Thursday 3 June 2010

Volcanic palette, translucent jet streams, passion-fruit paintings ...

Every thought about a volcano giving us a paint box? Bright colours - fiery red, scarlet mineral, vivid orange, incandescent yellows, gloomy greys, rich night azures, cerulean blues, violets, jade .. the palettes used by the artists of two hundred years ago.

Today the Icelandic volcano is giving us grey dusty ash, enveloping parts of Iceland, but my walls here seem to have a light layer – do I need to give them a gentle dust down .. I’ve never thought about dusting my walls before – have you?!

However .. some lucky, or unlucky folk depending on the wait time at the airports, have been given a fiery bonfire show of bright hot orange lava, huge white, silver or near white sparks erupting out of the dark depths below, as their plane took them on an excursion near the volcano, but around the ash cloud.

Iceland Volcano: Lava Explodes from Ice Cap - c/o National Geographic

Or, how was the jet stream observed and logged? Those powerful currents affecting us which race at the edge of our known universe .. but what of the winds rushing around other galaxies, ... there must be higher systems of wind interlinking with our jet stream.

The colours of the planets and the night sky – the pastel pinks and orange shades of Jupiter, or the pale yellows and beiges of Saturn, our own Moon when its creamy orb sits low in the sky, or the red, orange, blue and yellow of the stars above.

Pink-Red Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Colours have always affected us .. sun yellow for life, green for hope, purple for dignity, white for purity .. we’ve used them depict events, to dye our clothes, to paint our faces from time immemorial .. while in recent times we can see the effect these volcanic clouds have on our earthly colours.

When the huge strato-volcano”Tambora “erupted in 1815 it sent pulverised ash high into the atmosphere, which darkened, cooled and polluted the earth, giving us consequences ranging from the dire – a lowering of temperatures that caused frosts in Italy in June, and snows in Virginia in July – as of 2010 .. what’s different? to spectral sunrises and sunsets.

30 years earlier in 1783 the Icelandic Laki had erupted for eight continuous months causing mayhem across Europe and America – deaths of thousands, frosts in June, acid rains over forests, skin lesions in children, crops famines and the death of millions of cattle and could well have been a contributing factor to the outbreak of the French Revolution from the resulting hardship of these conditions.

Incandescent Yellow of Rudbeckia “Prairie Sun” : c/o

These changes were being noted including the beginning of the unusual atmospheric phenomena, recorded in a letter of June 1783 to Sir Joseph Banks, then President of The Royal Society. Krakatoa’s immediate aftermath was a year’s worth of awe-inspiring evening beauty – sunsets of purple, passion-fruit and salmon that had artists around the world trying desperately to capture what they managed to see in the fleeting moments before dark.

William Ascroft (or Ashcroft) one hundred years later (1883) recorded five hundred water colours that he painted, one every ten minutes like a human-film camera, from his Thames-side flat. These skylines, after Krakatoa, show the amber glows with crepuscular rays from the ash hidden setting sun – if you can look at the link .. the skies appear to show aeroplane vapour trails .. which we know cannot be true.

William Ashcroft painting “On the Banks of the River Thames” in London, November 26, 1883 - c/o - volcano watch

Following the Tamboran eruption in 1815, Byron wrote the gloomiest of poems “Darkness” (“Morn came and went, And came, And brought no day, And men forgot their passions in the dread, Of this their desolation ...”) describing ‘this year (1816) without a summer’; Mary Shelley, it is said, became so fed up with the rain while visiting Byron in Geneva that she followed suit and wrote her exceptionally gloomy novel Frankenstein, published 1st January 1818.

Turner’s: Chichester Canal’s vivid colours may have been influenced by the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815.

J M W Turner however saw the better side of the eruption as can be seen in his wonderful colourful atmospheric paintings of that time, Munch painting a decade later remembering the vivid lurid colours wrote about his painting “The Scream” and how it came to be:

I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.

Munch remembering the vivid lurid colours he painted in his "The Scream"

Those fire rainbow colours that were etched in the skies around the world allowed another great discovery to be made .. the equatorial smoke screen. Because the sunsets were seen to girdle the earth, an atmospheric scientist in Hawaii mapped these high altitude winds – that no-one until the 1880s knew existed: these air currents, this ‘equatorial smoke screen’, ultimately became known as the jet stream, which is somewhat ironic as today it takes Icelandic dust over Britain and Europe and ultimately around the world.

Reflected glory of reflected light gave us hues unknown to this latitude .. to delight our senses giving us an inkling of the lustrous surfaces of a distant peeping jade plant, dark blue, a rosea bellflower, dragon wing red .. colours those artistic pioneers and explorers could describe in paint or words.

I hope the new volcano will slowly subside into sleep and we can return to our normal lives with our earthly hues, without the ash altering our existence below .. so we won’t see those extraordinary sights giving rise to true artistic licence for a volcanic palette, but I’m happy to know of the fiery hues without having to see them through rose coloured ash clouds.

Dear Mr Postman – at last summer seems to have arrived for a few days at least, we have the cold wind from the sea – which keeps us in check .. but the sun is glorious, and the sky is blue – my mother sleeps ... and all is quiet and peaceful. Happy days!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Patricia said...

Another great post and I loved the colour references and connection.
I just planted Rudbeckia in the boxes on my porch - one of my favorite flowers.
We are having a wee bit of sunshine this morning and it is making me feel much better today - got in a great walk. Still cold.

Glad your mum is resting peacefully. On the 1st my friend Jane had a stroke and died a few hours later - then we went to a retirement party that evening - sitting beside a month old baby - I was struck by the continuation of life and the spectrum found in just one day.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. thank you .. I just loved the connections too - hence the post. Did you plant Black Eyed Susan varieties?

Oh dear .. strokes can be so sudden - I'm sorry to hear abut your friend .. there are some amazing recovery stories of stroke victims - so it's a sad time for the family. However as you say .. life does go on .. little ones following on behind - life looks after itself.

All the best .. Hilary

Chase March said...

Every kid I know is fascinated with volcanoes. I remember when I was too. I actually had to tell my class that they weren't allowed to make a volcano for the science fair project. It just seems so done. I wanted to spark their creativity by forcing them to consider other topics.

That being said, I like your take on this subject and tying it into art. Very cool! I should share this with my Grade 3's.

Jannie Funster said...

Loved thinking about the Edvard Munch painting in terms of pigments that come from the earth, volcano inspired.

How did you get to be so smart about so much??

hope the volcano goes soon back to sleep. I have gotten rather used to a relatively peaceful planet and hope it will return to than.

And hey -- I popped over here expecting to see a human skeleton on a horse skeleton! But nope, you've gone and updated the landscape. LOVE blogging and the surprises that await.


Blue Bunny said...

i lieks passin froots a lot.

and i lieks grapes.


Wilma Ham said...

I have heard how the volcano has erupted life in Europe. Nothing than seeing the power of nature making us pause. Oh I am pleased I am not a painter, how frustrating must it be to desire to capture nature's beauty, although the Chichester Canal's colors are amazing.
I have been guilty of dusting walls, I had to do that before repainting them, they are dirty!
Much love to you and your Ma, oh sunshine, you are lucky. xox Wilma

Vered said...

"I hope the new volcano will slowly subside into sleep and we can return to our normal lives" - me too!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chase .. me too – Krakatoa has always remained with me .. and tsunamis I definitely was frightened off .. but I know we all know more about them – then it was just a wall of water & I wasn’t a very good swimmer! But I thought big waves were pretty terrible.

That’s a pity .. a big explosion would have been such fun to witness! But it’s wise to ensure the kids are safe ..- there are few ideas here within the post that could be considered .. seeing through the fog, loss of plant life, the winds – that I found fascinating .. I linked something I’d found elsewhere – as you say art .. and colours .. and names of colours (Linnaean and Latin) .. even a brief note .. someone might remember, which could lead them into a career.

Delighted you found some interesting thoughts – you offer us ideas too .. thanks very much .. enjoy the weekend - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. thanks very much .. and I love your take on Edvard Munch .. I want to write about pigments sometime – been on the cards for ages, but something else comes up! Thanks Jannie .. I think my take is combining aspects together and these ideas came from at least four sources .. so it’s not too serious in its take, but intelligent enough for people to be interested to read (and comment) and if they want to look up other references or leads .. then those are there.

I know amazing what happens .. horse and man in skeletal format are still there (that's the good thing about blog posts) .. as well as who he is .. did you see they found his name?

It would be so nice if we could get the world in all its aspects to rest .. but we forever change & that’s something human’s cannot stop .. changing coastline, volcanic plate movement, continental movement and the fastest moving area on earth .. which would surprise you! Another post sometime.

Yes – Blogging is fun .. I had a wonderful surprise yesterday .. more anon .. have a great weekend .. & glad Kelly had some good times at the Lake even if not swimming .. happy times – xo Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Blue Bunny – me too I love passin froots .. deliciosa! I prefer the vino .. but grapes are gud too?!

Bye the way – I must write about "blue" sometime .. interesting bits of knowledge I picked up .. so your genes are very clever .. being blue! Happy weekend .. do you enjoy the tree house with Kelly and friends – or do they keep you out? Enjoy - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. it sure has interrupted quite a few peoples’ lives here and been a pain .. but nature is nature and there’s not much we can do .. but reading about other volcanoes through history is very interesting or terrifying when they come about.

The painters were the ones who could see the beauty .. I guess the colours were very diffused, with the spectrums being spread and merged – hence the colourations .. I just thought the link with the artists was so interesting – their recording of events as the effects were being felt – visualisation is a great communicator & with the net – we’re lucky we can see them wherever we’re sitting .. New Zealand for you & Sussex for me ..

Oh oh .. I’ve never dusted walls .. but then I’ve never painted them! Oh dear .. I guess a quick brush over .. I know pictures get grubby if they’re not cleaned – so I do those & behind them ..

Yup – sunshine: now it’s our turn! It’s taken long enough to get here! Thanks for your thoughts & love to you both too .. xox Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vered .. thanks for visiting .. appreciate this. The volcano certainly has interrupted peoples' lives .. but got the air industry looking at safe levels for the ash & flying - I'd rather be safe than sorry though.

Have a great weekend with the family - Hilary

Paul C said...

Interesting post about how volcanic eruptions have coloured our skies quite profoundly in the past and affected artistic creation.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paul .. many thanks - they must affect us if they impact our established way of looking at nature around us. Then they were recorded on what ever was available at that time - wall paintings, frescoes, and latterly paintings .. but being able to find the high clouds - our jet stream .. the coloured ash must have been quite obvious... I think is amazing.

We forget what great observers people are & how dedicated they can become .. the Wallaces, Darwins, Ascroft, the doctor at the Iron Curtain .. I mentioned in my Iron Curtain post late last year.

Thanks Paul .. nice to see - have a fun weekend .. Hilary

Claire - Gratitude Connection said...

You had me at "volcanic palette", and the Pink-Red Hibiscus is my all time favourite. Thanks for the beautiful images and graceful words.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Claire .. good to see you here and I love your gratitude journal ..

Great - I rather liked that hook too! I just found the whole thought about how volcanoes affect our colours and our world so interesting and mixing it with artists, hues, names etc .. gives us a different view on the effect volcanose have - apart from the disruption.

So thank you for your kind comment .. much appreciated! Hope to see you again - have a lovely weekend .. Hilary

Janice Lynne Lundy said...

Dear Hilary,
You have really opened my eyes this morning about the beauty that can be found in unexpected places. I never thought of a volcano and its activity in this way. Thank you!

I am deeply impacted by color. Perhaps that is why I loved Florida so much because its tropical beauty is simply explosive! I am trying to recreat the same in my garden right now. It is a riot of color (red giant poppies, purple iris, yellow day lilies, and more) and I am still adding more to the pallette! Bought 9 more pots of perennials last night to plant today. Such delight.

Love and joy to you today. xo

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Hilary, Volcanic erruption always reminds me how small I am. I imagine those who live in the vicinity of the Icelandic Volcano(es)are experiencing much hardship. There is little we can do about nature doing its thing but let it go its course and find the good in the experience later.

Lovely post.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jan .. good to see you here .. well there you go – there’s more to roots in Bodhi trees than you thought! I too hadn’t thought about all the magic a volcano could produce for some – not those in the immediate path though .. as we know to their cost.

Isn’t colour wonderful .. I love the rich hues of Africa and Persia, the turquoises of the sea – we get here sometimes .. let alone all the soft English tones of a meadow or woodland. Your garden sounds as though it will be a magic of colour in a few weeks .. I love those huge papaver poppies – the smaller ones appear in the fields of corn and barley later on here – giving our countryside a wonderful glow. I’ve been buying Mum deep blue irises to go with the daffodils and narcissi in the vase – now we’re on to whatever I can lay my hands on ... some blousey bright pink peonies .. beautiful. Would love to have a garden to be able to pick my own .. but no such luck. Still I can picture others ...

Be happy planting today .. & as you say .. summer is a wonder of delight – sent with love and hugs from across the pond over the volcano! .. Enjoy - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. yes – how right you are .. we are tiny amongst the explosive force of the erupting earth & its suddenness. It is extraordinary how much can be preserved under the ash then discovered to see wonders of times past. Though I wouldn’t like to be living in Iceland at the moment – or perhaps ever .. I’d love to visit one day ..

Glad you enjoyed it & thanks for being here ... Hilary

Davina said...

Hi Hilary.
This makes me wonder if things really are all that different than they were back then, regarding all the talk about global warming. I enjoyed reading the story behind the painting The Scream. It brings the painting to a new dimension to know the story behind it. Thanks for sharing it. I may have never known.

J.D. Meier said...

> sun yellow for life, green for hope, purple for dignity, white for purity
I like that. Interestingly, it was important for me to have a sun set at the bottom of my blog -- I liked the breath of life it created, in a serene way.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. I think you’ve hit a good point .. life isn’t really any different – they were pretty advanced them, but the earth was the same .. we were the same, cultures come and go ... so effectively all is as is & was .. the huge mega earth changing eruptions will occur sometime – the whole planet was one continent originally .. before it was split asunder over time (lots of it!).

Good to hear you enjoyed the info on The Scream ... it makes sense in the changes artists made with their palettes .. and makes us realise the earth does not sleep and there’s so much here affecting us – we’re just lucky we can see it and get a bigger picture more easily through the net.

Have a good Sunday - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. I noticed the words titling the sunset “stand on the shoulders of giants” – but not realised the insight that the sunset .. creating a breath of life in its serene setting ... had that meaning .. interesting.

I love colours .. they impart the fullness of life .. as well as take us back to our roots & brighten our days, or remind us of our long distant human past.

Thanks for visiting and have a lovely Sunday .. Hilary

Keith Davis said...

Morning Hilary
Clever post, lots to read and all held together by colour.
You're obviously a keen gardener, as I am, so you have probably agonised over various colour combinations in the garden.
Strange thing is, most of my best colour combinations have never been planned.
What caught my eye this morning was the combination of a vivid pink cistus and a light blue Caeanothus!
I know that it sounds terrible but it looks fantastic.
Have a great Summer.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Keith .. yes morning still! Thanks very much ..

Actually believe it or not -I don't have a garden - but we always did as kids and my mother always has done & I love the Eden Project ..and obviously other open gardens, or just sitting quietly with friends or working with them in the gardens .. and it is something that interests my mother - well at least the show of flowers gives her pleasure ..

When I have had a garden .. I agree & now with my few pots - it's whatever is there ... and I enjoy the show. The caeanothus this year is magnificent .. there's lots of it down here .. and your bright pink cistus .. glorious - they all blend in so well ... mixing well with the greens and the sky colour .. it's brightening your life & making me think how cheerful it must be!

You too - have a good summer - book your west country holiday! have fun - Hilary

Ana Goncalves said...

Dear Hilary,

It is wonderful to be stopping by your blog.

Nature is sure a powerful facet of multicolors, and it's wonderful that such artists have captured these moments. I too spot have spotted the difference in the air when the volcano has transmitted itself onto the atmosphere. I have felt this strong eruption deep in my core, through the connection I have with the earth and all it's living things. I have also seen the variety in colors in the sky, and the change in the flowers and have smelt the aromas, even if only here in the UK. Connection is sure powerful beneath anything ever imaginable.
I feel the volcano like much anything that nature chooses to bring out, is here to express itself freely like humans and in doing so humans can learn a lot about nature, and themselves through the eruptions of mother earth.

Blessings to you, and enjoy the summer.

Those photographs are very beautiful. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ana .. thanks for coming over .. lovely to see you here ..

I’ve only really spotted the mistiness – but I know others are much more in tune with the world around them .. as it seems you are. I hope to get nearer to this connection in time .. but for now my energies are elsewhere. I’m sure you’re right with the total connectivity of the earth and all its component parts and as you so rightly say we need to learn from nature – let it lead us .. rather than us try to control it.

Many thanks for your very kind words – you too enjoy the warmer days .. such as they are here in the UK .. and glad you enjoyed the photos .. all the best - Hilary

Unknown said...

Dear Hilary,

So colorful post. I did not realize earth activities were so colorful without your post. It was about 30 years ago when the book entitled "Japan Sink" published. Your post reminded me the book. I hope Japan does not sink. Neither Iceland.

Thank you for your sharing.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. thanks for coming by .. Nature is very dynamic and I too hope the earth doesn't change too much too.

The colouration of the clouds has always interested me .. and it was interesting to learn that some of it was coming from the volcanic ash - and from refracted light high in the atmosphere ..

Also the net provides us with the ability to see these colours via the painters over the centuries ..

Good to see you - Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Everyone is invited to be more adaptable to unforeseen circumstances. This story also reminds us the power in stepping back and observing the emotions that bubble up inside. We can choose not to be controlled by them.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. you're right - we never know what is going to happen or when .. we just need to be prepared and learn from those circumstances.

We all tend to get too het up about things .. that don't directly affect us .. and we should as you say step back and not worry about them.

I like the learning that comes from looking back and from these circumstances - that may help the people that suffered this time .. perhaps not be affected so much next time - unlikely for some because earth's natural disasters strike directly, but for others we can learn for the future.

Thanks for the comment and thoughts - Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hilary, I know this post is predominantly about nature's colour show, but I hope you'll indulge me as I scream with delight at the inclusion of Munch's "The Scream". This one of the most enduring images in the fine art world for me. So evocative, so vivid, so emotive like a volcano itself. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tony .. well it started off as volcanos - but the colours came along as something different .. along with the art .. It is an amazing picture - I first saw it at school and possibly is the one recognisable piece of art I'd always recognise. Now obviously a few others ..

The Scream - I'm so glad they found it relatively undamaged when it was snatched a few years ago .. and is now back .. & now that the background to the colours is know - as you so rightly say .. so evocative, so vivid, so wild and so emotive like the volcano itself .. which for the time being seems to be quiet ..

Please scream on .. it's great to hear these different forms of happiness being expressed at my posts!

Have fun and screams .. Hilary