Saturday, August 19, 2017

"There is no blue without yellow..."

In a letter to Theo, Vincent Van Gogh once wrote, "There is no blue without yellow and without orange, and if you put in the blue, then you must put in the yellow and orange too, mustn't you?" 

I was stunned when I read this.  For a long time I have been doing watercolors.  I've never really studied art, though I've wanted to.  But then I've never really studied writing either.  I just read a lot, all the time.  And I also looked a lot.  And for whatever reason when I paint I almost always use a lot of these three colors.  But especially yellow and blue. 
My mother loved blue and yellow.   Our living room was always some blend of those two colors. Yellow curtains, blue chairs.  She had a good eye.  She also had a degree in fashion from the Art Institute of Chicago but was never able to work in fashion.  But she had a decorator's flare and an artist's eye.  And our house was a study in blue and yellow.

I read once that the painter, Joan Mitchel, used a lot of blue and yellow.  Joan was the first wife of my cousin, Barney Rosset, founder of the Grove Press.  So I know a lot about Joan.  Her biographer posits that when Joan was little her mother had yellow curtains, as did I, and if she pulled those curtains back, she could see Lake Michigan.  As could I. 

So blue and yellow and orange.  You cannot have one without the other according to Van Gogh.  Or my mother.  Or Joan.  Who knows why the eye must see what it sees.  

I am painter really.  I don't know a thing about drawing.  But I love color. 

Most of my paintings are done in my travel journals on the road.  But lately I've been more sedentary so I am trying to allow myself to be in the travel mode and paint on a small card table upstairs when I am home.  

On thing that helps me do these is the Tahitian definition of art that translates to something like I'm doing the best that I can.  That's all we can hope for, isn't it?

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