As you can see, the tomatoes of my 2020 summer garden are beginning to ripen and turn red. It was interesting to find the different stages of tomato ripeness hanging so close together on the same branch of my bonus unknown tomato plant. You might be wondering how I came to have a bonus unknown tomato plant. Well, for starters it’s a volunteer from last year, so that makes it a bonus. And since I didn’t actually plant it, I don’t know the variety. It’s probably the result of an overripe tomato falling off one of last year’s plants and somehow reseeding itself. That’s probably not so unusual for a SoCal garden as we rarely get freezing temperatures in winter, and last spring’s rains helped out I’m sure. Last summer I planted a Better Boy, Early Girl and some kind of cherry tomato that was supposed to be a Beefsteak tomato. (I think what you’re looking at are Better Boy tomatoes). When I spied them on Tuesday I greedily imagined the joy of eating that red one for dinner (which I did) and loved the idea that there would be many more coming on for many 2020 summer evenings to come. I love to imagine an unexpected plant that would bear even more fruit so I could share with others. I think I remember my son’s Great Aunt Ruth saying that you should always put in a garden with sharing in mind. I like that idea a lot and have already started. (I gave away a couple tomatoes on Thursday to a lady who walks her dog past my house.) This isn’t my first post and art of tomatoes from my July garden. I wrote about last year’s tomatoes and garden for my July 6, 2019 post. That story was another kind of tomato bonus as I also included a “tomato” story I wrote for a children’s magazine in July 2001. I say bonus for that post as the article included a pizza sauce recipe using fresh tomatoes and other veggies.
I don’t think the prospect of red ripe tomatoes in my garden had anything to do with my choice to sketch red things at the Descanso Gardens on Monday. When I saw this amazing red urn with greenery I immediately sat down and did the first sketch. (There is an area in front of the train ride station that is planted with all kinds of colorful summer plants, with several large red urns stationed around—it’s very dramatic.) At first it was a little touch and go when I realized I didn’t have my lovely Scarlet Lake or Cadmium Red with me. But somehow I made do with a mixture of Cadmium Red hue and Alzarin Crimson hue from my tiny Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Sketcher’s Pocket box. Actually, I think the bark-colored Inktense pencil I used for the outline and shading helped to warm up the color of the pot. If you have been following my blog you may remember another red urn I recently sketched at the same location—see my June 20, 2020 post. For that one I used what I call my “just add water” technique where I draw something with Inktense pencils, then add light sprays of water, letting the pigment bleed where it will. For today’s sketch I wanted to have more control of how the color spread, so I did the outline/shading of the urn and flowers with the warm colored “bark” Inktense pencil, then I added red and green watercolor pigment only. For the lamp post vignette I used my cool “sea blue” Inktense pencil, then I added the same red and green as before. I’m always amazed the different feelings and affects you can get when using warm colors, like the “bark” brown, compared to the coolness of a color like sea blue. Color certainly can evoke a feeling I think.
In the mid 80s it was very popular for women to have their colors done. I’m guessing this wasn’t just a phenomena in CA. (I just Googled “having your colors done” and it appears to still be out there, and it’s not in CA only.) Colorists, as I think they were called, had stacks and stacks of different colored fabric that they would place just below someone’s chin. As the different colors were brought out the person would be asked how the color made them feel. And the colorist would usually say something about whether or not the color was a cool or warm tone. I never had my colors done because of course this was not a free service, but done for a price as a consultation by a trained colorist. (From Google dictionary: a colorist was an artist or designer who uses color in a special or skillful way.) Once this process was completed you were designated either a “spring,” “summer,” “winter,” or “fall,” and assigned specific colors to wear, with emphasis on the coolness and/or warmth of “your” colors. You were also given fabric samples of your best colors that you were to carry around in your purse. Then when shopping you could confidently go into a department store and use those bits of warm or cool colors to help select your perfect wardrobe. Even back then I remember thinking this seemed an arduous task as that meant you might have to look at every piece of clothing in the store, trying to find that perfect shade of red. I also remember wondering if clothing designers had gotten this memo—presenting clothes that might appeal to the “summer,” “winter,” “spring,” and/or “fall” person.
About this same time I was creating hand painted kimonos (see December 29, 2018). Many of my designs were hanging in a vintage clothing store (Rags to Riches) in Los Gatos and the owner of that shop was adamant about the silliness of “having your colors done.” She would get angry and just say something like, “WTF, just wear what you want!” I agreed with her then and still think you should not look for a full proof way to pick out what you wear.
It’s funny, but there is one more CA girl chapter in this “finding your colors” story. In 2011 I was wandering the aisles of a fabric store in Grass Valley. I was looking for inexpensive fabric for a project I had planned to do with some students at an elementary school I was working at. I had learned how to make rag rugs and wanted to invite some regular ed kids to come to my room at lunchtime to do crafts with my special ed kids. As I was telling this story to the store owner, another woman in the shop came up to me and said she was cleaning out her garage and that she had lots of fabric she would gladly donate to the cause. OMG! Can you guess what she had been doing since the 80s? Yes, she was a “trained” colorist and had all this fabric ready to help people “find their colors.” It seems her husband was trying to clean out the garage and was hoping show could let all of this go. I guess she was ready to let go of the fabric and let people dress themselves without any help from her. We agreed to meet in front of the fabric store the next day and she would bring me the fabric. When she opened the trunk to her car I couldn’t believe the bags and bags of fabric she had. She actually seemed relieved to get all this out of her garage, and I was delighted to have it for my project. As the kids and I went through the bags over the next weeks, it was shocking to see so many shades of red, pink, yellow, black etc. And some of those colors were outright ugly! It made me a little sad to imagine someone carrying around ugly colors of fabric in their purse, waiting for the opportunity to use them. Would you wear a color because someone told you to? Even my mother let me choose my clothes when I was young. I guess my advice on this subject is to be sure not to do that and wear whatever color you like, whether you think you are a summer, winter, spring or fall. However, there are some strange warm and cool shades of brown that should not be worn by anyone. I mean, I like drawing with my “bark” colored Inktense pencil, but wouldn’t want to wear anything that color. Just sayin.’