Flowers often become an obsession for many people.
History is peppered with stories of the adventures of people following a flower obsession. Tulip bulbs were at one time more valuable than the currency of The Netherlands. Instead of Dutch coins, you paid with tulip bulbs! It became so serious the government had to deploy armed guards around the tulip fields.
On a recent visit to Light Trap Books in Downtown Jackson, TN, proprietor Lauren Smothers suggested I might like reading Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. While the main story revolves around the life of a colorful orchid expert in Florida, the author goes into great detail about the history of orchids. Orchid societies abound all over the world to feed the obsession of orchid aficionados. More on that in an upcoming episode!
Reading that book led me to look at my own flower obsessions. I have to say obsessions because I have never settled on just one flower. As a child I was obsessed with daffodils for a while. I loved their bright sunny faces that told me that spring was almost here. One spring I lusted after the daffodils that had sprung up all over a neighbor’s yard. There were bunches and bunches of them. I must have been about 6 years old. I couldn’t resist. I walked right over there and picked myself a large bouquet of the gorgeous blossoms.
Needless to say, my mother was appalled that I would do such a thing. She made me take my whole bouquet back to the neighbor’s house, knock on the door and apologize for my theft. I cried all the way over to the neighbor’s house and could not summon up the courage to knock on the door. I put the bouquet down on her porch and ran all the way home. My mother never asked what the neighbor said and I never told her what I had done. Whenever I see daffodils, I think of the shame of a little girl who acted on her obsession with daffodils. I don’t think I have had the urge to steal flowers from someone else’s garden since.
However, I do still have flower obsessions! Do you?
As artists, isn’t it our role to be catfish nipping at the fins of life?
The movie Catfish brought that word as a descriptive into the general language where it has found a place in the Urban Dictionary. IMDb quotes the character, Vince Pierce from the movie as he describes the term:
“Vince Pierce: They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank God for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin.”
Reading about the movie brought back to me an incident from years ago that still brings a smile at the memory. While traveling through the beautiful Cotswold region of England, we encountered an elderly gentleman working hard at cultivating his status as “local character.” He was sitting on a bench just outside the gates to the churchyard obviously waiting to waylay any tourists coming to view the historic church. He called himself a catfish among the mackerel because, as he told us, he was a relative new comer to the village only having lived there twenty years. As new -comer he was not able to be one of the local mackerel so he had relegated himself to nipping at their fins by ambushing tourists. He went on to give us a detailed description of the town and the church. I never forgot him or the village.
That village in the Cotswolds will always stand out to me because of a curmudgeonly Catfish who brought it to life by nipping at the fins of the local mackerel. Artists spotlight life in many ways from many angles. Life would be pretty dull without artists bringing out the color, the energy of our world. As artists, isn’t it our role to be catfish nipping at the fins of life?
Yellow is yellow. Or so it would seem. Or is it? Yellow has many variations though it doesn’t appear to. When painting a daffodil or a sunflower, are there any yellows that can be used besides Lemon Yellow or Indian Yellow, my favorites? I confess to a dislike of any variations of yellow other than these two. If I need to paint shadows in either Lemon or Indian Yellow, I most often use purple for Lemon Yellow and Prussian Blue for Indian Yellow. But what about painting those little nuances in petals that can quickly go flat with too much of the purple/blue additions? Digging around in my yellow paint drawer, at the very back I come up with Yellow Ochre.
Yellow Ochre comes in just about every packaged starter set of paint, oil, acrylic or watercolor. If you’ve ever bought a set, have a look. In every medium-sized set, yellow ochre is nearly always the second yellow. Sometimes buying a set can be less expensive than a single tube, if there is a sale on. When I get those, it’s usually for the browns. The yellows promptly get thrown to the back of the drawer until spring flowers pop up. Then back in the drawer again until late summer when the sunflowers are in force. That’s when I realize I am dissing a timeless classic.
In painting daffodils and sunflowers, Yellow Ochre is the winner for the subtle variances in petals. Yellow Ochre can also be quite effective in the variations of bird feathers as most birds are colored naturally in earthy hues. While Yellow Ochre comes up as number 6 on my list of essential Yellows, it is never the less essentially, essential. When adding a bit of dirt in your art, don’t forget this important yellow once made from dirt.