Thursday, December 30, 2010

Think of the Flowers

(Poppies by the artist Venus:

Especially when I was younger, my aunt Diane, when talking with me about an upsetting situation, would advise, “Think of the flowers.” Bless her heart & I knew she meant so well, but that image always sickened me. It made me think of old ladies (probably wearing the kind of perfume that people shouldn’t wear on an elevator)…the large exotic arrangement I got when I was in the hospital with a scent so cloying I sent it to the visitor’s lounge within 10 seconds… and worst of all, sometimes “think of the flowers” made me think of my dad’s honeymoon with my stepmother in the 1970s, a short road trip to see a botanical garden, after which, unforgivable to my preteen ears, my dad made a joke about using their borrowed RV for what people do on honeymoons.

Last night while trying to calm myself about something hugely upsetting like the faint sound the furnace was making, I remembered the flowers advice, and from somewhere got the inspiration to try to make it work for me. After all, it’s not that I don’t like flowers – I like many flowers (just not the stinky, old lady ones) – and I even have floral paintings in my collection. Not surprisingly, thinking about my paintings brought in some endorphins.

When I woke up I made a special online art album of just my florals. It was fun although in my Sarah way I got hung up on rules – well, not really rules, but with a project like this I try to impose order that can’t ever be consistent. I didn’t allow myself to include paintings of trees or tree leaves since this was meant to be a flowers experiment, even though I love the combination of flower paintings with tree paintings in my house (the green and the height and stalks of the trees dilutes any remote cloying quality the flowers might have). I decided it was OK to show flowers in a field and of course a still life of flowers with fruit was OK, but I hesitated about a still life with 4 bottles, only 2 of which held flowers…so is this a painting of flowers, or bottles? (See how my mind works? See why I have night anxiety…and other anxiety.)

If you had forced me to recall all 36 paintings in this album from memory, I probably couldn’t have done it, so part of the fun of making the album was the surprise of, “Oh yeah, I have this cool one too!”

The earlier flower paintings I bought were not girly (that’s part of what I like about Carol Nelson’s style, it has a boldness of line and color you don’t always see in female painters) but they were more realistic (more like real flowers) than more recent purchases, some of which are almost abstract. This change wasn’t just because my taste evolved but also had to do with the artists I happened to discover first versus the ones I found more recently. Also when you collect pieces from different phases of an artist’s career you realize that they evolve too, sometimes with some quick changes and even U-turns.

This winter I started making wish-list type online albums of paintings. Capturing the image of a painting I would like to buy feels a little like the satisfaction of making online albums of the paintings I have really bought. It helps a little with the craving to purchase.

With the wish-list paintings I am less picky with my decisions to “acquire.” I have a lot of flower paintings in the wish-list albums, but I hesitate almost every time I attach one. I never stop asking myself, “Do I really like paintings of flowers? Is this too girlish?”

Girlish… old ladyish…I should really give flowers a break.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brown as a Color Mix

Several months ago an online artist acquaintance ( reminded me that colors, including the ones I rhapsodize about on Facebook… “Look at the red in this painting, you can’t have too much purple!, I can’t resist orange…” make brown and black, when they are mixed.

I like to wear dark brown (chocolate brown especially) but I don’t like brown in home décor, although it is hard to avoid in home décor, at least the brown shades that are usually the default readiness of a living place at my budget range. I also really like to wear black, but it is quirky in home décor so I don’t have much of it – also dog hair is not kind to black things in the home.

I think Gerard was responding to something I said about craving color. I liked the deeper meanings in what he said – that colors are building blocks more than we may realize, colors are contained within what seems to be non-color, and color not treated properly appears muddy, unappetizing.

I didn’t realize until a friend pointed it out that on Facebook I most often showcase paintings with blue and orange. And guess what those two colors make, mixed - yep, brown.

If you Google color mixing you get many, many how-to articles about paint mixing, and many of the sentences sound unintentionally poetic. For example, from Rosemary Pipitone’s site “Blue and yellow do not always make green; sometimes you get mud... If your color is too dull or too muddy, just start over using only two colors. Mixing with too many colors will always mix muddy colors. Avoid over mixing colors, too many colors will result in a dark muddy hue.”

Actually, re-reading these sentences, they are maybe not so poetic. I read poetry into them because I relate to them. I have been known to overmix my writing, which clouds the points I’m making. Sometimes I group emotional issues in ways that makes the combined murk harder to deal with.

From childhood:
I remember that after rinsing the watercolor brush too many times without changing water, the water turned purple-brown or gray-black. When we used colored dough to make “stained-glass” Christmas cookies and got tired and sloppy with the leftover scraps, purple-brown dough accents were what we got.

My mother’s mother usually only made 2 kinds of cakes when we visited – Brownstone Front Cake, which everybody but me loved (I found it dry and not chocolaty or caramel enough, I never quite “got” that cake) and angel food, a cake that to this day bores me. Sometimes Grandma stirred red sugar sprinkles or red food coloring into the angel food cake…didn’t help the taste. The same lame trick was used on vanilla ice cream at Grandma Schmidt’s house – the adults would put some red sprinkles on the vanilla ice cream and let the kids stir it a bit to make a pattern. Usually what would happen, especially in an unairconditioned house in Texas, was that both the red sugar and the ice cream would melt really fast.

Following the messy food tricks of my older brothers, I would also stir up my Neopolitan ice cream. Of course that turned it into brown melted goop, which disappointed me – no more pretty tricolors! (And in this case I would call the ice cream brown “pretty,” since it was chocolate.) I think we believed, at least I did, that one day we might get a different ice cream color from stirring. Well, occasionally if your serving had more strawberry, the brown goop would have a pinker tinge.

When Googling goofy things like “blue orange makes brown” to look for illustrations for this post, I found Q&A forums where people were asking things like, What color can I mix with orange to make blue? Uh no, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t work backward to get a primary color.

One answerer suggested that if you were determined to get blue from orange and blue, you could add a whole LOT of blue to the orange and then the result would look blue. Not really color mixing – you would have pushed the combination unnaturally.

Pushing the mix, forcing a color result by exaggerated means…good metaphors there, in the intention, the process and the results.