Friday, August 11, 2017

It Takes Work to be Creative!

My oldest daughter, the librarian and I made a quick trip to visit my younger daughter and her family this week to celebrate the 11th birthday of my granddaughter.  It's a longish drive -- 7 hours when including all the stops I need to make for stretch -- and so as many of you do, we listened to a book.

The book is titled Vincent and Theo, The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman.  (She found it on Hoopla.)  It's the story of the two brothers personal relationship and is drawn from nearly 700 letters written by Vincent to his younger brother.  We are a bit more than halfway through it and I'm in awe of the depth of their conversations with each other via the letters.  

I was reminded of an account of DaVinci I read 15 years ago.   He was never satisfied with his work and left behind enough UFO's to mentally cripple most people.  Yet, we admire his work and the legacy of ideas he left for our benefit.  He didn't know that would happen, he was working through ideas in his head and some worked but most didn't.  

We left off yesterday at the end of a chapter about a period in Vincent's journey to the paintings we know him for during which he was striving to expand his understanding of color. 
He had to learn to use color? 
He was an artist, isn't that part of their genetic make-up?

Of course it isn't.  It's a skill built through the creative process of learning.  Learning is experimenting, trying out ideas, imitating others who we admire -- in other words, it's work.   Vincent had some innate talent for drawing but he didn't rely on that to become an artist.  The author relates many examples of how he worked through the same drawing exercises repeatedly in an effort to learn and improve the skills of his trade.  

This particular chapter was discussing Vincent's discovery of complementary colors and he made the comment in a letter to Theo that using complementary colors "enriches the colors".  This occurred five years into his journey to become an artist.  Wow, I thought.  I use complementary colors to create contrast quite often but had not realized they also enrich one another.

I've been looking through some pictures I took last week on a walk around the perimeter of a large local meadow which is bordered on three sides by a lush forest of hickory, beech, and maple.  Just for fun, I've been naming the color schemes used by nature and focusing on the impact those color schemes have on what attracted me to photograph them.  

The meadow was alive with tiger swallowtail butterflies -- at one point, I could see nine fluttering over various parts of the meadow at the same time!!  
I took quite a few pictures but the ones I like best are when they were posed on this red-violet swamp milkweed with a rich green background of foliage.
The contrast of the complementary colors -- green and red-violet -- make the whole photo more vibrant.
These crabapples caught my eye as I walked past -- complementary colors!
I also made a mental note of how large they are this year -- time to make crabapple jelly!!
I think this shrub is in the dogwood family -- look how these berries stand out on their red stems. 
Compare that to how much less obvious these blue berries appear -- analogous colors.
Complementary colors -- does nature use them so things stand out?
Did I notice this grass because it stands out against the green background or because it was so different from everything around it?
Perhaps some of each? 
So if Vincent had to work at learning how to use colors, I should not be intimidated by the fact that using color is not intuitive for me.
It's work!
And it's work that I love!

Enjoy the weekend!


  1. I have a librarian daughter too! and I stop frequently when on drives :)love the crabapples

  2. Tough work-but someone has to do it. :) Thanks for the book info!

  3. Your post got me thinking about color. Thank you.

  4. Mary, one of the things (besides the quilting, of course) that caused me to want to follow your blog was the way you evaluate and analyze things and then tell us your thoughts in a very articulate way. I enjoy reading your thoughts!