True Colours

In a previous life as a nursery school teacher, I learned early that the majority of preschoolers already have a favourite colour. Give a three-year-old the choice of what colour that week’s play dough should be and the choice is usually definite: Bailey always chooses yellow. Dakota always chooses red. Jordan always chooses purple. Morgan always chooses blue. For whatever reason, these are the colours of their comfort zones – their feel good, true colours.

My true colour is green – that range from sage to avocado green if one must be specific. It draws my eye like an earth magnet to an iron bar. Give me a choice of a dozen wing-back chairs of different colours, and I’ll pick the green one, anticipating cozy, comfortable times relaxing in its green depths.

Colour is important.

The world in my glass studio is one of interacting and changing colour, a world of watching different kinds of light pass through or reflect from a piece of coloured glass. Whether the light drifts through or blasts through or tumbles through or bounces off will change the colour, tone and depth of the glass – alter its mood. Because one must respect what this changing colour does to a finished piece, it takes many contemplative hours in glass supply stores and in the studio to find the perfect bit of glass for each piece in the design.

This colour game is played outside the studio of course. You probably know it well. From choosing which spring-blooming bulbs will look best in your garden to searching for the paint that matches the spare bedroom quilt to finding the right colour scheme for your wedding reception, colour is important.

My father was colour-blind. He could build furniture like a master carpenter, grow enough produce each year to feed a small nation and figure out how to turn a bunch of garbage from the back shed into an awesome go-cart for his grandson, but the man was completely inept at finding a necktie that wouldn’t clash with his suit. Send him to the cupboard for the burgundy tablecloth and he’d return with the deep blue one over his arm and a questioning look on his face. He was asked to choose a paint colour only once that I recall. We did get used to the blazing, need-to-put-on-sunglasses-yellow family car, and I must admit it was easy to find in any parking lot, but I can say with some certainty my mother was expecting to drive a slightly more sedately coloured vehicle.

My most recent glass design challenge was a head-scratcher because of colour. It’s a large landscape piece of glass that my client wants – a piece portraying the water and sky and wind and rocks of the St. Lawrence River and the 1000 Islands. Now, I’ve designed and built landscapes before, but this client’s challenge was in asking me to build the piece with no colour. None. No water blues, granite greys, leafy greens. Not a hint of that at all. Zero colour.

This request knocked me for a loop – required me to run away from my comfort zone and ignore the importance of colour, concentrating instead on texture and opacity and the lines separating the pieces of glass. It forced me to be completely colour blind in order to see more – a novelty for one to whom colour is important!

Here we are in a season famous for its colours. Leaves have changed from fresh clean spring greens, through the strong, dark greens of summer and into the dusky deep greens of leaves breathing their last before morphing into autumn’s jewels. Fall in Eastern Ontario is a gift of colourful artwork to all of us who live and visit here with Tom Thomson views right outside our windows, galleries for absorbing the work of Thomson and so many other artists who paint, photograph and draw this season. Walk, bike, drive, and explore this little piece of heaven to give your eyes a feast of the colours of golden-orange pies, purple side-of-the-road wild asters, multi-hued apples, steel grey skies behind sunlit golden trees. Fall in love with the true colours of our world slipping away from summer.

Four seasons in Stone Mills - Custom stained glass artwork by Suzanne of Sageleaf Whimsy