August 29, 2012

Designing a Bulb Garden? What if Mary Blair Helped?



A WILD BLEND OF EVERY SPRING COLOR AVAILABLE SEEMED TO WORK FOR ME, AS THESE DISPLAYS PROVED AT THE SMITH COLLEGE SPRING BULB SHOW LAST FEBRUARY. THE COLORS NOW REMIND ME OF DISNEY COLORIST MARY BLAIR, THE WOMAN BEHIND MANY OF THE COLORS IN THE WALT DISNEY ANIMATED FILMS IN THE 1950's. 

I almost forgot about these tulips and other spring bulbs in crazy color combinations that I saw at the Smith College Spring Bulb Show last February. A crazy mix of what seemed like every color in some crazy Dutch palette became jumbled together into a candy colored bejeweled expression. Only recently, these reminded me of Mary Blair color palettes - the Disney colorist behind many of Walt Disney's feature animated films in the mid twentieth century. Last Saturday I rented a live action film, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a film featuring Mary Blair as color designer.  No one could combine coral, watermelon, cherry red, tangerine and mango along with burgundy, brown and buff and the perfect shade of periwinkle, like Mary could. She was able to combine colors in ways no one else had ever dare tried, and even though she remains a strong influence today with many graphic and animation artists, applying her palettes to the garden never entered my mind, until this week. I am currently planning my Mary Blair inspired bulb garden.




MARY BLAIR- ILLUSTRATION FOR 1955 GOLDEN BOOK TREASURY OF CHILDREN'S SONGS



MIXED TULIPS IN ANY COLOR WORK, WHEN DILUTED WITH WHITE AND MANGO COLORED NARCISSUS. I JUST LOVED THE MESSY MIX, IT REMINDED ME OF MARY BLAIR ARTWORK


Way back in snowy February again, at the Smith College Bulb Show, the colors were at first shocking, but not because of their intensity, but because of the kinetic dance they produced. When combined with white, yellow and orange narcissus, they all worked together.  I was so struck at how what seemed like every tulip variety available in a any Dutch bulb catalog mixed so well together. It just defied any law of color theory or garden design, and this experience has inspired me to plan my first project for 2013 - My Mary Blair Tulip border, which I will be planting in front of the greenhouse, and along the boxwood hedge. 


There has to be some science as to why tulips all look great no matter how you mix them up. One theory I have is that tulips all share a base pigment - a certain magenta, or deep pink that makes a bright red tulip look perfectly natural when planted next to a pink one, not to mention the magic that happens when one combines watermelon colored tulips with raspberry and coral ones.  Throw in white narcissus with mango colored trumpets, and suddenly, exclamation points appear. It doesn't seem,to matter what color one chooses with most spring bulbs, the Mary Blair palette just gets better. Periwinkle hyacinths, Tangerine tulips, saffron, cotton candy, lemon, blush and buff - planning a tulip garden should never cause any of us any stress. Mix it up and shock your neighbors.





Recent trends confirm my observation - tulips are best when mixed and matched, even when no one is there to select the perfect tones for you. But they even look better when you step away from a mono-culture palette - when one does carefully curate selected varieties into toned collections - where many similar tints and tones blend together as if a pointillist artist splattered dots and specs of opposing colors to create a new one. 
MARY BLAIR COLOR SCRIPT SKETCH FOR WALT DISNEY'S ALICE IN WONDERLAND

OF COURSE, YOU CAN USE THIS PHOTO FROM THE SMITH COLLEGE BULB SHOW AS INSPIRATION FOR YOUR GARDEN, WITH A MORE THOUGHTFUL COLOR PALETTE IN PURPLE



COLORIST MARY BLAIR'S COLOR ANIMATED GUIDE FOR WALT DISNEY'S CINDERELLA

I MAY TRY THESE - ALL ARE PICKED FROM THE WHITE FLOWER FARM CATALOG, BUT YOU CAN FIND MOST OF THESE VARIETIES IN ANY DUTCH BULB CATALOG. WATERMELON, CORAL, SAFFRON AND PEACH - HOW MANY TINTS OF WARM AND COOL REDS AND PINKS ARE THERE?

MARY BLAIR'S COLOR STORY FOR DISNEY'S ALICE IN WONDERLAND



YELLOW MAY BE HARSH, BUT WHEN MIXES WITH DARK REDS AND PURPLES, AND WITH A BIT OF ORANGE, A NEW PALETTE EMERGES. I EVEN LIKED THAT THE WAY THE THE GREEN AND PALE PINK TULIPS WORKED.

COLORIST MARY BLAIR'S PAINTING FOR WALT DISNEY'S CINDERELLA COLOR SCRIPT

BLUE AND WHITE? EVEN BETTER WITH PURPLE, LAVENDER AND I MIGHT EVEN ADD IN SOME ORANGE  (SEE THE ONES IN THE BACK)
WALT DISNEY'S CINDERELLA ILLUSTRATION, BY COLORIST MARY BLAIR

4 comments :

  1. That is a explosion of colours, I love it! Got a few Narcis to flower last year, hope to do the same this year. Nice post. LT

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  2. OMG..I love this post! I was always fascinated by the coloring of those old Disney movies...so cool!

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  3. Seems like Mary Blair made her own rules that existing rules were weak or non-existent on? Thought-provoking. Not being as color-savvy as many in my field, or other designers, I surprise myself when they go together.

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  4. Fantastic way to figure out color in the garden :)

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