Yellow

Just between you and me, I don’t think yellow has it all together …

Yellow is the colour-equivalent of gold among pigments, but the traditional colour of lunatic asylums, and also of dandies. So, upon just a cursory glance, yellow could be described as rich, cowardly, crazy, extroverted, and a fop. How can one colour present itself in so many different ways?

Maybe its indecisiveness is the reason why yellow doesn’t historically enter into the artist’s palette until much later. Although there are entire hills made out of ochre in Europe (while here in Canada glaciers scored yellow from the earth during the last ice age …) its cave-art doesn’t make use of yellow amid their red and black silhouettes. Maybe cave-painting is so decisive in it’s nature that there wasn’t room for such a unstable voice on the cave walls …

Yellow will focus though—if you manipulate him. Carefully heat a yellow iron-ochre and he’ll become decidedly red. Offer him just a little black, and he’ll become a beautiful green. Simply throw yellow into an open fire, and he’ll settle down into a solid, “burnt” brown. But, while getting yellow to present himself in one way can be useful as an artist, it isn’t really that I want to change who he is—it’s just that his inconsistent nature gives me a headache: Which tale am I ready to believe from yellow?

But this is a a typical problem for me: In my own travels, I’ve found many good siennas, and an assortment of other bright browns, but very rarely a bright yellow ochre on the Canadian landscape …