Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ode to Green

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was entirely, totally, completely sick of green.
Nebraska is a beautiful state, and despite chants of “Go Big Red” heard at every University of Nebraska sporting event, green is its natural color. But not "just green" like the green out of a tube, unnatural in every way.

To name a green in Nebraska is to name a thousand different colors. Elm trees are a very different green than the green of cottonwoods. Trees down by a river are a different green than trees standing in a pasture providing shade to cattle huddled underneath. In fact, for every kind of tree there is a separate green, which separates again into sunlit and shade, interior and exterior, early spring and late autumn.

@2010 Patricia Scarborough  Refraction  7x5 oil
There’s a particular shade of green provided by the acres of lawn watered unnaturally by underground sprinklers. It’s different from the yards swept by sprinklers leashed to the house by miles of rubber hose which leave corners of sparse dry grass near the street.

garden hose green

Acres of corn provide a relentless blanket of green for miles and miles. Dry land corn, slightly less robust than its irrigated cousin, provides relief, but only of a duller sort.

Call it chartreuse, jade, lime, pea, pine, sage, verdigris, viridian or whatever, in the end, it’s always yellow and blue, with a dash of orange or red for relief. Cadmium yellow and ultramarine with cadmium orange; lemon yellow and cerulean blue with alizarin crimson; any combination of yellow with any combination of blue, with any combination of red in tiny but precious amounts to keep your teeth from grinding together from the sheer green-ness of it all.  After months of painting green my stomach got queasy at the thought of one more verdant summer landscape, regardless whatever clever combination of pigments I came up with.

Then winter set in. Chlorophyll vanished. Whatever was green dried, fell, was swept away in winds from the Arctic Circle. Months passed and all memory of my impatience with green dissolved and disappeared.

@2011Patricia Scarborough,  December, 5 pm  8x10 oil

A few weeks ago, spring came, sneaky at first but more recently like a high school marching band: loud, brassy, twirling batons and flags flying. Did I mention loud? Leaves of every kind unfurl, wave, salute, catch the sun, reflect and refract; green in all its glory.

work in progress, 30 x 40 oil on linen

Welcome home old friend. I admit now that I missed green just a little, proven by the piles of yellows and blues and crimsons on my palette.  I'm refreshed by winter, ready to take on the challenge again.


Hannah said...

Patty--You have as many words to describe green as you discovered walking through the landscape of your gorgeous plein air paintings. I love how you name all of the different greens you see and then distill them down to the combination of pigments squeezed out of the tube. Oh my word--summer is a comin' in...

Patty said...

Creating good greens is the most challenging aspect of color mixing.

These greens are a welcome gift after our cold winter, and before the heat of summer saps them of their strength.