There was a time when I was afraid of color. I worked in neutrals, only straying at moments towards accents of copper and gold. I was a sculptor, creating magnificent images of the Buddha, the blessings available in this opportunity many. I sculpted for sacred monuments called stupas; lotuses, spires, snow lions, architectural elements that tell the stories and radiate the energy of profound spiritual ideals and practices. I could see in dimensions. I could pull an amorphous shape into form. I could see possibility where only an idea existed, an imagining coming into life, light and shadow defining the space. Neutrals, whites on grays, browns and tans contrasting their own darker selves. Color as light, a hint of red or green might flirt with the moment but never invited, it did not retain a strong presence. Yet my curiosity stirred.
Color, what is it? Capturing my imagination, it is everywhere. Was it a way to expand my voice, something more to delight and enjoy about being an artist? It looked like it might be time to step into new places, invite new experience. Timid, a bit clumsy, I began to experiment. Washes with subtle contrast, bold splashes, yellow with blue, what with red? Orange, purple, green, shades, tints, blues that are green, reds that contain blue, some leaning orange, what was the pattern, the dance? How to find rhythm, a harmony, a tension that speaks. How do they work to tell a story, to communicate? It is not my habit to entertain timid for long. I will stand before the initially daunting presence of something new and unfamiliar, register my fears, or not. If my mind has been hooked, I step forth boldly. I may teeter as I find my legs, I may doubt but if something compelling peeks from the horizon, I sally forth. Color was compelling.
As is my habit when seeking to navigate new territory, I sought a guide to introduce me to the magic and wonder of color. I found her at a community college in Montgomery County, Maryland. A working and showing artist herself, she was alive for her students. Her understanding of color, it’s history and dimension, her ability to communicate, iced my cake. I am a veracious student. No matter what I take on I enter with all my bits, hands, feet, mouth wide open, ready to take it in. She provided a feast that would prove to be only the beginning of an experience that still nourishes me today. Thank you Andrea, you rock.
Color rocks. Color is dynamic. Color communicates. Color creates space and dimension. Color is relative, subjective. Color can evoke harmony, create tension. It has inspired debate and lives devoted to it’s study. Color is a measurable scientific vibration, alive, present, available to experience. Color is amazing.
We can talk about our favorites, the way they make us feel, the memories they inspire. We can talk about our tastes in fashion and design. We can talk about the spiritual vibrations associated with colors, color as a symbol of diversity and harmony. We can talk about it’s power to define and communicate. We can talk about owning our own colors and letting them shine. After allowing color to weave itself into my life, in it’s boldness and it’s subtleties, it’s magic and it’s power, I am no longer afraid of color. We are allies, companion on the path of artist and philosopher.
It was the final project in my color class that inspired my love of pointillism. Pointillism was born of a debate about color during the time of the neo-impressionists. Pointillism became method, a method to observe color play, how those that are analogous in their placement on the color wheel will support each other in harmony, a like resonance, blues with blue-green, blue-violet or the warmth of orange with red and yellow-oranges. Those that are in opposition in their placement on the wheel will excite each other. It is called a color’s compliment, blue will never look bluer than when it is with orange. Other combinations create visual chords from around the wheel. Analogous elements, simple harmonies and a play of opposites can create a fantastic composition.
Ordained as a Buddhist nun at this time, I chose to paint a sacred image as my final project, an image of the Buddha as my first pointillist piece. I planned my composition, my harmonies, my contrast. I began to lay in the dots of color painstakingly mixed to match the swatches on my color wheel. There are no neutrals in a pointillist painting, colors are not mixed together on the palette or on the painting, they are bits of pure color laid next to each other. This is when the excitement begins to build. As each vibrant stroke finds it’s place among the others they begin to resonant, they effect each other. Standing back, an image reveals itself as the eye optically mixes the colors creating shapes and shadows, experience. I was captivated then and am captivated now as I continue to play with the endless combinations of colors, shades and tints to create form, pattern and texture. My world expanding with an understanding of color, it continues it’s expansion as I allow myself to sink further and further into awareness of it’s presence.
Come with me as I explore some of the dynamics of color at the Omega Institute in October. We will explore the impact of color in our lives. What it tells us, what it offers us, how it can inspire and shape our experiences. We will play, we will delight and we will discover. I look forward to sharing a bit of your journey.