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Beginner Painters Can See Indoor Rainbows

November 2, 2014

bowl of flowers in cadmium yellow colour

Every morning, as I sit at the kitchen breakfast bar, eating my cereal, I watch the rising Sun cast a beam of light into the room opposite. On the table sits a crystal vase, always filled with flowers from our garden. This vase is shaped with three bulging curves down each side. Light penetrates the crystal, passes through the water it holds and exits from the other side, emitting a stream of photons onto the air.Every morning, my pent-up breath releases in a burst of delight and awe.

I witness, once again, the glory of a rainbow right there, inside my ordinary dining room.

  • As it leaves through the central bulge in that vase, the light starts to coruscate in a shimmering star-burst display of pure colours that change with every slight movement of my head. In an instant, Red changes into Blue, then Purple. Yellow melds with Blue to become Green. An Orange flashes, followed by an intense Turquoise. I sit, enthralled, until the Sun's angle increases and the colours fade away as fast as they appeared.

As a painter, my eye is always alert to colour. Colour led me to a layman's interest in physics. Colour is a property of the visible spectrum of light and light is what painting is all about. Light reflected by an object is what we perceive as colour and the effect of light falling on an object causes the shadowing we perceive as form. So, what we really draw and paint is the effect of light.

  • Discovering the Colour Wheel was the Eureka Moment of my life as a beginner in Art. The Wheel is the tool that allows me to be sure of my colour compositions before I even start a painting. Using it, I can decide on a dominant hue to suit the emotional tone I want a new painting to convey. Once I settle that, choosing the complementary and the discordant hues is simple.

Through the years since I was a child, I've always noticed indoor rainbows bouncing from the bevelled edge of a wall mirror, from the edge of a fine wine glass, from a drop of rain or dew on a leaf. Nowadays, I can enjoy the rainbows in a water tumbler lit by halogen spots in the kitchen. It can't be any accident that jewellers showcase their displays of diamond rings with overhead track-lighting of halogen lamps.
Yet, when I point them out – those everyday wonders of beauty – many folk exclaim with surprise and say they never noticed such effects before. Many people see only what they expect.

  • Beginner artists can develop the habit of seeing what really is, even before we gain enough scientific knowledge to explain it. Our other purpose, I think, is to express that wondrous reality, in paint or words or music, so others can see and feel it.

May you achieve success by whatever standard means the most to you.©Dorothy Gauvin

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