The truth is, color throws me a bit. It's not that I don't love it. I use color both liberally and literally; it helps to relay emotions and to celebrate the beauty in a subject. When I used pastel full-time, there was an endless supply of colors from which to choose, no mixing necessary. After transitioning to oils, I remember wishing that Sennelier put their exact pastel colors into tubes. And now, after indulging in oil paint for a decade, I realize that no matter how hard I try, I always mix the same greens, purples, browns and beach tones. My practice has fallen into color autodrive. Eeek! How to extricate myself?Then, one day last week, I took a walk in the woods near home. I noticed that the only color that stood out in the monochromatic day was the gold of beech leaves that still clung to their branches. I picked one, took it home and set it on the palette in my studio. The next day I attempted to mix it exactly. It was thrilling to have an actual "end-point" and I loved the result, especially when I dropped it into a black and white "start".
One little leaf guided me towards a way out of my entrenched habits with color. Interestingly, my son gifted me a book for Christmas called, "The Secret Lives of Color". In it, the author traces the social and scientific history of color. It is fascinating and has already challenged how I think about this cornerstone of painting. So, I am now committed to study and challenge color in new ways going forward. A perfect New Year's resolution!
"It is the best possible sign of a color when nobody who sees it knows what to call it." John Ruskin, 1859, from "The Secret Life of Color" by Kassia St. Clair.