The Colors of Our Lives

Be Bop A Ree Bop
copyright 2021, Molly Larson Cook
14″ x 11″
Mixed acrylic media and art tissue on
illustration board

“Everybody who has any respect for painting feels scared when he starts a new canvas. A person who has never been afraid has no imagination…Brilliancy is going toward color…”
–Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I make no claims to brilliancy, but Robert Henri and I agree that color is an animal that wags its own tail. My words, not his.

Poet Yevgeny Yevtuskenko wrote about color in his poem “Colours.” I give you here this excerpt from the original translation (there are others, none of them very good) that I read years ago in the tiny Penguin edition I carry with me still:

“When your face
appeared over my crumpled life
at first I understood
only the poverty of what I have.
Then its particular light
on woods, on rivers, on the sea,
became my beginning in the coloured world
in which I had not yet had my beginning…”

The colors of our lives are important.

As we head toward winter, the colors outside my window have changed from the dry and dusty brown of the long, hot summer to green with autumn rains to yellows with the falling leaves. There are no bright colors in this landscape: mostly grays, greens, browns shading to black. The blue of the sky when clouds clear long enough to see it is almost shocking.

In other places, the colors are different. When I lived by the blue Atlantic in snowy Maine, white became a color along with a blue I had not seen anywhere else. White everywhere in winter, and other colors seemed brighter against that light, including the blue of the sea. Red jackets were particular standouts, and it’s no accident that my long L.L. Bean raincoat purchased at the store in Freeport is bright red. Cardinals look especially good against the winter white as well.

Sunny southern California was awash in pastels and neon: signs, clothes, cars, flowers.

Color matters.

For me, music brings colors to mind. “The Colors of Jazz” was not intentional. I didn’t plan to paint a series about jazz, but as I listened to the music and looked at the work, there was a natural connection. These days, I’m thinking about the jazz of the 50s and 60s, bebop, and as I do, the abstract color work of the same period always comes right along.

As the light outside diminishes and days grow shorter as they will for the next weeks, colors will be my music, my dance, my favorite story, the face that lights my life.

Look around at the colors in your life. And bless them, every one.

4 thoughts on “The Colors of Our Lives

  1. Thank you all for these wonderful comments. It’s great to know that Art & Tulips is triggering good memories that go way beyond my own. I love the recognition of the many shades of white, the colors of the “B” boys in classical music, and that an Aggie school can bring culture. Remember, I have my M.A. in Creative Writing from that Aggie school!!!


  2. Molly. Thank you. Reminded me of many trips to Alaska and flying over the northern hemisphere’s landscape of mostly white, so many whites: Grays to blues to greens to off-white to brownish to sparkling, glistening white. I had no idea how many whites there were! Thanks again. (AKA Hap)

  3. Der Mol — my life is FULL of color –not only through my eyes, but also through my ears. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms — and “the boys” fill my life with delicate shades, beautiful lines, and inspiration, — every day.
    Now, my favorite colors are green — and any shade of deep purple-red.

    Love ‘ya, MJ

  4. I haven’t thought of Yevgeny Yevtuskenko for many years – like my senior year at Oregon State and a Russian culture class where we read some of his poems, but I remember him more for his courageous dissent and activism against the Soviet regime. See, even at an Aggie school, you can become culturally enlightened…..

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