Tuesday, September 20, 2011


(The Little Worker, Helen Galloway McNicoll, 1907, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto)

My favorite color in the whole wide world is blue.

But let me tell you something.

Yellow is right up there next to it.

In fact, my favorite color combination of all time is blue, white and yellow.

Whenever I see these colors together they make my heart zing.


When they're mixed up in a nice big batch of paint on a canvas they come out looking as fresh as a field daisy in early spring.

No one had to convince Canadian painter Helen Galloway McNicoll of that fact.

Her lovely Impressionist piece, "The Little Worker," is filled with a brilliant field of sunny, shimmering yellow.

Oh, there's certainly shades of creamy white in this painting.

And a liberal dose of  blue-green tones are used here as leafy ground cover.


My favorite colors are all present and accounted for.

Look closely and you'll see specks of pink, red and lavender in Helen's field of dreams.

These random dots of color add a punch of excitement to her golden field.

We could even say that without those dots of color Helen's field might not look nearly so golden.

A little opposition - especially in the world of color - can be a very good thing.

Our little worker seems to be walking downhill, doesn't she?

In a field filled with willowy stems of bright yellow.

She's going about her daily business.

Because work on a farm is relentless.

What is she carrying in that metal pail?


Animal feed?

Or something else.

It's not important that we know.

That outstretched arm - straight as a stick - tells us that the pail's contents are a bit of a burden for her.

She needs to balance the weight of that pail with her rigid right arm.

A small fist is clenched tightly at the very end of that arm.

More proof that her pail is heavy.

The little worker, her head cast downward, concentrates on each step as she navigates through the field.

One stumble on a pesky rock or a long forgotten tree branch and she is a goner.

The conscientious worker and her precious pail will tumble down the hill.

She'll be back to square one, needing to do whatever it takes to refill her pail and get it safely transported and properly delivered.

Yes, work on a farm is relentless.

But it's also filled with the joys of nature.

McNicoll helps us understand the charms of outdoor life in two important ways.

First, just look at those waves of golden reeds undulating in the air!

They're moving every which way in that field.

I can't help but think that our little worker is grateful for the summer breeze that's kissing her pink cheeks.

The fresh, billowy air cools her flushed face if only for a minute.

Secondly, our little worker isn't tending to her duties by herself.

She's got friends keeping her company in the field.

Three chickens have decided to tag along on this adventure as well.


I'm a little suspicious.

If she is carrying feed of some sort, could bits of it be splashing onto the ground as she walks?

If so,  those chickens aren't really social butterflies at all.

They are creatures of nature doing what comes naturally!

And isn't that true of every animal on earth?

No matter how much we love and adore them, our animal friends will always be doing animal-like things.

Still, that doesn't mean that our friendly beasts don't like to be with us.

Because they do.

No matter what their motivations may be, they enjoy hanging around their human buddies.

That's a good thing for us as human beings.

It's a good thing for our little worker in particular.

The secret thoughts she is thinking as she tramps through that buttery field are her's and her's alone.

That is as it should be.

Still, she's not a solitary creature in her sunny field of work and thoughts.

She's got feathery companions to help lighten her load of work day duties.

And that's a very good thing, indeed.

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