As we celebrate EARTH DAY, let us remember to honor the potential splendor of our heritage. Let us listen to the music of  the flora and fauna of our world. Every day is Earth Day and we can, if we choose, try to preserve the precious and glorious biodiversity of our planet for our children, their children – and for all the species and ecosystems with whom we coexist.

We can celebrate the mountains: They call to us in different ways: We can climb them, write about them, photograph or film them or simply contemplate their majesty, cragginess and the changing hues as the hours pass. We might also be moved to paint them and capture their marvelously varied earth colors. 

Kaleidoscopic Mountains painting

Undulating Mountains painting

Scarlet Mountains painting

I generally love painting with bright, vivid colors.  When I paint mountains, however, I often use earth colors or combine them with a variety of brighter hues. Earth colors, defined by their intrinsic brownness and mined from the Earth, have been used extensively since ancient times, in fact, by artists throughout history. Ochre for example (which comes from iron that occurs naturally in the earth and from which we get many yellows, red, and browns) was found all over the world in ancient art. So was  yellow and red ochre umber  (which contains both iron and manganese).

There is Late Stone Age Art such as the Lascaux Cave paintings in France in which the red and yellow ochre animals were outlined in black. And there is Altamira in Spain where the paintings of bison were created in black, white, red and yellow. Rembrandt used dark earth tones, gold and light and shadow. Leonardo da Vinci used muted earth colors with tones of blues and green while Van Gogh used dark earth colors such as raw umber, raw sienna and bottle green.

There are various methods of achieving earth colors: Permanent Rose and Burnt Umber will make a dark brown, and different ratios of burnt sienna, burnt umber, blue and white will make a variety of earth tones. Or there are the ready-made, out of a tube colors that I mix to attain the hues I seek. The range of colors include: Burnt and Raw Sienna, Burnt and Raw Umber, Turner’s Yellow, Yellow Oxide and Yellow and Red Ochre.

Artists such as Henri Rousseau, Paul Cezanne, Georgia O’Keeffe have each captured mountains in their own way, be it largely through the use of earth colors such as yellow and red ochre, raw sienna and burnt umber, or through luminous and fantastical hues – rather than through the more muted tones. I have a series of prints available in my collection titled “Earth Colors”.

The mountains are calling and

I must go.

John Muir

I enjoy combining earth tones with bronze and copper. How amazing it is to behold a copper sunset over the ocean! How interesting it is that such a sunset occurs frequently near water and there’s a reason why: Seawater has lots of small concentrations of trace metals and copper, and the plentiful metal in the earth’s crust is also abundant in areas close to the coast.

Sunset Over Burgundy Mountains Painting

Sunset painting

Incidentally, copper is nutritionally important to a lot of marine organisms. Copper was the first, or certainly one of the first metals used by ancient people, in fact, as long ago as 8000 or 9000 BC. This reddish gold, malleable metal was used by Neolithic people in the Late Stone Age and also by Ancient Egyptians who were aware of its medicinal properties.

The history of copper is long and has been used in many different ways; it can be heated, melted and cast into utensils, tools or jewelry. The history of the use of copper for artistic expression is also long. About five hundred years ago in the sixteenth century, some artists began to make oil paintings on thin copper sheets which was an expensive enterprise for them.

In the 16th Century, Flemish artists Paul Bril and Jan Brueghel, painted on copper as did Dutch artists Adriaen Van Der Werff and Rembrandt van Rijn. The practice has continued. Not only is copper used as the canvas or support for a painting, but also for etching, engraving and printing. And now we can buy the ready-made metallic copper as paint or if we prefer to make our own warm, copper-colored paint, we can mix burnt sienna and cadmium red light or mix cadmium red with either cadmium yellow or cadmium orange for additional highlight .

An aside, ever wondered why the British police are called “coppers”? A possibility is that it is because they do “cop” – apprehend –  people. But it might be because the early police force had large copper helmets.      

For my painting and my subsequent collaborative video (which I created together with filmmaker Eric Cosh and music Composer Aaron A. Kaplan ) I payed tribute to those many committed individuals and institutions whose life’s work is the PRESERVATION of the BIODIVERSITY of our EARTH, people such as E.O. Wilson, John M. Anderson, Maarten De Wit, to name but a few. We are grateful to them and to so many others who have immersed themselves in the study of and conservation of our forestation, our wilderness, our oceans, marine life, coral reefs, animals, fish, birds, insects – our flora and fauna and caring about the climate of our globe. Let us remember that decisions have footprints – our prints left behind for our children and for all those to come. Let us be cognitive of our actions because we as individuals still have options: OUR EARTH: OUR CHOICE.

I painted a parched, devastated hemisphere in earth tones  for this painting, and used bronze, gold, black and white as highlights. The desolation of that hemisphere is a dramatic contrast to the fertile hemisphere I painted along side it, one of of lush greenness, growth and promise. These contrasts depict the fact that our decisions have footprints – our prints which we leave behind for our children and for all those to come. We need to be cognitive of our actions because we as individuals, still have options: OUR EARTH: OUR CHOICE.

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