A million colors of white

Van Gogh_feistyharriet_July 2016

I dabble a bit in painting, I would hardly call myself even an amateur, really. But it’s a fun hobby and I get a ridiculous amount of joy from an afternoon in my little studio with all those little tubes of paint, mixing and painting and remixing and painting on another layer.

There are probably a lot of lessons to learn from mixing and painting, but there is one that I can’t stop thinking about. If you’re trying to make an interesting painting–contemporary, abstract, realistic, whatever–you need lots of layers and subtle differences in color. Red is never just red, in fact, it’s most interesting when it’s got a little green in it. Blue is most interesting with a little orange or yellow in the shadows or highlights, respectively. And white and black are the most realistic when there are bits of all the other colors mixed in.

That image up there is a still life by Vincent Van Gogh hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. From across the room it looks like floppy white roses; but when you come up close, one white rose is lined in lavender, another in seafoam green, blues and purples, yellows and reds are probably more frequent than straight up Titanium White, the whitest white.

Consequently, the deepest, velvety black patches of paintings have bronze and purple, forest green and burnt umber, and sometimes even stripes of silver or yellow to offset those deep, rich dark colors. (Also, coincidentally, it’s a LOT harder to get a decent cell-phone photo of all that variation with unforgiving museum lighting and guards nervously pacing, anxiously intervening when they think you are too close. Ahem.)

I like to think about people in terms of those flowers, and the dark skirts of Victorian ladies, or the sumptuous midnight backgrounds of Dutch portraits, with gorgeous browns and vibrant reds and inky blues. We all have undertones and edges that change who we are, that reflect where we have been and what we have experienced. The variations and changes, the subtle glint when the light changes, the differences in perception depending on where you stand.

This is what makes us human. This is what makes us interesting. And this is what makes us so dang hard to understand each other, and so beautiful to each other when we finally can see all the colors and undertones and variations that work together for each, individual person.

Harriet sig

3 thoughts on “A million colors of white

  1. WhenInTurkey

    I am very empathic to the conundrum of enjoying the art vs dealing with the guards 😅. That’s why I almost never go to art museums anymore. I need to get up close and see every brush stroke (especially with oils! I mean look at those layers!). If I can’t do that then why not just Google the dang painting? Anyway…

    Reply
    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      Hahaha! For the most part, I can get almost as close as I want. It is really only the super famous paintings that have hovering guards, and I assume they need to keep look for those who have no qualms putting their grubby hands on a Picasso.

      xox

      On Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 8:30 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:

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      Reply

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