I am as curious about color as one would be visiting a new country, because I have never concentrated so closely on color expression. Up to now I have waited at the gates of the temple. – Henri Matisse
This summer, I am color-curious. I look out my living room window to the meadow and woods beyond. I congratulate myself for getting through the drab, bare winter into the spring that exploded with golden forsythia, and now unfolds to summer surrounded by all shades of verdant green. I watch the jays flit and dip from branch to branch and then to the rail fence. How did they get so blue? Who decided this would be a good color for them? And the cardinals – bright red males and the beautiful dusky red females – who created that hue for them? Are the sparrows, crows, and doves jealous? Do they yearn for a splash of bold color? After a little research I found that blue jay feathers contain melanin, the brown pigment which is also responsible for human skin tone. The blue color we see is caused by light scattering through cells on the surface of the feather barbs like magic. For the cardinals, their color also comes from melanin, but their red hues come from the chemical compounds, porphyrins and carotenoids. I was so mesmerized by the science of color that I wondered about humming birds – how can that miracle be explained color-wise? Well, the hummingbird have special melanosomes, structures within a cell that store and synthesize melanin. The hummingbird’s melansomes are shaped like pancake and contain many tiny air bubbles, which create a complex and multifaceted surface. When light reflects and bounces off those surfaces, it produces iridescence. And this, along with nature’s abundant wonders, is what makes humming so much more colorful than other birds.
I have always been color-curious. As a little girl, I’d marvel for hours at a new big box of 120 Crayola crayons. I wouldn’t want to use them and dull their points. I just wanted to ponder their lovely colors, sort them by hue, pair them with shocking opposites. I loved the special names given to the colors. They were like poetry to me.
Crayola Rhythm Fuchsia Flamingo Carnation Strawberry Rose Orchid Plum Thistle Mulberry Geranium Vermillion Madder Lake Chestnut Sunset Bittersweet Tumbleweed Tangerine Mango Melon Apricot Peach Banana Maize Goldenrod Dandelion Canary Spring Green Inchworm Asparagus Fern Forest Shamrock Pine Sky Robin’s Egg Aquamarine Cerulean Pacific Periwinkle Cornflower Wisteria Violet Lavender Indigo Cobalt Midnight Celestial Shadow
The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color. Our entire being is nourished by it. This mystic quality of color should likewise find expression in a work of art. – Hans Hofman
This summer, I have found myself attracted to a local garden. I am lucky that I can return again and again each week to witness the radiant changes. I’ve been taking early morning walks along the gravel paths trying to spy new vegetation. Each time, I am surprised. Abstract Expressionist artist, Hans Hofman, had once said,“ In nature, light creates the color, in the picture color creates the light.” As a photographer, I am continually playing with how color and light fill the picture, how shadows play upon surfaces, how the color is muted or brightened, how it pleases the eye.
Color-Curious White, black, gray What if... What if the world Was just that clear? White, black, gray. No diving jays, No swaying tiger lilies, No yellow heads Of the dandelions Emerging from cracks In city sidewalks. Only a world of shadows and light Colorless --- Until we see The possibilities. Until we pause to ponder The tiny hummingbird Sipping nectar From wild lupines and Purple-pink petunias. Until we see beyond White, black, and gray.