Green is not Green

When I moved from Germany to Maryland in 2000 it was mid summer. I was looking forward to a bright and sunny summer but low and behold it turned out be one of those drab ones. I had been to the US almost every year since 1984 and remembered the hot, humid and above all sunny summers of New Jersey. In Germany I lived in Hamburg and Düsseldorf. The weather in both cities is not great, all year round. Especially in Hamburg it’s dark and cold in the winter. Even the summers are cool. No not that cool, more as in chilly.

During my first winter in Maryland I noticed how bright it was, blue skies, sun. Where were the dark clouds? Amazing! All of a sudden I had a deeper understanding of why Vincent van Gogh’s paintings changed from dark brown to oranges and reds after he left the Netherlands and settled down in the south of France. 

The spring in Maryland was even better. The branches of the trees heavy with delicate blossoms like they were dressed in bridal gowns. I made a note to not become a zombie and notice the beauty of it every single year. After 19 years I am still not on autopilot and still enjoying the spectacle .

Have you ever experienced that? You go on vacation and see your surroundings way more clearly than at home. Of course you’ll have to, because autopilot won’t get you anywhere. At least not where you want to go. You’ll have to pay attention to your surroundings all the time. Getting out of your comfort zone is definitely helping to be more aware. 

I had another epiphany when 5 years later I started to paint. Mark, my instructor for many years, told me to look at the green and notice all the different shades of green and all the colors within. Sure enough soon I started to notice that green was not just green. Hooray because it’s not my favorite color at all. I noticed yellow, blue – duhh … those two colors mixed make green – but there were also yellow ochre, red, purple, and brown hues. And then there was yellow (warm) green, blue (cool) green. All of a sudden I noticed so much more than just green, Everything became so much more interesting.

“I haven’t only learned to paint but also to see”  is what my art students tell me. It’s not just in the greens, it’s with all colors. White is not just white. In fact you don’t paint it as white. Folds of a white cloth have different shades. It’s the light that makes all those shades. Every time the plane of a shape changes the color and intensity change too.

Mark Tewksbury – GREAT TRAITS – writes: “It’s human nature to have selective awareness.  Conditioning ourselves to self-filter information, we set ourselves up to only notice certain things. Over time, without even realizing it, we start to go through the day seeing, hearing, and feeling only things that we’ve set ourselves up to see, hear, and feel.  This happens to the exclusion of many other things. The challenge becomes:  What are we missing?”

Learning to paint will not only help you to see more, it can also help you with problem solving. An artist is not just a creator, but also a problem solver. Every creation has its own share of problems. An artist solves those problems step by step. Breaking them down in small increments. Use those skills in your daily life and problems won’t look so daunting anymore.

These are just two of the many benefits of painting.

See you soon 😉
White puppy I met in Frankfurt, Germany

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