Aggression is the other side of green.
As a 14-year-old downhill racer I was trained to attack the hill, to ski not just on top of it, but in it. At the same age I was also developing my approach to cello. My first teacher – a passionate violinist who adored Kreisler, who played always from inside the music – would beseech me to ‘stop playing like a girl’. He deliberately invoked my rage- so I roared.
Bless him. I might have remained a mouse, hyper aware of my environment and expert at invisibility, had he not prodded the carnivore in me.
So Mouse found her power. From there I developed card games in which I could dominate, energetic ways to push and pull inside a debate with family, and learned to love the exhilaration that came with playing the bass line in string trios, duets, and as principal cellist in two orchestras. For a deeply introspective kid it was a wobbly but decent way to explore my urge to join.
Later this approach became more sophisticated with my Uni friends and their fine fine clever minds. Even though my intuitive self felt heavy inside the quick of their conversation I could pull and move the feeling in the room with my cello ‘sensibilities’ – anchoring where I chose, releasing when I chose, pulling and pushing the ‘dance’ of it all – though I was not conscious of my manipulations. I didn’t know I was flexing my silent ‘roar’. I remember inflicting wounds, and feeling bewildered from inside my own invisibility.
I had an understanding that it was proper to be ‘mouse’ when not playing music.
You could call that naive, and it was. In retrospect I could also call my naiveté an abuse of personal power, since I was – unconsciously – manipulating the human ecosystem without regard for the effects of my ‘flexing’.
We all have this story, or a version of it; we travel into our powerful selves only by increments, we learn temperance through experience. I tell mine here not as a confessional but because it’s a way to feel what green is.
I offer the idea that green is the colour of naiveté, of newness and innocence. It grows into the colour of strength when tempered with awareness, and nourished by tenderness. I think we breathe green like forests do, and like leaves do, to filter toxins from the air and drink the sunlight- to feel the deep joy of spirit at peace.
I offer too that green is the breath that supports the roar of red.
Some painting notes, then – a technical application of Green in 2-D painting.
Both green and red are essential in my practise of painting. I tend to overlap yellows and blues on the page or canvas to make my greens, but the result is the similar, somatically. If I need to I use Hooker’s, Sap, or olive greens, but I avoid opaque greens completely. (Too many institutions were painted this flat, bad-tasting colour in the ’50s. I do wonder why.)
Here is a little green artists’ pigment history – (for more link to this excellent page here). It’s interesting that for me Emerald Green acts more like crimson on a canvas if used in it’s pure form – and the pigment used by Van Gogh and Cezanne was extremely toxic. A ‘not-green’, if it’s also rat poison.
Derived from the unripe berries of the Buckthorn shrub. It is highly fugitive, as is a sister-pigment, Iris Green which comes from the sap of the Iris Flower. During the Middle Ages, Sap Green was reduced to a heavy syrup and sold in liquid form. Today’s synthetic Sap Greens are lakes obtained from coal tar.
Also known as Schweinfurt Green, Parrot Green, Imperial Green, Vienna Green, and Mitis Green, this beautiful but poisonous of pigments was also marketed under the name Paris Green as a rat poison. As a paint-pigment, it was prone to fading in sunlight (an effect which could be reduced in oil paintings by isolating the pigment in between coats of varnish) and also reacted chemically with other colours. For instance, it could not be combined with sulfur-containing colours, like cadmium yellow, vermilion or ultramarine blue, as the mixture resulted in a deep brown colour. However, it had a brilliance unlike any other copper green known to modern chemistry. It is said that Emerald Green was the favourite pigment of the Post-Impressionist Paul Cezanne. In some of his watercolours, thin washes containing the colour have browned, but thicker applications have remained bright green. Van Gogh was another avid user. Modern imitations include “Emerald Green” or “Permanent Green”.