It’s above freezing at night! There’s no time to lose! Out with the shorts, t-shirts, lawn chairs, picnic baskets, wide brimmed hats, sandals, sunscreen, trowels, badminton net, hammock, whirligigs—how did we get so much stuff?—you know how you check into a motel and unpack your suitcase and suddenly the room looks like there’s been an explosion? That’s how it feels right now as we stretch, expand, spread out, take over our individual corners of the world.
I say no time to lose, but ideally we should just relax and enjoy the ride. (If only there wasn’t so much to do.)
Here in the Cove we’re getting ready for another Perennial Sale, and this involves thinning out irises and day lilies, forget-me-nots and Johnny-jump-ups, and sticking them in pots instead of tossing them in the compost. Then one sunny morning in June, with the mist rising and the water lapping gently at the capes, we will gather at the park and do our part in beautifying the Island.
Not that the natural landscape isn’t beautiful on its own. Oh the vistas, and the greens, the greens! As an artist I feel inadequate, even helpless, to capture the greens that surround me. From neon green maple leaflets to emerald spruce buds to olive-green ground phlox to… can paint capture any of this? Leaves live, breathe and dance in light – and there are so many of them!—while paint is, well, paint.
That hasn’t stopped artists from making paint and putting it on walls of caves and cathedrals. The green used by Egyptian artists was ground malachite (a copper-rich stone), while Romans and Greeks painted with “verdigris” (hydrated copper acetate), a dull green pigment prepared by soaking copper plate in wine and scraping off the patina. Something called “green earth” (crushed glauconite and celadonite) was also around.
Then in the 1800s a bright green color named Scheele’s Green became wildly popular. When too many people died from breathing the fumes of this cheerful copper-arsenic concoction, Scheele’s Green was taken off the market.
Today we have Hooker’s Green, a blend of aluminum, chlorine, bromine, cadmium, copper and carbon, named after the obsessive English botanist William Hooker who collected more than a million species of dried plants, and loved painting so much that he formulated his own green specifically for leaves.
We also have:
• Chromium oxide green—pale “willow green”
• Cobalt green (cobalt and zinc oxide)—bright green
• Phthalo green (chlorinated copper phthalocyanine)—intense blue-green
• Sap green (unripe buckthorn berries)—pale, semi-transparent
• Viridian (heated chromium hydroxide)—blue-green, popular with Impressionists
Often I create green by mixing the blues and yellows used in my painting. I’m rarely satisfied. I just shrug and say, try again. That’s all I can do. (Even the robin whose pastel blue eggshells were scattered under the tree this morning resignedly sighed and said, try again.)
This green world changes from day to day, made even more glorious by contrast with our magnificent red soil. I’d love to paint something today, but the garden awaits and there are some burning bushes that need transplanting… into pots for the Perennial Sale of course.