Handheld Arts Blog/Color/Dreaming Green

Dreaming Green

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Dreaming Green

Show me your qualities

Here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there is a layer of snow on the ground and the thermometer reads in the teens and I am planning to paint today. When the world outside is not so welcoming, what better way to spend the day than turning inward and contemplating the world of color.

Since I started my work with color, there are some painting days when I am only interested in working with one hue. In this way, I reacquaint myself with their qualities and relationships and can more easily integrate them into my other work. Today is one of those days.

Today I chose green. Why green? I am not sure, maybe because I am thinking of summer days and grassy hills and gardens. Maybe I want to feel the growing forces of life that move and shape our world. But mostly it is a feeling of inner contentment. Green is a color of balance. In Goethe’s color wheel, it rests in the well between yellow, bright and shining, and blue, deep and receding. Green lives in the middle, between lightness and darkness.

I prepare my painting space, soak my paper and set out my paints, jars, clean water and brushes. Today I will use a separate jar to mix my own version of green from blue and yellow. I strive for an even mixture of light and dark, where neither yellow nor blue predominate. I will also have other empty jars, palettes or lids to mix green variations as I go along.

Once I prepare my physical space I want to be receptive to the atmosphere and mood of the color that I will be painting. I want to move in green. Using Eurythmy gestures, I stand tall and extend my arms straight out - with hands flat, palms down. I move my arms slowly and evenly, as if I am skimming the horizon. I can spread green far and wide, taking a few steps, reaching into the distance. My arms rest on a surface of green. I bring green close, into my heart, by bending my elbows I bring my hands at the same level slowly towards my chest. I close my eyes, breathe and dream green.

Lastly, I sit quietly. I close my eyes and imagine green. I surround myself with green light. I hold it steady for a brief time and become aware of the quality of the color. How bright is it? How brilliant is it? Is it more like blue or more like yellow? I can manipulate the color in my imagination. I surround my heart with the truest green. Above it, towards my head the color turns blue-green and below my heart, it lightens to yellow-green. I can modulate it to strengthen or diminish the intensity. I then bring the color tightly around my body like a green skin. Holding it there for a moment. I then gently release it to the world around me, allowing it to sparkle and then dissipate into darkness. I sit and breathe.

When it is time to paint, I pick up my brush and introduce myself to the watery element. I have to adjust from the light of imagination to the fluid of the paint. Becoming aware of the differences I adjust my attention and let Green speak through this new medium. My first picture is playful. I use a brush that is thin and it dances in puddles of green. Once green has found its way all around the paper, I introduce a light yellow and a warm ultramarine blue. Sometimes these new colors push to the front, but mostly they sink to the back, recognizing that this is green’s day to shimmer and shine. 

In my second picture I relish the horizontal quality of green. A larger brush allows me to coat the paper in large quantities of juicy color. I am not aiming to paint a “thing” or create a finished image. I am present to listen to green and let it soothe my heart and soul. Here I rest in the strength and stability of earthly greenness. Cobalt blue comes for a visit, finding the darker valleys and golden yellow helps to set a mood of outdoor splendor.

My last picture becomes a little bit more intellectual and experimental. Several greens are curious about blue and I work to create spaces for “conversations.” Concurrently I find myself struggling with my brush technique and have to work hard to control the fluid. Bleeding color is sometimes unavoidable.

Blue and green have a “neighborly” relationship, as they reside next to each other on the color wheel. Goethe calls these relationships, “non-characteristic combinations,” because the transition from blue to green is an easy one. There is a little blue in every green. The soul doesn’t have to make too big of a leap from blue to green. Here I experiment with intensity and lightness to create some interesting relationships. On the left, when blue is light, it steps behind green, receding. Green holds the middle ground. On the right, where blue is intense and green is very light, blue takes center stage and steps towards the viewer. At the top, where the green is more yellowish and there is less blue in the green, the two colors have less in common. They become a little more active. Both colors request equal attention. At the bottom I ask, how dark does blue have to be to hold the same middle ground as green? Is this blue too dark, or just right?

Setting my brushes down, I step away from the table to let my eyes and thoughts rest. As the paintings dry, the liquid evaporates. The next day I can have another opportunity to relate to green in a new way. First I experimented with the medium of imagination and light, then with water, and now I see the substance of green. What has changed? What stays the same? Does the color maintain the same qualities in the different elements (light, water and physical substance)?

Is it possible to share what has been experienced? Sensory and soul impressions often cannot easily be articulated in words, unless you jump into the realm of poetry. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a poet himself, attempted to do so in his Theory of Colors, which he published in 1810: “The eye experiences a distinctly grateful impression from this color [Green]… The beholder has neither the wish nor the power to imagine a state beyond it.”(1)  Green is calming, refreshing, soothing and restful. Do you agree?

I invite you to experience green (and many other colors) for yourself. Please join me for three days of painting, February 17-19, 2024. I will be a keynote speaker at the Waldorf Handwork Educator’s Online International Handwork Teaching Conference. Each day, through presentations, conversation and painting exercises, you, too, will have the opportunity to explore and experience color in new ways. The color will speak to your heart and soul. I look forward to working with you.

(1) p. 316, paragraph 802. von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. Theory of Colors. MIT Press, 1970.

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Hi, I am Kelly Beekman

Artist, Teacher, Mentor

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together"
- Vincent Van Gogh

© 2024 Kelly Beekman
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