As an artist, I have been interested in the energy of color for as long as I can remember. Early mornings during my childhood, before everyone was awake, I scurried into the orchard before the summer’s sun could bake the early dew from the trees and flowers. My older brother loved teasing me about anything and so I would escape into the quiet mornings to see and feel the plants bursting into bloom before he could challenge my day.
Hearing the music and feeling the color of the growing season, I danced and played among the trees. Bees buzzed and birds sang. My kitty cats pounced on each other and our dogs ran in circles happy to have company. I felt the magic of nature singing in color and my desire to draw and paint my surroundings.
Composers over the centuries have felt this same energy. Using musical notes of color giving life to their melodies and record this phenomenon. The vibrant brilliance of healing colors when put to canvas can adjust a home or any dwelling to a high level of consciousness, uplifting the human experience of balance and harmony.
During the 1970’s and 80’s, I was an art instructor for a local college. Over the years, my students were a source of enlightenment and inspiration. One such student became blind later in life after years of service to a local doctor. Living in the deserts of Arizona, she understood the value of color. Traveling into Indian Territory alone, to assist women when needed during childbirth, she braved the lonesome trails deserted only a few years earlier by the family Apache leader Cochise. The awesome sunsets of every imaginable color washed over the land as she rode her horse over the mountain passes to provide the only medical help to young mothers in the surrounding desolate ranches.
Her vision eventually faded and she became blind. This was disappointing to the artist but her mind was sharp. The wise woman’s storytelling left me spellbound. She revealed in one such story that Cochise’s grandson worked for her uncle when she was a tiny redheaded toddler and he was devoted to keeping her safe. I never got tired of these tales, which were her life.
As Louise grew older she became set in her ways. The town gave her a wide berth as she surprisingly arrived uninvited into any council meeting where she declared herself “old as dirt” and the matriarch of the little city.
Of course, I was amused by her courage and welcomed her into my art classes. She attended the early morning Monday class. Other art students called to make sure she wasn’t in their class because of her cantankerous ways. Each week I prepared her palette in a certain pattern. The paints in a wide circle and brushes in order big to small so she could “see” them correctly. The fresh oil paint shimmered on the palette waiting for her special application. Over the years, her paintings became muddy, but our special group bragged on her masterpieces to keep up her spirit.
One day while squeezing the colors on the palette paper, I got them out of order. Not knowing whether to tell her or not and catch her wrath, I observed her stick a finger into the red blob. “Oh Louise, I’m so sorry. I have them out of sequence.” I whined, not wanting to be scolded. “It’s ok,” she calmly exclaimed. “It’s red!” she announced. “How do you know?” I said. “Because it’s warm, almost hot,” she surmised.
The class and I stared at her fingers covered in the wild red colored paint. “Wait,” I yelled as I ran back to the supply cupboards grabbing the thick white gesso sculpturing mixture and returning to her side. Wiping the red off her hands for the moment and dipping her fingers into the heavy paint medium. Next I propped a canvas onto the easel. “Make mountains,” I commanded.
With her vision gone, she had a new way of “seeing”. Feeling the colors and their energy with her fingertips, the brushes were now laid to rest. “Painting” with remembrance, her soul once more lavished the canvas with vibrant colors known only to one who traveled the mystic canyons and trails of her youth.
Working quickly she first applied the thick gesso replicating the textured mountains. Feeling the shapes of the dried outline, color filled in the crevices. I watched in wonder as her image took form. She outsold and shamed us with her newfound talent. Complaining about not being able to draw and paint was a past issue with the class, just watching Louise again creating beautiful canvases was enough inspiration for all of us.
The year of the Water Horse is beginning next month. The symbol of going forth to grasp success in this year can be found at Caroline’s Arts and Feng Shui Shoppe in a collection of horse statues and art pieces.
(c) 2002, West Meet East. Caroline Patrick.