John Pack knows the topography of Paros and his Friday hikes are an important part of the program at The Aegean Center. They have been a tradition for countless years and introduce the students to the beauty and variety of landscape of the island. After several hours of walking in the hills amongst the olive trees or clambering the stone pathways the participants always return refreshed in body and spirit. As important as it is to experience Paros in this way there is something deeper happening for the visual artist. The immersion in landscape is a fundamental human experience. All color begins in nature, all sense of volume, depth, texture and light. Whereas the city environment surrounds us with angular monochromatic walls and hard vertical facets the natural environment is varied and nuanced. Bright flat surfaces are uncommon in nature, nearly every color is graded and shifts in one direction or another. The color changes that sweep over hills and sea elevate our awareness and can take our breath away. Natural landscape echoes our emotions with drama or calm serenity. We feel a surge of something like love in a beautiful scene. The painter needs to steep in this colored world, to imbue the mind with harmonies and relationships, to cleanse the eye of the artificial colors of advertisements which manipulate our lowest instincts.
The first step in the painting program at the Center is to break the hold that the primary colors have on the students by experiencing the subtlety of the earth palette: yellow ochre, burnt sienna, ivory black and titanium white. In Greece this is the original tetrachromy of ancient painters and comes from pigments extracted from the land. The warm red and yellow balanced by the cooling white and black create every possible permutation which color can undergo: value, temperature and intensity. With clean handling the blues and greens are easily obtained by mixing. This palette often feels too limited to the beginner but opens a new world once experienced. No other colors are necessary for landscape and portraiture.
Closeness to the land revives knowledge which may lie dormant in the artist. The combination of walking in nature and painting with earth tones gives the beginning painter a chance to expand vision and skill, and rediscover beauty.