In search of comfort: Brown

Simpicity                                                                             Frugality

Comfort                                                                        Natural Growth

                                       Natural Decay


Hi All,

During the current pandemic all sorts of things we took for granted have been challenged; the world feels unreliable, precarious, decaying, uncomfortable... Many of us have found new comfort in the ancient art of bread making. Trusty, crusty, brown bread....Forgotten prayers rise up with the dough: “Give us this day our daily bread...” (– you know how the rest of it goes...debts, trespasses, temptations...Oh to be forgiven!) For myself, as an artist, I remember the distinctive voice of each colour and what it evokes...In search of comfort, my mind turns to brown.

“The variant browns of fallen leaves mingle, decomposing, with autumn’s damp soil, shavings of bark, the residue of nuts and berries, animal scats and tiny, indistinguishable insect life.

Brown carries the bustling, fecund substance of earth, and its dissolutions.

The vast majority of animals are brown, blending protectively with woods, rocks, dirt and desert, or submerged in the muddy sediment of rivers and ponds.

Brown is both rich and humble, evoking softness, warmth, depth and respite, the sepia tones of coming darkness, the duskiness of skin, the sumptuous brindling of fur and feathers.

Brown is produced by the mixing together of many colours, its reds, yellows and greys elegantly asserting themselves as chestnut, bay, roan, sorrel, walnut, oak, heather, chocolate, coffee, mocha. Brown can also represent colourlessness and discolouration- rust, and dried blood, drought, brownout of electricity and creativity, blandness, boredom or muddle.

Service and military uniforms capitalise on brown’s capacity to  erge the individual with the herd, reinforcing collective identity and dependence. Nazi soldiers were known as “brownshirts”.

Brown evokes the formless, chaotic liquidity of muck, slops, waste, vomit, feculence and sewage. It is desiccation and mummification.

Yet brown is also emergence, the shapes and boundaries of dry land surfacing out of watery abyss, the dormant vitality of seeded fields, the mothering support of firm ground and good earth.”

(From “The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images” by A.R.A.S, pub. by TASCHEN)

Bankruptcy                                                                          Sincerity

Family                                                                          Trustworthiness


Brown is serious and very down to earth, with properties like stability, structure and support.

Brown stands for protection and supporting the family with great sense of duty and responsibility.

Brown is friendly and welcoming. It is loyal, trustworthy and reliable- in a practical and realistic way.

Brown, in colour psychology, is referred to as honest, genuine and sincere. It is associated with the hard-working, diligent and reliable, with both feet planted firmly on the ground.

Brown is sensual, sensitive and warm, and gives one a sense of calmness and comfort.

It is a practical and sensible colour, indicating common sense.

Brown is solid, with strength and maturity.

Brown is a dominant colour in the world, along with green. (And it is where all green ends up.)

Brown is calming and stabilizing. It is a natural colour, which implies simplicity and frugality.

The paintings above are by veteran Canadian artist Gordon Smith “Winter Pond” (2002), a self portrait by Rembrandt aged 51 when he was facing bankruptcy (1657), a self portrait by Albrecht Dürer (c.1500), “Night Scene” by Peter Paul Rubens (1671) and “Achimelech giving Goliath’s Sword to David” by Aert de Gelder (c. 1689-1690)

In search of comfort, go brown: go out and dig the soil with your bare hands, let earthworms teach you about humility, dislodge some buried stones, prune dead branches and plant brown bulbs and seeds. May the brown Earth comfort you.

With love,