Autumn Colors Inspire Art

Autumn Still Life (detail)
Autumn Still Life (detail)

 Well Fall is in the air!  As much as we long for summers here on the North Coast because we have such an abundance of rain, still, we tend to greet Autumn with great anticipation as well.  There is something about new beginnings, a change in the weather and students going back to school.  In our home we have a new Kindergartener which makes for a new chapter of wonder and awe, and that is great fun.  I hear people getting excited about pumpkin lattes, baking with apples, cinnamon and of course “pumpkin” everything.  One of my favorites is my daughter-in-law’s pumpkin cheesecake.  Just thinking about those hearty warm autumn meals to take the edge off of the anticipated first chill in the air makes one hungry.

Autumn for the artist is a rich time as well as nature transforms before our eyes from a landscape of greenery into the warm tones of oranges, yellows, golds and reds.  Textures abound from the kernels on Indian corn to the knarly crustations on various squash and gourds.  We think of things like maple syrup, turning leaves and split wood for fireplaces.  There is a wealth of imagery all around us in this season of turning.

Autumn - closup view of a Vine leaf in back li...

The U.S. Forest Service tells us that:

In autumn the production of chorophyll, the green pigment in leaves, slows to a halt. Carotenoids and anthocyanins, yellow, orange and dark red pigments, are exposed in the leaves, giving them their characteristic autumnal colors.

It is so interesting to me that the other colors are in a sense already there in the summer when all we can see with our eyes are the green, but when the green pigment is taken away other colors are revealed.  Truly ours is a world filled with color and light, and this truth is a glorious banquet for the eyes of the artist who would purposely set about to observe nature more intently.   

Something my painting teacher, Jim Faber, (who was a wonderful colorist) said is that in light there is all colors and so when we paint we can attribute color to places that we know, scientifically, are there.  For example, we may see only a light yellow in a flower, but knowing that light is full of color we can gently and judicially place other colors of the same value within that yellow, understanding the properties of light.

As I have been reading through the book of Job lately, in 38th chapter, the 14th verse says, “As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors.”

And so in Fall classes we will be studying many facets of the tremendous art forms called drawing and painting and a facet will be how this world was created with wondrous color and light. We learn, step by step, how to take in that magnificent visual world around us, and translate it onto canvas or paper to be a beauty and delight to the people in our corner of the world. Happy Fall and happy creating!

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