In art, the color green symbolizes growth and transformation. In nature, it is evident in the way fragile yet strong green stems emerge from the ground in the Spring or how green buds blossom on the trees, signs of more to come, of growth and life. For one three-year-old boy, the color green and its symbolism took on a personal meaning.
It was my first year of teaching art at Brooksfield. One of my students, James, a quiet three- year- old, had a favorite color: green. Whenever I offered a colorful selection of oil pastels, he would use a green one to draw a spiny dinosaur. He would paint green mountains. He would choose green yarn for weaving projects. His artwork was usually on green paper. We all knew he loved green.
A few weeks into the year, I was teaching a lesson on primary colors. We used white paper for the background and I set down red, yellow and blue paint at each child’s place. James’ eyes filled with tears. He noticed the absence of green. He asked for the green paint from the bottle but I told him that we were only using primary colors that day. I told him that we could make green from the colors he saw in front of him. He was incredulous.
As I showed the class how to mix primary colors to make secondary colors, James’ eyes widened. I dipped the brush into the yellow paint and mixed it with blue paint on a separate plate. When James saw the color green emerge as yellow and blue mixed together, his jaw dropped and he looked at me as if I had performed some kind of amazing magic act! The transformation happened right before his eyes.
For him, the transformation was literal: blue mixed with yellow transforms to green. For me, it was witnessing a student have this fantastic “lightbulb moment”, going from an upset child who wanted green paint to a mesmerized, empowered child who had a magical learning moment. He beamed! Transformation. Growth. “You mean, anytime I have blue paint and yellow paint I can make green paint!?”
James is in high school now, and I recently had the pleasure of seeing him perform a leading role in his school play. In the beam of the spotlight, it was obvious that he was no longer that shy little boy that I knew so many years ago. He probably doesn’t remember the day he learned how to make green. I know that he has had many “lightbulb moments” in his educational career; I was grateful to witness one of them.
In art, green symbolizes growth and transformation.
Indeed, it really does.