Spots of color popped up throughout the landscape in my area this week. Yellow daffodils, lavender and purple hyacinth, pink and maroon flowers on the plum and redbud trees, and blue wild flowers emerged after several days of warmer temperatures, rain, and sunshine. Along with the colors, I sensed spring’s emerging presence leading to the enlightening prospects of the season.
Colors of the Rainbow
Seeing the colors while running, biking, and walking my dogs reminded me of when I first learned the colors of the rainbow, way back in first grade. I remember the art teacher telling the class about Roy G. Biv, the acronym for red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, and violet. This was my first exposure to the acronym concept (creating a word from the first letter or letters of the parts of a compound term), so I was a little confused, but quickly caught on once we did an exercise with our crayons, coloring a rainbow above a cloud.
Though I was never what I considered very creative, I did enjoy art class throughout grade school. I liked coloring with crayons best, for it reminded me of the many afternoons my mom spent with my sister and me, coloring on the living room floor or at the picnic table on the porch. Mom was always the best coloring person, giving life to the black and white pages of the coloring books by using a variety of colors from our box of 64 Crayola crayons.
Mom always chose the colors carefully and methodically, making sure what she created was as realistic as possible. My sister and I always marveled at Mom’s completed pages and aspired to someday be as good as she was at coloring. The time we shared while coloring is a cherished memory, and I am forever grateful to my mom for spending time with my sister and me, encouraging us to create, imagine, dream, and work hard to accomplish our goals.
As I see the colors emerging throughout the seasons, I believe God and nature are coloring the landscape, taking care to choose just the right hues for each flower, tree, shrub, animal, cloud, sunrise, sunset, and sky. Unlike my mom, God and nature are not limited to 64 colors to choose from. They have at their disposal as many colors as they can imagine and create, and use these colors to catch our attention, give us hope, and make us think.
Shades and Shadows of Life
God also draws His own lines on the pages called life, filling them with artistic grace and beauty, adding shades and shadows to give texture and dimension to His creations. Seeing the shades and shadows reminds me of a wonderful art teacher I met in third grade, who showed me how to draw better and give life to my sketches by using shading and shadowing techniques. I was fortunate to have this teacher for four school years and to participate in a special class he offered once a week to students he felt were talented.
This art teacher also exposed me to pastel sticks, charcoal pencils, acrylic paint, and different paper types. He was also a nature lover, often drawing deer, landscapes, and birds as examples for the class to examine and use as guides for our own projects. I think it was this shared love of nature and the outdoors that allowed me to connect better with my teacher and in turn allowed him to draw me out of my shy shell, exposing talents I did not know I had. As with my mom, I am forever grateful to him for his patience, understanding, and willingness to share his knowledge with his students.
In hindsight, I do believe God was acting through my mom and my art teacher, providing me with encouragement for the journey ahead. I also think the variety of mediums my mom and my art teacher exposed me to laid a good foundation for becoming more open minded and willing to try different things in life. Like many lessons in life, it took me some time to understand and learn how to apply the lesson, and I am still learning every day how to hone and improve my skills.
As my interest in nature and art grew through my teenage years and beyond, I learned additional lessons about color, shades, shadows, textures, and dimensions. One lesson that has been most helpful personally and professionally deals with the concept of warm and cool colors. Red, orange, and yellow are considered warm colors, for they are vivid and energetic. Blue, violet, and green are considered cool colors because they give an impression of calm or soothing nature.
Colors have psychological properties, appealing to the body, mind, emotions, or a combination of these three. Red has the longest light wavelength, and catches our attention. It is considered to be physical, for it stimulates us and evokes a response. Blue is considered to be intellectual, for it affects us mentally, connoting clearer thoughts and serenity. Yellow is considered to be emotional because its brightness has the power to lift the spirit. Like red, yellow also has a longer light wavelength and is more noticeable to the eye. Green is considered to be a color of balance, for it is in the middle of the color spectrum and does not require our eyes to adjust in order to see it.
- Porphyrins, which include chlorophyll and produce green colors
- Carotenoids, which tend to produce red, orange, and yellow colors
- Flavonoids, which tend to produce purple, magenta, and blue colors
Plant pigments often combine, resulting in shades or variations of different primary colors and a variety of colors in the landscape. The nutrients plants absorb from the soil act as food for the plant pigments and often have an effect upon color, as well as plant health.
The atmosphere also plays a part in the color of an object. Objects actually reflect waves of light rays, and the reflected amount of light is what is seen as the color of the object. Depending on the light waves in the atmosphere, colors may be seen or hidden, bold or pale, bright or washed out.
Absorbing and Exuding Life
Like plants, we also absorb nutrients from our food and surroundings. These nutrients play a part in determine our physical skin color, emotions, moods, and outlook on life. What we consume may be in the form of food, words, sights, sounds, or some other medium. Eating healthy foods promotes good skin color, acute senses, and physical strength to support our daily activities. What we take in gives us energy and life. Sharing this energy in turn promotes more energy in the lives of those around us.
Similarly, if we read and listen to intellectual materials, we gain knowledge necessary to move forward, overcome obstacles, and promote a good atmosphere for others. In a sense, this information “colors” our minds, affecting our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. This in turn has and effect upon our actions and others around us.
So, we need to be mindful of what we consume and what “crayons” we use to color our world. This is yet another reason I prefer to be outside with nature—it provides a variety of colors beneficial for the mind, body, and soul, along with a more positive outlook on life to share with others. Nature’s coloring book has no bounds or limitations; it simply starts with a new page each day, creating pictures of life full of color, dimension, and texture to explore.
May the colors we see around us give us hope, inspiration, and energy for our journey. May the crayons we use in our coloring book of life allow us to create rich experiences, fond memories, and great lessons for those around us.
Nature’s Coloring Book
Red in the sunrise, tulips, and cherries,
Orange in the sunset above, tiger lilies, and berries,
Yellow in the daffodils, lemons, and buttercups,
Green in the grass of the hills and rhubarb coming up,
Blue in the sky, oceans, and ponds
Indigo in the night and the moon blessed by God,
Violet in the pansies, lilacs, and joe-pie weeds,
All living in nature’s coloring book that has no boundaries.
Pink and peach, crimson and raspberry,
Cornflower and silver beneath the sunrise that carries
The light of life within its beams
Stretching far and wide to reach
Every object, every molecule, every aspect of time
Created to reflect and refract the light
So the soul may look, the heart may feel, and the mind may dream
All within nature’s coloring book without any boundaries.
Red in the roses, apples, and the dawn,
Orange in the citrus groves and fires that crackle in the dark,
Yellow in the candle’s light, bananas, and daylilies,
Green in the limes, peas, and the Canaan trees,
Blue in the streams, rivers, and night skies,
Indigo in algae, hydrangea, and galaxies,
Violet in the butterfly bush, bee balm, and plum trees,
All living in nature’s coloring book that has no boundaries.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Pigment classifications – http://courses.chem.psu.edu/chem203/PlantPig.pdf
Psychological color properties – http://www.colour-affects.co.uk/psychological-properties-of-colours
Warm and cool colors – http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-theory-intro.htm#warm_cool_colors