When We are Deprived of Colour…

If you’ve read my blog before (thank you), you will know that I am a big fan of Iceland –  see Colour At The Edge and Inspiration From Reykjavik. I was over again last week and something dawned on me. What do you do if your natural surroundings starve you of colour? Of course, I know there is colour in Iceland – the hot lava and the bubbling mineral pools (below) but much of the country is covered in barren lava fields (second image). Add to this the long dark Winters and the mild but often grey Summers and you soon discover that there are a lot of natural grey tones to this magical island.

 

A beautiful blue hot pool

A beautiful blue hot pool

Lava fields near Keflavik

Lava fields near Keflavik

So, a lot, even perhaps an excess of grey around.

What happens to compensate for the lack of colour is this…

Interiors BURST with colour

Interiors BURST with colour

and you paint your homes like this…

You Paint Your Homes BRIGHT

You Paint Your Homes BRIGHT

and your computer power cables get some treatment too:

power cables

and your road signs and bollards look like this:

Reykjavik streets

and one of your most celebrated Icelandic artists, Erro,  paints in this palette:

Icelandic Pop Artist Erro

Icelandic Pop Artist Erro

and shops look like this:

A Shop in Reykjavik

A Shop in Reykjavik

Ok, I think you can see what I’m saying. Starve the human psyche of colour and soon we will find our way to compensate.

Reykjavik Rooftops

Reykjavik Rooftops

But something else struck me on this visit. At first I thought the parks and small gardens looked rather untended. They were full of weeds, dandelions, buttercups and cow parsley mainly, growing out of every crack or gutter. But remember, it’s pretty difficult for anything to grow here on the hard lava rocks and the tricky climate. If you had a barren patch of land and a bright yellow flower appeared, you are hardly going to go and pull it out are you? They absolutely embrace little plants that we in Britain get excited about pulling out. I quite honestly see my garden at home with new light, and it’s not just an excuse to avoid weeding, it’s about appreciating life form.

Buttercups next to Tjornin

Buttercups next to Tjornin

 

And one last thing. Artist and product designer Almar Alfredsson, has just designed a set of wall plaques to commemorate Iceland’s 70 years of Independence this year. It’s a replica of a copper plate from 1944 showing the head of Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879) whose birthday, the 17th of June was chosen to be Iceland’s annual National Holiday  in recognition of his work on independence. And of course, why are these plaques so attractive and collectible? – he designed them in several bright colours of course!

 

Jon Plaques by Almar Alfredsson

Jon Plaques by Almar Alfredsson

 

 

 

Las Vegas to San Francisco – a Colourful Journey

It’s been a while since I last posted and that’s because I  escaped the floods of the UK and have been on a very colourful road trip from Las Vegas to San Francisco. I better point out though that jet lag is a new experience for me and my brain and my body seem to be strangely detached from each other so please bear with me…

We started in Las Vegas, now please picture the scene – Scotland to Vegas in one long leap. It’s midnight and we are slap bang in the middle of Las Vegas. We tentatively drive down The Strip in our new, rather huge, hire car (in clothes that felt quite normal when we left Scotland but suddenly feel like something from a previous century) on the eve of Independence Day. Our luggage is lost. Need I say more.

Before going to Las Vegas, a good friend who knows me all too well gave me some advice. She said, “go with it, don’t fight it”. I suddenly knew exactly what she meant. It’s not a city for me, it’s way too frantic and unnatural and it’s the only place I have ever been where I couldn’t find a single thing to point my beloved camera at. Call me a kill joy but I am just being honest. So, my photos are a bit odd and the one in the middle was an image my teenage son, who’s eyes were on permanent stalks, pointed out (!?!) – it’s apparently how you dress to check in at Sin City…

and my Las Vegas colours are red, black and shiny gold.

Next stop Grand Canyon. What can I say, it’s massive, it’s beautiful and the colours change every time you look at it. Stunning.

Burnt earths, violet shadows and dusty pinks.

The next section involved driving through Death Valley and the white hot salt pans of Bad Water Basin (125 F the day we were there).

Spectacular colours are smeared across this strange landscape. Iron oxide pigments are smudged over the alluvial fans. Hematite, limonite, volcanic ash and cinder all pop out across this chaotic geology. We could have been on Mars.

Head North and the Sierra Nevada protrude from the earth like a great wall. A wall we would have to cross to reach Yosemite. The high meadows were the first signs of greenery we had seen for hundred of miles. It was strange and very comforting seeing green again.

The first thing that hits you when you reach Yosemite National Park is the smell of fresh pine trees and the sound of the water rushing from the granite outcrops. All your senses are stimulated by this beautiful place. Pictures don’t do it justice (well unless you are Ansel Adams). It is exactly like walking around inside a beautiful fairy tale.

I could continue and tell you about the farmlands growing walnuts, cherries and peaches in amongst the wild wheat we crossed to reach the old Victorian Gold Rush town of Nevada City, a historical gem of a place. And the lush vineyards dripping with fruit in Napa Valley but I fear I may lose your patience plus, my brain is screaming for some shut eye.

So on to San Francisco, the final destination of our tour. It would seem obvious to pick  international orange, the paint colour of the Golden Gate Bridge, for my final colour palette but San Francisco is just too colourful to select a small palette. It is well and truly multi-coloured in every respect. For us, it was the colourful people we met who made San Francisco a special place. The taxi driver who knew more about the contemporary art scene and costume design than many curators. The heavily tattooed man who took time out to tell us what to do and see in Haight. The lady from the Commonwealth Society we met on the bus who invited us as guests to the Jean Paul Gautier exhibition at the De Young Museum .The people we shared a sushi table with at the Ferry Building who told us about Beach Blanket Babylon who have now become friends. San Francisco is about people, great people, and what a place to end a fantastic holiday.

Thank you USA!