Analogous Color Schemes in Painting and Nature

Portrait of Louise with Natural Dye Vats of Logwood and Weld

I've had more time this year to dig deeper into the caverns where my inner artist lives.  My inner artist was born as a sculptress, not as a painter.  During the warmer months I created abstract forms out of clay dug from the ground in my backyard. When the snow was piled high by my father's shoveling and the passing of the snow plow I created museum shelves in the high mounds along the road for the abstract forms I carved out of ice and snow.   Throughout all the seasons, after the sun went down, I lay on the grass gazing up at the stars or made what I called inventions in my bedroom. 

My inventions were along the lines of Rube Goldberg Machines.  String, yarn and bits of rope stretched between walls, ceiling and floor.  Woven into the web were treasures I collected from nearby fields and forest: feathers, bones, scraps of cloth, a few rusty nails and bolts, clothespins and broken bits and pieces of things I found on the road. 

When I began creating an invention, I knew its purpose. The purpose dictated my initial actions. As the invention grew in size, I forgot ignored the purpose and became lost in shapes, textures and lines that shifted and transformed my experience of it as I moved throughout the room.  I was fascinated by the way triangles and rectangles, carved from the air by my lines of string, expanded and contracted with my movements.

In first grade I discovered I wasn't an artist.  Artists draw and paint.  It made me sad that I couldn't draw.  I satisfied my creative drive by being an inventor.  I wasn't aware that sculpting was considered an art form and that those who sculpted were considered to be artists.  By the time I realized that the sculptors, whose work I eventually saw in museums, were also artists, I'd labeled myself as "not an artist".  If I were ever to learn the skills of drawing and painting I would be extremely happy, but I believed I would never really BE an artist.  The message I heard from within the small world I inhabited was one had to be born an artist to actually be an artist.  That meant born with at least a little bit of talent to draw. I was born with curiosity, not talent.  That meant that no matter how skillful I became, I would always be an imposter ... or so I thought.

Long ago I stopped believing in talent.

Skills that come easily (perhaps that is what the word talent refers to) will definitely place you ahead of the game in the early stages of life. You might also be self-driven and continue to build on the skills you were born with. You continue to excel, driven by your curiosity and your healthy inner artist who continues to pump more and more creative juices through your system.  You gain recognition and become one of the greats that is written about in the history books.

You might not be self-driven. As you approach adolescence the skills you have already helped to form your identity, both for yourself and for those around you.  You might ride the wave until you become an adult. You might become bored along the way because you haven't challenged yourself to move beyond the limit of your skills.  What you discover when you become an adult is that there are those who didn't have your skills at an early age and yet their current abilities surpass yours. You either get wise and start building your skills or you stop altogether because you haven't developed the discipline and habit of learning new skills and experimenting along the way.

Talent is only as good as what you do with it as a starting point.

I count myself lucky.  I hadn't realized that my inner artist was born healthy and strong on the same day I was.  We just didn't become officially connected for several decades.  Perhaps we were like distant penpals.  We knew each other, but didn't know that we were one and the same.  

This year has presented many challenges. The time that I would have spent traveling, planning, packing, unpacking, teaching live workshops, exploring new cities and mountains has been focused on sifting through decades of art in my studio and writing meditations focused on nurturing my inner artist. The combination of the two activities has brought me to where I am now, a place where I celebrate the diversity of my work and my passions.  The writing meditations often brought forth flashbacks of my childhood when I dug in the dirt for different shades of clay and when I smashed up stinky yellow tomatoes by flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep ... dyeing bits of yarn and string to make my inventions a bit more visually exciting.  The memory of wandering the woods looking at different shapes of leaves on trees and plants returned over and over again.  Hanging out the wash with my mother, I visually rearranged the way it hung on the line to create fun patterns as the shapes changed, blown by the wind.  Socks in front of a sheet, shapes of shirts seen through a sheet and the shadows of the laundry created a symphony in my head and heart.

I was an artist through and through ... I just didn't know it and didn't believe it. I kept honing my skills and eventually I was able to draw and paint.  It was only then that I understood that it isn't the skills of drawing and painting that make me an artist.

I'm not only dedicated to nurturing my own inner artist on a daily basis, I'm also dedicated to guiding others to discover and nurture their inner artists.  I know the joy that has filled my life since become better acquainted with mine.

This brings me full circle back to the walk I took last evening when I returned to a bush a mile from home to snap a photo as an example of an analogous color scheme in nature.  I've often suggested looking for color schemes as you go about your day. 

On the way to the bush I'd passed when walking earlier with my neighbor, I ended up seeing so many more example of color schemes, value studies, shapes, compositions and textures.  A dozen new classes to create filled my head before arriving at the bush.

It's common, when I walk alone, for me to see everything around me with a keener pair of eyes.  Last evening, I realized that I was seeing my surrounding through the lens of the natural-dye vats I've brewed during the last month. 

The gorgeous colors of the cloth napkins revealed nuances in neutrals and brilliance in hues that were thrilling to me.  The more colors I see, the more colors I realize I haven't seen before!

As I puzzled together the photos I snapped on my walk and the photos of the dye vats and napkins I remembered paintings that displayed similar color combinations, color schemes, arbitrary splashes and marks that come together by chance, yet guided by my inner artist.  I spent the late hours of the night and the early hours of this morning playing with the pieces of the puzzles until they harmonized and I heard the song of my inner artist.

Art is the expression of our experience of life as we live it and it isn't limited to two dimensions nor is it limited to drawing and painting.  It is, in fact, completely and totally unlimited in its purest form. 

Thank you for reading my blog.

Chris Carter

Online classes at ExploreWithChrisCarter.com and Skillshare.com/ChrisCarterArt 

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Chris Carter - Artist

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