Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Morundi-Non-Color Master Painter

Artists on Art: Morandi An Artist I Didn’t Like

BURNAWAY is honored to have Rocio Rodiguez set the stage for our new Artists on Art column, featuring artists discussing artists or artworks that have informed, irked or inspired them.

Giorgio Morandi, Natura Morta, 1941; oil on canvas, 12 by 17 inches. © Giorgio Morandi, SIAE/Musea Morandi, Bologna.
I am not comfortable with only what I know; it is what I don’t know that I am always seeking. That is why I pay attention when confronting an artist’s work that, at first, I don’t respond to. As an artist, what I find most useful is to have my eyes opened by someone else’s work that is very unlike mine.
I remember the first time I encountered Giorgio Morandi’s work—I hated it. The subject was a repetitive parade of badly drawn dusty bottles and boxes typically in the center of the composition. “Not much color sense,” I thought, “can’t he find a bright red in his palette? How can someone spend a lifetime painting the same objects over and over again?”
Many years later, I stood in front of three Morandis and I was dumbstruck. Upon looking, I found nuances in that work that I had never seen before—a color sense that was very reserved yet seemed expansive in that very contained world that he was depicting. An array of grays went from cool to warm as slowly as honey drips from a spoon. I was mesmerized by the paintings’ awkwardness and yet elegant simplicity. What once looked like bad drawing now seemed personal, autobiographical. The tentativeness of the brushstrokes—this wasn’t about flinging paint around and making noise, this was about being quiet. It is almost as if these paintings contained a question and answer and at the same time also expressed a lot of doubt. Not all of Morandi’s work feels this way to me. Some of his paintings are clumsy. But, I do appreciate an artist that makes great work and also stumbles.
More history on Giorgio Morundi and his works. -BBL 
Morandi deliberately limited his choice of still life objects to the unremarkable bottles, boxes, jars, jugs and vases that were commonly found in his everyday domestic environment. He would then 'depersonalize' these objects by removing their labels and painting them with a flat matte color to eliminate any lettering or reflections. In this condition they provided him with an anonymous cast of ready-made forms that he could arrange and rearrange to explore their abstract qualities and relationships.
Morandi's compositions and choice of still life objects allude to his Italian heritage. When assembled together in a still life group, his dusty bottles and boxes take on a monumental quality that evokes the architecture of medieval Italy - a style with which he seems at ease. Morandi's own city of Bologna has many examples of medieval architecture and is home to the oldest functioning university in the world: the "Alma Mater Studiorum", founded in 1088.

Still Life recreated in Morundi's studio


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Is Our Sense of Color Fickle?

Such a bravado show of color stirs up memories and emotions. So do the many tints and shades in a garden, but unlike a museum exhibit, gardens aren’t static. Gardeners are always messing about with color, creating and rearranging combinations of leaf and flower. But this color play is nothing compared to nature’s contribution to the garden scene. Plants morph in color, texture, shape and size through the seasons. Then there’s fog, rain, sun, mist, frost, dawn light and moonlight, all of which change how we perceive color by the minute, hour and day, as well as the time of year.

So how, with all this flux and possibility, do gardeners develop such inexplicable yet stubborn color prejudices? Years ago, it seemed that everyone scorned orange. Then hot colors replaced pastels in our affections. Remember when the pairing of dusty pink with silver foliage was cool? After seeing so many gardens seared by the dramatic combo of black and chartreuse, the pairing of pink chrysanthemums with dusty miller seems pallid and kind of quaint. Gardeners tell me they adore violet, anything violet, but would never let a white flower in their garden. Go figure.  

Flowers and foliage in new colors are introduced every year, and our tastes change. Who would have thought that ebony flowers, the darker the better, would be so prized? Right now, varying shades of green on green look fresh. It’s all about color, or lack of color, or the color on the underside of the leaves, or … well, you get the idea.

Strolling through lots of public and private gardens, looking closely, noting combinations of flowers and foliage that appeal to you, is a good way to get shaken out of color complacency. 

So is flower arranging.

 It’s so much easier to play around with color in the vase than in the ground: no transplanting involved. Varying textures and shapes allow for unexpected harmonies. You learn that glossy, deep-green leaves of camellia or magnolia help referee the most vivid colors. Grow foliage in every shade from plum to silver, and you’ll be able to mellow out any combination of flowers.

A passionate comment by glass artist Ginny Ruffner was most influential in broadening my sense of color. Years ago, I was interviewing the Ballard resident about her stunning garden. I made the mistake of asking her favorite color, and she nearly exploded in defense of every shade and tone. Ruffner said she loved them all and could no more choose between one color and another than she could choose between her own fingers. How freeing. After all, we have a virtually unlimited color palette, plus every shade of green, to work with. 

All you need do is follow your eye, your memories and your heart as you play with color. You might as well have fun with it, because it takes only a hungry deer (WE HAVE MANY NIBBLERS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD-BBL)  or a big windstorm (WE DON'T HAVE TOO MANY OF THOSE-BBL) to change the most carefully orchestrated color scheme. And then you get to start over.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Many Faces of Green

The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz movie sports a green face. Green often connotes the idea that people sick with envy could turn green. That old wicked witch was certainly jealous of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, and the whole plot of the story hinges on her attempt to snag the shoes.
Centuries earlier, Shakespeare’s Iago tells Othello to “beware the green-eyed monster” of jealousy. But, Iago became the cunning cat who toyed with Othello to feed his illusion that his faithful wife Desdemona is deceiving him. Shakespeare picked the color which, at his time, had the negative connotations of natures that are suspicious, bitter, unmindful, greedy, bland, undependable and deceitful, all characteristics of Iago.
Despite some negativity associated with green, it has many positive qualities in many cultures. Spring season and the positive symbolism of jade associated with longevity and rebirth are two desirable attributes to the Chinese. In Celtic mythology it was the color of Tir na n’Og, Isle of the Blessed. Other positive connotations associate green with being discreet, sensible, fruitful, benevolent, tolerant and talented. Green symbolizes harmony on the color scale; it is midway between red and purple. It is the bridge or gateway in the spectrum. Green connotes prosperity, especially in business. And, it is nature’s favorite color. It soothes most people. Because it is easy on the eyes, it has long been a popular color in the work place. Green is versatile and it can be used effectively indoors or out for home decor. It has connections to feelings of peace, ecology, renewal, self-control, security, flexibility, and harmony.
International interior designer Maria Killiam says: “Grass green is the most restful color. Green symbolizes self-respect and well being. Green is the color of balance. It also means learning, growth and harmony.”
 Holly is one of the evergreens used in ancient festivals as an emblem of hope amid the darkness of midwinter. The symbolism was given a powerful new charge by Christian analogies between its thorns and red berries and the Passion of Christ. Hence its central place in Christmas decorations. Other evergreens are used to suggest immortality. And, who can forget the gorgeous lyrics penned by Barbra Streisand for Evergreen, a lover’s fantasy which helped her win her first Oscar for the best song.  

Emeralds are often associated with fertility, growth, and spring germination because of its hue. It acquired folk symbolism as a lucky stone of conception and childbirth and was believed to shorten labor. The emerald is the stone of the Pope because of its connection with both faith and hope. In the Christian liturgical calendar, green is the color associated with Kingdom Tide’s season, the period following Epiphany which extends to Easter. Ministers wear green stoles during this period of time. 

Our language uses green references for expressing both positive and negative traits identified with this versatile color:
Good green
  • Green light - go, permission to proceed with a task
  • The green room - in theater or television it is the room where performers and guests go to relax
  • Green thumb – a person good with plants
  • Greenback - US dollar bill, money
  • Greener pastures - something newer or better (or perceived to be better), such as a new job
  • Greens – healthy vegetables
Bad green

Seattle’s Central Library painted its bathrooms an unpleasant shade of green in 2004 to discourage long-term use by the homeless. The library advocated for the city to build a downtown day shelter and hygiene center to better serve those in need. 
  • Green-eyed monster - jealousy
  • Green with envy - jealous or envious
  • Green - inexperienced, untested, untrained
  • Greenhorn - novice, trainee, beginner
  • Green around the gills - pale, sickly
The Emerald City epitomized the place where all the short-comings of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the cowardly Lion were erased. The green aura shining ahead of the quartet of seekers on the Yellow Brick Road draws them forward like a beacon promising fulfillment of their wishes and dreams. Each received what was desired. The Emerald City seems like heaven until one awakens from a detailed dream and home becomes better than one first realizes. Green was definitely the go-to color for Oz’s happy citizens.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Green's Properties

Green’s Properties
From Nori and Sandra Pope's book's photos

            “Green is the color of primeval wealth---sappy green fields, the green of a woodland glen---everyone can revel in it. It is this thin layer of green plant cells that keeps us breathing, keeps us fed, keeps us alive. No wonder we adore it and long for it when without it. The changing seasons add the melody to the green of a planting. Spring shoots are often tinged with chartreuse, turn blue-green in their fullness, and fade to biscuit yellow in the autumn before they fall. The eye translates the fresh green of spring to excitement, change and newness.
            Surely green is the color of Pan, god of life. Kirlian photography, which makes the invisible emanation of the psyche visible, concurs: green is the lush, sympathetic color.

George Harrison's Living in the Material World album cover

            Colors are rarely seen in isolation, so it is important to be aware of the optical effect adjacent colors have on each other. Both Goethe in his theories of color harmony and Chevreul in his 700 page monograph of 1839 about the Gobelins dyers pointed out the phenomenon of successive contrast, the way in which the eye, staring first at a color and then at a piece of white paper, will see on the paper an afterimage in a complementary or opposite color. If the eye is fixed on green, the successive contrast will be red; if fixed on yellow, violet; if fixed on blue, orange and so forth. Each shadow is in perfect contrast, and Seurat and Monet made use of this effect in creating the color depths of their canvases. It results in a dazzling shimmer between pure red flowers and green leaves.

(An excerpt from Nori and Sandra Pope’s gorgeous book Color in the Garden)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Happy Pantone Color for 2017

This year’s choice is Greenery, officially known as PANTONE 15-0343, and it’s described as a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring. I call it spring leaf green! Think of it as St. Patrick's Day green with a bit of yellow (a happy color) added to it.
“The tangy yellow-green speaks to our desire to express, explore, experiment and reinvent, imparting a sense of buoyancy,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute in a statement.
This chartreuse-like shade is said to encourage people to take a deep breath and reinvigorate.

The Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J. is a division of X-Rite Inc., which is headquartered in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood.
Pantone is considered a global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries.
One of the perks of being the Color of the Year is that the shade will show up in everything from fashion, home products and more.

Superb Canadian interior designer Maria Killiam declares: "The color for 2017 is kelly green (hooray, I've been waiting for this green for a long time) and the look is refined and generally warming up. 
Green reigns supreme in 2017 as the most versatile colour with broad appeal. 
Greens are getting both richer and warmer, moving away from the beachy, minty hues towards more grounded shades of yellow green spring shoots and deep leafy greens. (In other words, I think Pantone nailed it with Greenery this year). 
Move over cool industrial edginess and laid back rustic everything, 2017 is the year we return to warm, cozy and luxurious layering!"

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Color 101 Applied to Spring Landscaping

“Colors are the smiles of nature.” Leigh Hunt. “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”Rabindranath Tagore.

Have you thought about color and how it influences many of your decisions? We are surrounded by color and it influences the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, the cars we drive, and the plants we buy. Color is so much a part of our lives that we often take it for granted, until we have to plan a color scheme for our home landscape. When faced with an almost endless variety of colors to choose from, the task of planning a harmonious color scheme can be overwhelming. The more one knows about color, the more effectively it can be used.
Color comes from light and without light there can be no color. You can see the colors in light when a rainbow appears after a rainstorm. As sunlight passes through the curved surfaces of raindrops, the colors in light separate into bands of color in the sky. You can get the same effect when white light passes through a prism.
This band of color has been reproduced in a support tool called the color wheel and is a simple way of showing the relationships of colors as they appear in nature. The color wheel is made up of 12 colors which can be divided into three groups.
The primary colors are red, yellow and blue and all other colors are made up of some combination of these colors. The secondary colors are orange, violet, and green and are made by mixing equal parts of two primary colors (red and yellow for orange, red and blue for violet, and blue and yellow for green). The tertiary or intermediate colors are those colors which are made by combining one primary and one secondary color. Such combinations include yellow-orange, red-orange, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.
Also, black, white, and gray are called neutral colors and do not appear on the color wheel. They produce an infinite number of tints and shades when added to true colors. And other colors such as brown, tan, and beige are often treated as neutrals but they actually belong to the color orange on the color wheel.
Different terms and phrases are used to describe a color or its actions. Hue is the name of a color such as red, yellow, or blue and may be dark, light, dull or bright without changing its name. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. Thus, light values (tints) are made by adding white to a true color and dark values (shades) are made by adding black or gray to a true color. Any color can be mixed to range in value from almost white to almost black.
Warm colors are those colors associated with red and yellow hues and remind us of things in nature that are warm such as sunlight and fire. These colors will make you feel warm and cheerful and make an outdoor room seem friendly and inviting. Cool colors are those colors from the blue and green families and remind us of things in nature that are cool like water, grass and trees. These colors will make you feel cool and refreshed and make a room seem quiet and restful.
Warm colors and dark or intense values of some cool colors are called advancing colors because they appear to move toward you. When used on the walls of a landscape they make the outdoor room appear smaller because the vegetative walls seem closer to you. Receding colors include cool colors and light tints of some warm colors and these colors appear to recede or move back. When used on the walls of a landscape, they make the outdoor room appear larger and more spacious because the vegetative walls seem farther away.
Soft pale colors carry the eye into the distance, an effect which can make an outdoor sitting area seem larger than it really is. Darker, purer colors give the illusion of bringing things closer which make areas smaller and outdoor furniture look larger. Vivid colors are best used as accents in small outdoor areas.
Color can unify and it is one of the best ways to bring harmony to an outdoor room in the landscape. Repetition of color within an outdoor room leads the eye smoothly from one area to another for a more harmonious appearance.
Beautiful landscapes are rarely random acts of nature, except for an awesome display of fall coloration in the deciduous forests. Most landscapes are the result of careful and precise planning and color coordination. In landscape planning, attempt to create unity and coherence, highlight one or two focal points, balance the color schemes of plantings and other features, and try to maintain a visual rhythm across the property.

Think about what kind of impression you want to create with your landscaping. This is the planning stage. Do you want your plantings to get attention with strong curb appeal? If so, consider bright red and yellow combinations. Red offers the impression of energy and excitement, while yellow offers sunshine and friendliness. Together, red and yellow can make very powerful, seasonal statements in curb appeal. For example, combine cheerful red and yellow tulips to welcome spring and yellow black-eyed Susan plants with majestic red dahlias in the heat of summer. Furthermore, if you want your landscape to exemplify a cool retreat, then blues, purples, pinks and variegated greens can deliver such intentions. White is always an awesome filler color to blend into any color scheme.
Always create unity and coherence in the design of your landscape. Accomplish this by choosing one dominant color and incorporate it into small plantings with occasional repetition around the site. Perennials are a good choice in this mix, and they can be supplemented with plantings of annuals like purple petunias, yellow marigolds or rust (red-orange-brown) fall mums.

Attract and direct attention to a special feature or focal point in your landscape by increasing the volume of colors in your flowers (the eye is naturally directed to an abundance of different hues). Mix dense plantings of light pastels in with lesser plantings of more intense colors. Also, add some climbers and vary the heights of different flowering plants to increase the vertical interest of the viewer. On the other hand, if you want to hide an unsightly item or structure, then add green plants as a neutral color and design alternate views in other focal directions by developing colorful flower beds in other areas to get attention.
Reference the color wheel in choosing the most pleasing color combinations. Match those colors that are positioned as opposites on the wheel to create an immediate, complementary color scheme. For example, combine red and green and use variegated coleus to link the two shades. Also, orange with blue or yellow with violet work very effectively as complementary colors in the landscape. Remember that white can be used as an effective neutral color. A monochromatic color scheme can be very effective in make a powerful statement of color in the landscape. Selecting this scheme would include using various shades and intensities of only one dominant color. For example, the choices of pinks, light reds, dark reds and maroons would work very well together for a massive display of color.

In reality, landscaping is a matter of personal choices. Learn as much as you can about your potential choices. If selections tend to become too complicated, experiment with a variety of plants and colors. Learn what works well in your landscape environment from points of sustainability, cultural requirements, and curb appeal. Therefore, creating a beautiful and effective landscape of color is always a work in progress, but it can be great therapy for the mind, heart and soul. Always think sustainability and native plants throughout the planning process!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Color Schemes, Some Old, Some New for 2017

Features Writer for Niche Publications of the Billings Gazette
Eat better. Work out. Go to bed sooner. Spend more time with friends and family. What New Year’s resolutions have you chosen that have anything to do with your home? Most likely all of them.
You can’t sit down and relax to enjoy a meal if your kitchen and dining areas aren’t providing the right ambiance. Neither can you sleep soundly in a drab bedroom. And forget about hosting if your house is in disarray.
Local interior decorators and business owners Stephanie Booth of Gallery Interiors and Connie Rice of Decorating Den Interiors are resolved to transition your home into 2017 with these helpful tricks:

Accentuate with accents

From accent walls to an asymmetrical pillow arrangement, there’s one odd-colored piece that can stand out beautifully in a room. Perhaps old favorites like velvet furniture or wallpaper could serve as your “one.” Booth says wallpaper is back – but just for one wall of a room. And homeowners aren’t buying bedroom sets anymore. Instead, they’re opting for mismatched furniture, said Booth. In that case, a dresser could be your accent piece.
According to Rice, accents add personality.
“A few places to add personality are in your lighting, unique seating, window treatments to enhance your view or warm up the room, accessories and area rugs to add color and texture,” she said. “Special details like nail-heads on your upholstered pieces, special fringe or embellishments on pillows, a colorful accent chair and color and texture in area rugs will make your castle comfortable.”