(please read this at a park)
There are hundreds, if not thousands of shades of green, but there are two basic “types” of green: There are greens found in plants, leaves, grass, and living things; and then there are the various hues and shades that we assign to things that are manufactured, produced, or painted. The “organic green” has a specific quality and energy that is unique to living things. The “artificial green” is simply a mixture of chemicals engineered to reflect the particular portion of the visible spectrum between yellow and blue (ROYGBIV).
The difference between the two types of green becomes apparent in many situations. I recently recognized the discrepancy driving on a U.S. interstate surrounded by forest on either side. There were green road signs along the route indicated various exits and intersections, and grass and trees on the roadside. It was late spring near Chicago. The leaves and grass were new and vibrant. The signs along the road were… well, they were green; just green. It was immediately apparent that they weren’t alive, or breathing, or growing. They looked to be relatively new because they were brightly colored, but there was nothing special or remarkable about them. There was no reason to look at the signs any longer than needed to glean the displayed information. “ Nope, that’s not my exit.” The grass was a uniform, earthy tone of green. The leaves on the trees took on nearly every hue of green imaginable depending on the density of the trees, the way the sun hit the surface of the leaves, and how young or old the leaves were. The trees and grass made the drive impressive and enjoyable.
I turned off the highway and entered the town of Lake Bluff (to meet a client). My eyes passed from one street sign to the next, scanning for the street I was looking for. The street signs were a similar shade of green to the signs along the highway but much smaller. “Moffett Rd.” , “Maple Ave”, “Sunrise Ave”. I had passed the street I was looking for. I turned the car around and consulted My GPS, then I realized that I had arrived much earlier than expected. I thought for a moment about what I should do with my spare time. I looked out again to gain my bearings, and it was decided for me: ahead of me was Sunrise Park. There were tall trees with fresh leaves, contrasting patches of brilliant green grass in the sun and in the shad, and intricately twisted ground coverage… raspberry bushes, maybe? I found myself on the coast of Lake Michigan, but it seemed more accurately described as a sharp edge than a coast. There were simple, brown park benches spaced throughout the park. I left my car and approached one of the benches. It appeared relatively new and sturdy, but it had already assumed a weathered charm. The living green of the park had drawn me in. (The deep blue of Lake Michigan was not wasted on me either.)
“The Lake Bluff Park District will be spraying weeks in the park tomorrow” read a white plastic sign in forest green font. “The park will be closed from (approx.) 7:00 to 11:00”, it continued. There was a carefully designed logo for the Lake Bluff Park District also in forest green. Finally, I noticed in very small letters “The park will re-open when the spray has dried”, at the bottom of the sign. The writing on the sign meant nothing special to me. That green, like the road signs I had encountered, failed to draw me in or evoke any response the way the leaves and grass had.
I took a picture of the park. I look at it now and realize that, like so many pictures, it fails to do the setting justice. It is a picture that I like to look at, but only as a reminder of what it was like to actually be there.
The best we can accomplish is to mimic the colors of “living green”. The green signs on the road and in the park were an attempt to blend with the natural green surroundings. We have engineered hundreds of shades of green: Forest Green, Jungle Green, Lime Green, Emerald, etc. Each of these simulates a portion of the spectrum of colors that is found around us. There are different shades of green, but still only two “types”. Nature has not only color but also texture, depth, surface, finish, and feel. Often there is even a corresponding smell, and even a taste. Consider the smell of fresh cut grass, or the texture of the veins and pores of a broad leaf. There is an unmistakable, refreshing taste of a lime that comes to mind when you see that particular organic shade of green.
Texture can be incorporated by the best artists to enhance realism, or to create a certain, desired perception of the subject. Seurat used small dots of multiple colors to involve the eyes the way they would be if observing a natural scene. Van Gogh used streaks of color, thick brush strokes, and heavy “globs” of paint to create an additional dimension that can be perceived, and even touched if permitted. These masters capture an additional element of the senses that a photograph cannot. Their focus is shifted from visual accuracy and acuteness to other sensory elements in order to accomplish a more complete depiction of the subject.