Elephants are grey and tree trunks are brown

One of my favorite albums growing up was by Harry Chapin.  I think it was a Live album.  Recently, my DH and I got a greatest hits type album.  I was a little disappointed that one of my favorites wasn’t even on it (30,000 Pounds of Bananas).  I did discover some new-to-me songs of his and one of them has been running around in my brain a lot lately.

It’s called Flowers are Red.  Like most of Chapin’s songs, it is a story.   The most effective way for you to understand is to actually read the lyrics:

Lyrics to Harry Chapin’s Flowers Are Red (orig. released on Living Room Suite, 1978)[1]

(“Rant, rant, rant, rant, rant, rant” – It’s an education beat.)

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said, “What you doin’ young man?”
“I’m paintin’ flowers,” he said
She said, “It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one”

And she said,
“Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said,
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

Well the teacher said, “You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me,” And she said,

“Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said,
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

The teacher put him in a corner
She said, “It’s for your own good”
And you won’t come out ‘til you get it right
And are responding like you should”
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said… and he said,

“Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

Well, time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smiling
She said, “Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one”

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said… and he said,

“Flowers are red, green leaves’r green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.”

But there still must be a way to have our children say,

“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”


[1] Lyrics ©1996-2002 Harry Chapin, taken from www.harrychapin.com; album information
from www.allmusic.com.

Are you still with me?  It’s a beautiful song to listen to.  Chapin is masterful at using instrumentation and his voice to add to the story.  When he is the little boy, he changes his voice, sweet and wonderful at the beginning, sad and depressed at the end.

Which all brings me to my subject line.  Elephants are grey, right?  Nope, not today.  Today, my elephant is blue with red polka dots.  (This is day 5 of my decorated business cards).

Day5

And tree trunks are brown, right? 

I’ve been thinking about my first 12x12x12 and the tree I’m trying to depict.  I had decided to use threadpainting, and yesterday I stood contemplating my thread colors.  The first thing I discovered is that most of my browns are actually tans, and weren’t dark enough for what I wanted.  It also occurred to me that I was thinking "brown" like the color of a brown Crayola crayon.

Dsc00740

Well, that’s a very nice brown, but really — how many trees are that actual color?  My dogs thought I was nuts running around the yard taking pictures of trees (and it was kind of cold, so it was kind of crazy…)  But look!  These tree trunks don’t look brown to me — they are more grey and silvery and green and can you see the lines of red running through them?  Wow.  Now that I look at them more closely, they actually make me think of elephants, but maybe that’s just because I have elephants on the brain at the moment.

Collage

My tree is supposed to be more stylized than realistic, but already I feel like even in stylizing it, I’m going to do a better job today than I would have even a week ago when I still thought that tree trunks were brown.

Last night I did play with some threadpainting on the longarm.   And even though I did use a few of my browns, I threw in some olive green, and the color is not so bad.    I have some technical issues to deal with as far as what I ended up with.  I used a water soluble stabilizer, so the tree trunk is just thread.  I didn’t catch the edges well enough, so it’s falling apart around the edges, but I know what do to differently next time.  Plus, I think I have an idea as to how I can still use what I made last night.

Well, I have now well-exhausted my morning computer time, so I’d better go get something useful done.  I did manage to finish a customer quilt yesterday, and need to go get some more done.  If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me on my journey of discovery.  I’m having so much fun and can’t wait until I have my next epiphany!

5 comments

  1. Jeri says:

    I have two words for this whole post – WAY COOL! We always liked Harry Chapin too – isn’t that song great?! I love your tree trunk study and can’t wait to see your 12/12/12 piece.

  2. Vicki says:

    Thank you for taking so much time to post your thought process! Can’t wait to see what you do with the tree trunk study. Also saw your post on LAC about the huge thread order. Please take a photo – I’ll bet it will be so cool to have that much color around you! I just love thread….and fabric and buttons and beads and fibers and paint……there’s just never enough.

  3. Susan says:

    I’m a Chapin fan, as well. I remember both songs fondly. It’s funny that you have this whole thing about color. My 12 x 12 x 4 was causing me to think of similar issues yesterday. We drove through the desert and I took a dozen pics of saguaro cactus, because I need to get the greens, and even some other colors, just right. I paid attention to all the greens out there, and was surprised to see how many fell into the lime-chartreuse range!

  4. Deb says:

    I loved Harry Chapin and especially this song. I saw him in concert several times and this brought back happy memories. Thank you. I also enjoyed your work. 🙂

  5. GranFranVan says:

    Great post. Harry Chapin had a way of getting tears shed didn’t he. “Cats in A Cradle” has been a favorite of mine.

    Those trees do look just like elephants! It’s amazing what you find when you really just look.

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