Volume 1. Chapter 23. Color

Stained glass

The glazier was either a genius or crazed from lead in his blood. Panes of different sizes laid out in an uneven grid. Diagonal cuts alternating and interspersed sparingly. Colors arranged at random— pink, blue, green, orange, and gray in subdued tones. It had a pleasing effect but would never fit in a wall.


The perfect arc of primary colors, a complete spectrum of water and sunlight, God’s half-heavenly reminder to protect life on Earth is the artist’s model of transcendent abstraction. However, it’s useful only if we wrap that arc into a circle and stretch the circle from light to dark into a sphere.

Complementary colors

If you stare at a bright red object and close your eyes, its shape in green appears under your eyelids. All the more marvelous to see red and green on opposite sides of the color wheel.

All that glitters

The crown and gorget of a male Anna’s hummingbird flashes an iridescent rose not because of pigment or dye but because of the structure of its feathers, reflecting and absorbing light. Whereas a red pigment will appear red even in the shade, in the shade the hummingbird’s feathers are dark brown. If you combine lights of primary colors, you get white; if you mix pigments of primary colors you get black.

Unstill life

Flowers like insects. Candlesticks like bloated intestines. An unworldly creature painted on a card. A teapot, vases, a figurine, a full moon, everything painted the wrong color, so the eye can’t find anywhere to rest.


It would be silly to establish a principle that you should never follow a principle strictly to the letter.


No paint set can reproduce every color we can see. Then there are animals that can see more than we.

Farm fields

Abstract art should imitate aerial views of small fertile farms. Some fields are covered in flowers; some green; some brown. Some show weeds in blossom along their edges. Fences, hedgerows, path, streams, connect farm buildings, lakes, and patches of trees.


Colors of the fungi in a forest. Colors of the weeds in a field. Colors of leaves in the fall. Colors of cover crops on a farm.