m seeing too, that even in the difficult patches of life, color can be seen, beauty does exist.  Not JUST as a backdrop or preparation for when the difficulties go away…but for their own sakes.  I used to refer to “color” as only the bright ones.  Neutrals were relegated to that nasty batch of dull stuff.  Now, I think of “color” as including the whole range from grayed blues, greens, and browns, to the bright magentas, oranges and purples.  We’ve been given such a gift in the realm of color…taking time to study it and really peer into it’s excellencies is worth every bit of time we can give to it.  Spring is a perfect time for this!

0 thoughts on “Spring…A Case Study

  1. marie singer says:

    Wow, i love your bright, happy, life giving colors, and compositions—You are doing what I want to, need to, do more consistently. I paint,draw, and do calligraphy. I’m searching for a way of doing my art everyday, defeating time and energy constraints, also defeating that inner negative critic. I have done a lot–need to create from “everyday matters” of my life…as Danny Gregory says.

    Thank you so much for responding to my Facebook comment thru Everyday Matters—hope I can post to you—you’ve inspired me greatly—

    • jenpedwards says:

      I’m so glad you are making the effort to draw/paint more! It so helps us to see our lives as something to celebrate and not just endure! I will hope for you…that you will be able to blast through that inner critic and DRAW!! Thanks so much for visiting!

  2. Sarah says:

    I’m one of those oddities that loves the muted greys as much as riotous brights and I think you’re right it’s the contrast which brings everything into sharp focus and makes us appreciate each. I think this is true of everything actually – joy and happiness would not seem so precious and wonderful if we did not also experience pain and suffering – and they in turn would be unbearable without knowledge of their opposites.

    Thanks for your comments on my blog!

  3. ffyrebird says:

    I have enjoyed this post greatly, both your thoughts on art and color and the lovely sketch. It is so loose and spontaneous it just shouts Spring to me!1

  4. jenpedwards says:

    Oh golly. Thank you, thank you to all my artist and non-artist friends who visit and comment! I keep this blog for me, but with you in mind…I so enjoy connecting with others who think like me, and who love the arts! You’re all a gift! I humbly thank you.

  5. Janene says:

    Wonderful painting, and I totally agree with you about the need for grays and neutrals to make the colors “pop”, in life as well as art. I know that I would be a one-dimensional person without the difficulties I have had in my life–times of suffering are the school where I learn the most–though I am always glad for recess!

  6. Claire says:

    I like how you have captured these spring blossoms and called attention to the neutrals in the background. It just didn’t come to my mind before I read your reflection. I can totally see applicabilty of your observations to everyday life – sickness, sad times etc. Your reflection gave me some interestingt things to think about in my life today – both with art and outside of art. Thanks for sharing your reflections.

  7. marie singer says:

    Ha Ha! I’m laughing over your reaction—“Do you actually LIKE yellow ochre?? That’s been my sentiments exactly.
    However, I’m planning to do a painting with variations of yellow ochre—following a SUGGESTION FROM SKETCHBOOK MAG(no longer pub)–TO DO A PAINTING USING THE COLORS YOU HATE.
    That should be a very interesting exercise and I may become a convert to Y O as you have become.

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