On November’s Easel: The Color Brown and N.C. Wyeth

The Color Brown in Psychology and Art:

The month of November brings thoughts of roasted turkey, a damp ground carpeted by now-brown leaves, logs stacked up against the house, and pecan pie. What do all these things have in common…? You guessed it—the color brown.

For the artist, there are several staples for shades of brown paint, one being Raw Umber. Artists use this shade when wanting a warmer choice for a shadow than what black provides. Furthermore, Raw Umber is great for tempering brighter shades, like green, into a more neutral color. It can be seen in paintings featuring earthy subject matters like landscapes or western art. It can also be used to illustrate isolation—think of a painting of a vast desert. The color can be used to illustrate depth: the warmer shades bring the subject forward, while the cooler shades push it back.

The color, brown, evokes a feeling of security, resilience, and strength.

The Color Brown in Your Home:

In the home, brown creates a warm, cozy, inviting space. It can also be used to create an earthy aesthetic. Brown will always be a popular interior color because it’s classic, yet before committing to painting all your walls brown think only of rooms that you want to be nestled into, like libraries, movie rooms, studies, or bedrooms because brown shades will absorb the light in your space.

Artist N.C.Wyeth:

Most of us are very familiar with Andrew Wyeth’s work because of the painting “Christina’s World.” Andrew probably became an artist due to his father, N.C. Wyeth, paving the path. The art talent trickled down the Wyeth family tree generation after generation, collectively amassing a great contribution not only to the art world but to the literary world as well.  So, I wanted this month to start with the man who started the family legacy, Nowell Convers (N.C.) Wyeth. You may be surprised to know you’re probably very familiar with his artwork. Walk into any bookstore and you’ll see his work on the covers of classics like The Last of the Mohicans, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and Robin Hood. His illustrations brought these books to life.

N. C. Wyeth was an American painter and illustrator born on October 22, 1882. in Massachusetts. He was one of four sons born to his father, a stone mason, and his creative mother, who held the family’s interest in arts, having close ties to great writers such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His mother encouraged him to pursue art when at the age of 12 years old Wyeth revealed a talent in watercolors. He attended the Massachusetts Normal Art School (now called the Massachusetts College of Art and Design). Here he was encouraged to pursue a career in illustration.

His first commission, “Bucking Bronco,” graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in February of 1903. He was twenty years old. This launched him into more illustrative work. In 1906, he married Carolyn Brenneman Bockius, from Wilmington, NC. Eventually, they had five children and created a home geared toward creativity to stimulate their children in creative pursuits. All five children became recognized for creative endeavors, becoming painters, a composer, and an engineer for DuPont, credited as one of the inventors of the plastic soda bottles  used today.

Sadly, N.C. Wyeth and one of his grandsons died on October 19th, 1945, when a freight train struck his vehicle. It’s stated a boy found their mangled bodies and guarded them from scavengers while awaiting first-responders to cut them loose from the wreckage.

What Can We Learn from N.C. Wyeth’s Life?:

I believe the takeaway for Christian creatives is applied in the homes we create for our children and grandchildren. N.C. Wyeth is remembered as a firm, but loving parent, who guided his children to use their imaginations and talents by providing them with a stimulating home in which to do so. What type of home are we creating for our brood? Is it sterile? Are creative messes discouraged? Or is it lifegiving, playful, and joyful? Do we invite our children into our creative time, or do we close the door of our studios and work alone?

In conclusion, N.C. Wyeth’s legacy surpassed his children and grandchildren. I chose the N.C. Wyeth painting above titled “War Letter,” for its use of the color brown and its sobering imagery during a time we see war exploding all over the media. While we remember all that we are grateful for this month, let’s be especially thankful we have yet to see the war waging on our soil and say a prayer for the innocent affected by war —that they may have the strength and resilience that comes not from a color, but from their Creator and Father… God.

Tammy Carter Adams is the founder of The Hallelujah House and co-host of said podcast. She resides in Central Florida with her husband Jay and their four children.

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