who would think? (re. color)

GREEN! So much rain. So much green.

(see that kind of stalk of a tree mid-distance? My mother, no longer alive, told me its name and I didn’t retain it. It’s a relic of the dinosaur times, with a triangular stalk and stems and leaves that just jut out side to side. A closer look:

I was launching into green. And how this Swedish man had a theory that green was a primary color, but that people can’t distinguish it’s many shades. My photographer tells me that’s a male/female difference: that women can make more distinctions than men.

Aside from my enthusiasm for green, what I really wanted to share was this new piece of fun info on color (from the most recent issue of American Craft magazine) re. the discovery of how color could be synthesized. I don’t know why I hadn’t wondered before. Certainly we all have the image of the painters for generations grinding their pigments. I had never had to learn that process. But I just figured the process was the same, but done by machines and jammed into tubes.

No. It’s actually chemistry. To my surprise.

The first discovery, in the mid 1850’s, was by an 18-year-old(!) chemist, William Henry Perkin, who was looking for a cure for malaria. It failed, but the coal-tar he had used in his failed experiment left a residue liquid. He noticed that this liquid stained his clothes a striking purple. Quickly, he realized that substance could be used for dyeing. He then proceeded to manufacture synthetic color.

That was the beginning. Up to that time, chemistry had only been a theoretical study. But after color synthesis was discovered, chemists went on to explore and discover in other areas – notably as weapons and … plastic. Can you believe it? All instigated by the chance discovery of color.

I have to say, I get excited just reading about color. Much less seeing examples. “That’s your idea of a color wheel?” I’m off and running with ideas.

But isn’t that the lure, over and over, for many an artist? The fishermen see that fish hidden somewhere. The artist seeks the deep satisfaction that color will bring. In that NEXT piece. And then the next…

Color. Not just those tough-to-see greens. Not just natural. All of it.

So seductive.