“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”
— Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Moon snail shell on red

Moon snail shell on red

"White Shell with Red" by Georgia O'Keeffe, 1938

“White Shell with Red” by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1938

“Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.”
— Paul Klee

The paintings for this post were my attempts to play with color.  O’Keeffe’s “White Shell with Red” is an inspiration.  My amateur attempts fell far short of my aspirations for this challenge.

Moon Snail Shell # 89, watercolor sketch with red

Moon Snail Shell # 89, watercolor sketch with red

Moon Snail Shell # 90, watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 90, watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 91, watercolor sketch with blue -- the best of this lot, I think

Moon Snail Shell # 91, watercolor sketch with blue — the best of this lot, I think

Moon Snail Shell # 92, watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 92, watercolor sketch

Fallen Japanese maple leaf on hydrangea flowers

“Now the last leaves are down, except for the thick, dark leaves of the oak and ghostly beech leaves that click in the breeze, and we’re reduced to a subtler show of color — brown, gray, and buff, perhaps a little purple in the distance, and the black-green of moss, hemlock, and fir.  To my eyes these hues are more beautiful than the garish early autumn with its orange leaves — orange, the color of madness — and leaves the color of blood.  Let hot life retire, grow still:  November’s colors are those of the soul.”
— Jane Kenyon, “Season of Change and Loss”

“As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint, just before they fall, so the year near its setting.  October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “October, or Autumnal Tints”

These photos show the late November color palette in the Pacific Northwest:

Tree-lined driveway at Maplehurst Farm, Skagit Valley

Rose hips

Stewartia pseudocamellia fruit

Stewartia pseudocamillia

Another fallen Japanese maple leaf on hydrangea plant

Fallen Japanese maple leaves on Atlas cedar trunk

Watercolor sketch of oak and maple leaves


Watercolor sketch of color wheel composed of summer flowers

It was fun hunting for floral treasures in yellow, orange, red, purple, blue and green.

Avian Blue

May 12, 2012

Blue Stellar’s jay on the front porch

The Blue Jay
by Susan Hartley Swett

O Blue Jay up in the maple tree,
Shaking your throat with such bursts of glee,
How did you happen to be so blue?
Did you steal a bit of the lake for your crest,
And fasten blue violets into your vest?
Tell me, I pray you,—tell me true!

Did you dip your wings in azure dye,
When April began to paint the sky,
That was pale with the winter’s stay?
Or were you hatched from a blue-bell bright,
’Neath the warm, gold breast of a sunbeam light,
By the river one blue spring day?

O Blue Jay up in the maple tree,
A-tossing your saucy head at me,
With ne’er a word for my questioning,
Pray, cease for a moment your “ting-a-link,”
And hear when I tell you what I think,—
You bonniest bit of spring.

I think when the fairies made the flowers,
To grow in these mossy fields of ours,
Periwinkles and violets rare,
There was left of the spring’s own color, blue,
Plenty to fashion a flower whose hue
Would be richer than all and as fair.

So, putting their wits together, they
Made one great blossom so bright and gay,
The lily beside it seemed blurred:
And then they said, “We will toss it in air;
So many blue blossoms grow everywhere,
Let this pretty one be a bird.”

Stellar’s jay

Stellar’s jay

Did you know that scientists have been fascinated and perplexed by how birds get blue feathers?  Blue feathers do not contain blue pigment.  Avian blue appears because of the behavior of light bouncing off tiny air bubbles within the feathers (similar to the way we see iridescent colors on an oil slick).  An article in the March 2012 issue of Smithsonian Magazine goes into more detail.  You can link to it here.

“Colors are the smiles of nature.”
— Leigh Hunt

Looking into the cup of a tulip

“Of all God’s gifts to the sighted man, color is holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.”
— John Ruskin

“Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.”
— Oscar Wilde

“Shut your eyes, wait, think of nothing. Now, open them … one sees nothing but a great coloured undulation. What then? An irradiation and glory of colour. This is what a picture should give us … an abyss in which the eye is lost, a secret germination, a coloured state of grace … loose consciousness. Descend with the painter into the dim tangled roots of things, and rise again from them in colours, be steeped in the light of them.”
— Paul Cezanne

Well, you cannot help but be steeped in the light of color during tulip season.

Detail, tulip

"Yellow is capable of charming God." -- Vincent Van Gogh

Detail, tulip

“Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Watercolor sketch of an apple

Henry David Thoreau wrote a long essay called “Wild Apples,” in which he extolls the virtues of this perfect fruit.  I drew my quote-of-the-week from this source rather than Walden.  I have apples on my mind.  There seems to be a bumper crop of apples this year in Seattle, and I have been busy gleaning the windfalls from a neighbor’s tree, perfect for fresh applesauce.

“There is another thinning of the fruit, commonly near the end of August or in September, when the ground is strewn with windfalls . . . All the country over, people are busy picking up the windfalls, and this will make them cheap for early apple pies.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Wild Apples”

Windfalls from this year's apple trees

I especially like Thoreau’s observations about the colors of apples.  You can tell by how expansive he is that he has really looked closely at them:

“It is rare that the summer lets an apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of its sphere.  It will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of green reflecting the general face of Nature, — green even as the fields; or a yellow ground, which implies a milder flavor, — yellow as the harvest, or russet as the hills. . . .  Painted by the frosts, some a uniform clear bright yellow, or red, or crimson, as if their spheres had regularly revolved, and enjoyed the influence of the sun on all sides alike,–some with the faintest pink blush imaginable,– some brindled with deep red streaks like a cow, or with hundreds of fine blood-red rays running regularly from the stem-dimple to the blossom-end, like meridional lines, on a straw-colored ground,–some touched with a greenish rust, like a fine lichen, here and there, with crimson blotches or eyes more or less confluent and fiery when wet,–and others gnarly, and freckled or peppered all over on the stem side with fine crimson spots on a white ground, as if accidentally sprinkled from the brush of Him who paints the autumn leaves. Others, again, are sometimes red inside, perfused with a beautiful blush, fairy food, too beautiful to eat . . .”

After reading this ode to color, I am inspired to paint a few more sketches of this season’s apples.

Another watercolor sketch of apples in various hues

Red geraniums

The flash of red -- geraniums!

“In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing:  a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window.  And then another:  my daughter in a yellow dress.  And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon.  Until I learned to be in love with my life again.  Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.”
     — Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson