Art Lessons From Children—Making Pine Trees Orange --Not Green

My grand-daughter Karlyn brought a friend, Juan Diego, to my art studio and they wanted to paint while I did. The friend had a nice watercolor of trees, a road leading up to mountains, but no sky color as yet. "Are you going to paint the sky or leave it blank? You can do whatever you want to do."

"I think I'll color it," he decided. I showed him how skies all vary in color and let him decide to leave it blank or color it and he still wanted to color it. He colored it violet. I decided I would make mine violet too Because he was the decision maker. He was tempted to make it blue, he said, because that is the color he was taught that skies were supposed to be.

My grand-daughter is younger, her sky was already pink. My point is that sometime between the age of my grand-daughter, to the age of her friend, just a couple of years older, he was already learning that skies are supposed to be blue. Just maybe, just maybe our conversation about how skies can be any color he wants and he saw her make a pink sky -- maybe he won't have to relearn to be a kid again and will stop thinking at his age he has to change his skies from pink to blue because that is what others expect. Or, maybe I just got him an F in his art class, hope not.

Orange Pines in Spring

The above painting stemmed from the notan pen and inks below. I call it "Orange Pines in Spring." I selected color harmonies of blues, violets and reds at the top of the color wheel and orange would become the punch color since it was the complement of the blue. But harmonies need to be only about 4 colors. Otherwise I'd run the risk of having a rainbow of colors -- something my color and composition studies is trying to break me of --like those garish paintings I did a while back. I am putting my own limitations on myself. I'm no longer trying to paint as representational as others might do. It might be right for them but I love to experiment with color, so I need to learn from the children how to make my own decisions.

Below you can see the blocked in colors before I have taken the pipe insulation to them to mush them together. After mushing them together, the design started to become clearer. I decided to try to use a simple horizontal bands. I'm not sure it works. Mark Rothko pulled off bands of color. Wolf Kahn's landscapes are bands of color too but representational in comparison to Rothko. I think I'll have to live with this a while to see if it works for me.

What I learned

  • Children seem to learn WAY too early how others expect skies to be blue and grass to be green

  • I'm not afraid any longer to make pine trees any color I want them to be

  • I am afraid to tell myself if I immediately like something or not. Am I waiting to hear what others think first? Am I still the young boy who still has the fear of others in me -- I am betting I am not the kid I want to be just yet.

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