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Jen Walls Shares Overview Of “Werner’s Nomenclature Of Colours”, Originally Published In 1814, It Still Has Relevance Today

We’ve seen a flurry of comments on social media about the upcoming reprint of  “Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours – Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts” By P. Syme. This book, originally published in 1814, was used by Charles Darwin during his journey on the HMS Beagle!  What is it’s relevance now and why are artists bemoaning the crises of their copy having not yet arrived?  The Rickie Report asked award wining, Internationally acclaimed fine artist, Jen Walls, to share an overview of the book (her copy arrived early) and to enlighten us.  

 

 

 

 

What joy to hold this gorgeous book in my very own hands, months and months after it was pre- ordered. Many are still waiting for their copies. How mine proceeded them, I do not know, except that maybe, just maybe, I was meant to gush over it for you, dear reader.

This book, originally published in 1814, was used by Charles Darwin during his journey on the HMS Beagle. I am giddy holding a copy of the very same, where emerald green is further described as the underside of wings of green broom moth and my painter’s mind begins salivating at such exquisite beauty.

In this book, there are no quinacridones, no fluorescents, no metallics. But who needs them when there is broccoli brown (head of black headed gull), French grey (breast of pied wag tail)and brownish red (mark on throat of red-throated diver)? And those are just the animals…the colors are further described by the vegetable and mineral counterparts.

 

“Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours – Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts” By P. Syme

 

Jen Wells “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” mixed media on wood

 

This is a modest book – not too large, not too lengthy. And the colors are soft swatches, timid and demure. The typeset is quaint and old and charming and somehow quirky in a QWERTY world. But is it a sign of a turning in the world of art? Could all of our modern pigments and toxic varnishes and plastic paints be perhaps going out of fashion, just a bit? There are a few visionary artists abandoning toxic mediums for those more friendly to animals, vegetables and, well perhaps even minerals. Could it, just maybe, possibly foretell a return to the wonders of simple watercolor? Not that our spray-painted boxcar tags or glossy resins will disappear – certainly not. And yet, in the wake of the Bullseye Glass hullabaloo and floating continents of plastic in our seas, it is a book that whispers remember when and bids us explore things as they once were.

 

Jen Well’s “Following the Moses Voice”, mixed media on board

 

If we were to rename colors based on the fauna of a modern world, would animals such as the Lebellula Depressa, the flesh fly, the Pochard duck or the warty newt even be in our vocabulary? I can see a modern red described as the gnarly crest of a Muscovy duck. Perhaps a black like the beady eye of a city rat. But our familiarity with the natural world has faded since Darwin’s time. We’d be better suited to naming colors after the current models of sneakers or cars.

Lest you think I am a crabby old fart, eschewing modern conveniences, I assure you I am a great fan of air conditioning, Instagram and my iPhone. But somewhere inside I long for the simpler times of chocolate red (breast of bird of paradise) and brownish purple red (red antimony ore).

 

Jen Well’s “Pongo” mixed media on plywood

 

 

The timing of this publication, so near to Earth Day, has me re-evaluating the eight-hundred million colors of paint in my own studio (only a slight exaggeration) and renewing my determination to use re-purposed supports such as cardboard, paper bags and wood rescued from the curb on trash day. But even if Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours doesn’t result in radical transformation of its readers, it does serve as a reminder of the deep connection between the colors we paint with and the animal, plant and mineral kingdoms they are inspired by. And I will raise my glass of aricula purple (egg of the largest bluebottle or flesh fly) colored wine to that.

 

 

 

 

 

About Jen Walls:

Mixed media artist and illustrator Jen Walls finds malarkey here, there and everywhere she looks. She paints it into whimsical girls, moody abstracts and soulful creatures. Walls writes an introspective (and sometimes humorous) blog to accompany new works. Her paintings were featured in the book “Blue Wild” with poet Mary W. Cox, and in “100 Love Notes” by author Hyong Yi. An illuminated novel by fantasy fiction writer Dana Kumerow,” The Storyteller’s Apprentice”, features Walls’ whimsical characters and the backgrounds of artist Brittany Tate and debuts this fall!

 

Jen shares, “There is malarkey here.  And there.  And everywhere I look.  I want to grab it all and paint it into whimsical girls, moody abstracts and soulful creatures.  The journey of my own existence, so serious and grown up, juxtapositions against this riot of color, texture and play”​.   

“The studio is my kingdom, and sometimes the paintings let me reign.  On off days, there is a wild rumpus of characters and creatures bossing me around, and on those occasions there are abstracts – other worlds where I can paint alone while the studio kids chatter amongst themselves.  In my work is experimentation, discipline, repetition, tenacity, intuition and exploration, along with paint, pen and paper.  Is there another way to create?  None that I know”.

“My paintings live in collections across the United States, Europe and Canada.  Works are displayed in juried shows, galleries and festivals.  There are award ribbons hanging on my wall – enough to make me feel very lucky.  Little pieces of me live on in multiple publications, including several books and magazines. I’ve been the featured artist in many venues, and a three-time artist-in-residence at a gallery in Ireland.  My demos and workshops help others find their creative inner wild child, and I am delighted to give public talks on the business of art”.

 

 

Join the adventure at www.jenwalls.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Rickie@therickiereport.com   561-537-0291

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