One of the most common and least interesting questions one is routinely asked is, “What’s your favorite color”. “Who gives a shit?” would for much of my life have been an appropriate enough answer. That’s before I became obsessed, and there was no question.

Up until a very specific point, my favorite color was red. Or we might say that as a painter, in my early 20’s, I really liked to use red in my paintings. The most coveted tube of paint [can you guess?] was … … … cadmium red, which was also one of the most expensive. And if you asked me why, I might have said red was the color of blood. And I confess that I did like to paint blood [see below].

Fun House Fever [1991], acrylic on canvas, 3X4′.

And, uh, just because I happen to have a close-up on hand, let’s go for a tiny diversion here:

And while we are on a detour, indulge me in also saying, “Holy Crap, that was 31 years ago!”

All that changed when I was 40, and I can trace it to a specific day, hour, minute, and instance. I was on a bike ride in Hội An, Vietnam, and my path took me along some rice fields. I was converted on the spot by the sea of green. I thought to take pictures, and did. I don’t think they really capture it, because instead of being enveloped in it, the green is merely a quadrant of a flat but luminous rectangle. The background is washed out, and I can’t say it’s the same shade of green, brightness, or saturation, but you can get the idea.

Rice fields, Hội An, Vietnam, January, 23, 2006

I see the color better if I dart my eyes around the picture than look at it directly.

It’s been green ever since. And I don’t just mean my favorite color. It’s kinda’ weird. And to demonstrate this weirdness, which apparently runs in the family, allow me to introduce my uncle Bob (R.I.P.]:

In the pic above, when you are done noticing his beard — and that he looks like Tom Hanks playing Chuck Noland in Castaway, if he hadn’t been rescued — you might catch on to the fact that he blends into the background.

This guy was a real character, and something quite like Chuck Noland if he hadn’t been rescued for an additional decade or two. I might mention that he buried his money in the ground, in a coffee jar. My sister tells the story where he gave her some money, she brought it to the bank, and the teller was surprised by how uniformly soft it was, almost damp. When a couple small nuggets of a certain psychoactive plant tumbled onto the counter, he asked, “Are these for me?” My uncle liked to wear only shorts [weather permitting] and carry a knife around his waste like Tarzan, who he definitely idealized. “We should go back to living in the trees!” was one of his common pronouncements. Me, being a bit more the hard-boiled realist, would point out that our ancestors didn’t live in the trees, but rather caves, hence caveman, “unless you mean going back to being monkeys proper.”

And we need to notice that it wasn’t just his shirt that was green, or that he’d painted the entirety of his trailer green. This also went for his pickup truck, and it included the hubcaps, handles, rear-view mirrors, etc. He was all about going back to nature.

And so one might be tempted to file away his choosing to immerse himself in green, along with the buried money, the perpetual Tarzan cosplay, and a laundry list of other quirks, under the peculiar traits of “that one ‘eccentric’ uncle”. Except that I, being somewhat more presentable as Chuck Noland before he was marooned on a desert Island, only really found fault with his choice of green, which was too dull for my palate, and palette. Though I did admire the bright orange paint spill that was never cleaned up because it looked cool. Barnett Newman, or Mark Rothko would have rested their eyes on that combo for more than a few seconds. Note that I only discovered his addiction to green after I’d converted on my own.

I don’t paint everything green, but my attraction to the color is a bit over-the-top. When I go shopping with my wife I will find green clothes for her. “Check out that shrug.” And it’s just a green shrug. I have green shirts and shorts. They are a bit more sage. There’s a green pen on my desk. There’s a green folder on my dresser. When I go to the Japanese restaurant, Fuji, I like to sit facing the wall-sized photo they have of a bamboo forest, because it’s green. I will fantasize about having that in my home.

But the worst example, where this just becomes ludicrous, is that of all the newish cars I see where I live in SE Asia, the only one I fantasize about having is a Nissan March. Why? It comes in green.

I don’t know anything about the car. I don’t even want a car. We have Grab. And buying a car because of the color is a level of sheer stupidity I wouldn’t think myself capable of. And yet, even now, looking at the picture above, it’s like looking at an icre-cream behind the glass counter on a hot day. I want THAT.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we’re fresh out of fresh green. We can offer you this blue model and a 20% discount.”

“No WAY!” I have zero attraction to the car above. Even the form is less appealing.

I just went for a bathroom break. You needed to know that. Noticed the shower curtain is green. The paper towels are in a green package. There’s a green bottle of spray cleaner. I insisted on getting place mats for the dinner table that are in the shape of green leaves. There’s a green Tibetan lantern.

I can’t get enough green!

My wife’s favorite color is also green. This is good in that she’s completely amenable to a bright green car, or house, but we’ll get possessive if there’s only one green toothbrush. “Why do you get the green one?”

Don’t worry. I can handle my addiction. I won’t buy a green car, at least until I’ve found out what other models I can get in green.

As an artist, there’s not much occasion to really use green, not if one doesn’t do landscapes. Aliens are only green in cartoons. That pinkish fetal grey is a much creepier color. My most green piece is, “Awakening Upon Death of the Bride of the Creature”:

And that does print out quite large at 30×48″ at 300 dpi. But that’s magazine cover resolution. Unless you are going to get right up close, you can print it out twice as large. Will need to put than on my wall one day.

I really should make more green artworks.

Do you have not merely a favorite color, but one you would make patently imbecilic decisions in favor of?

~ Ends

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22 replies on “My Curious Obsession with Green

  1. I never had a favorite color so my wife picked one for me (purple) – so now I can say I have one. Not sure how well embedded it has become as I scan the room and note the only thing actually purple in it is some photography contest awards in a color given, not chosen. You make me wonder, am I not observant of colors (say a rice field), is it that all colors have equal weighting or is there something emotionally wrong with me. Something to ponder for sure. Note, I do long for the fluffy white currently dominating my surroundings to turn back to green.

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  2. I like lime green and would definitely spend real money, if I had any, for that green Nissan March. Fortunately though, that model isn’t sold in the US. Lately however I’ve been drawn to a deep red, sometimes described as “barn red” or “antique red” in the designer house paint aisle. I’ve had arguments with color blind friends who insist it’s burgundy–it’s not, the red I’m describing doesn’t have that red-violet shade that resembles a 70s leisure suit. Oddly, it’s seen a lot in small kitchen appliances (think table top mixers and juicers) and designer utensils like cooking spoons and cast iron casseroles, supposedly to go with the industrial-rustic look that took off a few years ago. I don’t think I would paint a kitchen in the color, though. My daughter and son-in-law bought a house from a woman who loved red and painted her kitchen, among other rooms, a bright red resembling a Valentine–or fresh blood, if your mind swings that way. They joke about their “serial killer” kitchen, which kind of keeps me from entering it, which is good for my waistline. I think.

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  3. When I was young it was cliche time: black. I was goth as they come for a while, though not in a tacky way. There were no plastic skulls, fake vampire fangs or bats involved. Long black coats, black nail polish and make up, big black boots, and a lot of time spent sketching in cemeteries or ruins at night and working in black and white or with daaaaaaaark spooky themes. I still like inky stuff. But at some point in my late twenties, red became an obsession. I find cadmium can be a bit garish though, its red more towards burgundy/wine/crimson. Red sofa, red phone covers, bedding, hats, coats, clothes and a lot of red in my work if I can help it. And I do, in fact, have a red car. I’ve often been tempted to dye my hair red too, but have not gone that far… yet. Though I have gone for a temporary tint with henna. Have you ever thought about green hair?

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    1. I think you can make this into a post. Thanks for sharing. Very interesting, and that’s what I was looking for, to see if people have similar strong attachments to certain colors. I forgot to mention that Vincent Van Gogh loved his yellow.

      No, I wouldn’t make my hair green. Though, you just reminded me, in my later 20’s I used to shave my head (b/c another guy did it and it looked really cool on him), and I one day wanted to paint a bright green stripe on my scalp, like a flat Mohawk.

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  4. Well, you and I have more in common than I realized!

    I have gotten intense “color crushes” like what you describe throughout my life. I’ve cycled through quite a few colors now. Blue and green have been memorable ones that lasted years. I haven’t yet hit purple or pink.

    Green is a very suitable color crush for a person living in the tropics. When I was onto green, I also loved leaf motifs. I trust you have a lot of house plants.

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  5. My first water lily series, back in the 90’s, was called Echo Park, and I made a point of inventing as many greens as I could to illustrate it. It ended at Echo Park 16, but I never lost the chance to make a new green in each painting all the way to the end. The neat part about that is I only use a dozen colors to make all the other colors I want. There used to be some crazy Australian who spent a lot of time calculating and mixing to get just about any possible color from that dozen. Then I think his paint became unavailable because it was too toxic for USA standards. I used his paint and his method then, and still do (method, not paint) some 35 years later. I discovered an endless panoply of greens by using his formulas and modifying them to create even more variations.

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      1. I still have my home made mixing charts from that series, showing proportions of each color mixed together to make the new color. The source colors are numbered and the length of a straight line under each represents the quantity of that color in the mix. Then there’s a smear of the mix, both thick and transparent, to compare if I need to mix again. I only make a chart occasionally now, mostly I guess because I’ve been doing it so long (30-something years) I’m pretty familiar with the process. I will still sometimes come up with something odd and interesting and keep a record of that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I only barely dabbled in that sort of thing. It’s really something to analyze colors in that detail, and how to make and mix the dilute them. It’s like Kung fu exercises for artists.

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  6. We moved into this funky 100+ year old house 7 years ago, it must be painted with over 30 shades of blue, every wall, ceiling, tile, even the carpet, you name it all different, but all blue. It’s a good thing I love eclectic funky things, not everyone could live here!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Haa! Fascinating & fun!
    I’ve cycled thru the color wheel over time. Used to adore turquoise, then purple, then “rust.” Still love purple but my fav color to LIVE WITH (as opposed to loving from a distance) is deep madder. However: my “I’d marry it if it asked me to!” color is quinacridone nickel azo gold. LOVE it. Love looking at it, touching it, pushing it around, imagining that I live inside its glorious glow. It’s – – – magic. 🤗

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  8. ::runs back:: Btw. I once bought a car bec its paint was a luscious copper color with twinkles. Fortunately it was a terrific car. Unfortunately, someone blew thru a stop sign & t-boned it. Totaled, & it was only 6 months old. 😫 I had it rebuilt, repainted, & it merrily twinkled for 12 more years. So I get your feelings for that green car. Great color!!! 🤗👋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great story, Robin. Uuuuuh, you could do a “response blog post” with pics on this whole color thing. I’d love to see a pic of that car, if you have one, as well as of your paint colors and such. I looked them up, but I see the tubes and all, and would like to see pics that represent the color the way you like to see it. I had my favorite tubes of paint back in the day for sure, but I’ve been digital so long that I don’t have the labels for the colors anymore. I’m missing out. Need to take that plein air oil painting class I dream of.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! Pretty sure I have a snapshot of the car. It was 1980, might’ve been a Polaroid. Re the paint colors: Yes, the paint names themselves aren’t much help. I’ll post about the quinacridone nickel azo gold soon. The deep madder will take longer, partly bec I have to figure out the best way to display it and partly bec I don’t want them in the same post. They get jealous of each other. 😂 Also – yes – it’s easy to get far away from whatever we leave behind. I have to go back & forth between “traditional” & digital or I get antsy for whichever I’m not working with. That’s one reason I like to mix “traditional” with digital. No awkward absences or FOMO. Never did plein air. Too buggy. 😳🐞🐛🐜🕷🦟🪲🪳Look forward to seeing what you do with those outside oils! 🥰👋

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have similar issues about working in this or that medium, which is that I feel I am neglecting other mediums. For now, plein air oil painting is just a fantasy. To avoid bugs, it should be seascape painting.

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