Blue. The color of bright happy days, calm oceans, shady glens, laughing rivers, distant mountains. The color of clean water and sunny skies, Google tells me that blue is most often chosen as a favorite color amongst men and women and is the hue most worn in our daily lives and in our homes.
Throughout history, the color blue was traditionally very scarce and very, VERY expensive. We are surrounded by sky and water but unfortunately, we can’t pluck out water or hold sky in our hands. Beginning in 2200 BC, the Egyptians discovered the first synthetic pigment – “Egyptian blue” – through chemical reactions discovered by mixing silica, lime, copper, and alkali. I’m pretty sure I made a “C” in chemistry so thank heaven for the Egyptians. Many, many chemical discoveries later, we have a lovely list of blues:
- Ultramarine & French Ultramarine (this is a wonderful article)
- Indigo (plant-based but now mostly synthetic)
- Cobalt (my boys will be happy to know that Sonic the Hedgehog is officially cobalt blue).
- Prussian Blue (we can thank Prussian Blue for “blueprints” and also for medical antidotes!)
- Cerulean (This scene from this movie)
- YInMn Blue (this pigment, discovered in 2009, is the first synthetic blue pigment to be discovered since Cobalt in 1802.)
Why am I talking about the color of summer oceans smack in the middle of October? Well, because blue is the complement to orange! It is a perfect addition to your paintings, photos, art, and decor in the Fall. If you wanna paint some beautiful Autumn colors, add blue! Blue skies, blue shadows, blue rivers meandering through golden grasses…instant beauty and interest. I love the Cezanne quote above and have blogged about it before. Blue does add vibration and offsets the golden earthy colors this season is so wont to exhibit.
If you haven’t added additional blues to your palette it is a good idea. I use blue in some form in every single painting and often begin my underpaintings with a very dark blue Nupastel – (this one exactly). I love the way it washes in with rubbing alcohol, creating a soft and muted backdrop and instant atmospheric perspective. I received some lovely Townsend Terrages last year as part of an awards package and have since purchased more, including this blue set. I also have the Terry Ludwig Best of the Blues and am eyeing the Turquoise set as well.
In my piece (above) entitled “Tangled” (available here), I first began by washing my Indigo Nupastel into the paper (I use Uart). I slowly began building the layers of golds/oranges/purples, and then added my ultramarine to finish the trees, shadows, and grasses. The Ultramarine (from my TL set), is vibrant and against the oranges and golds it seems to jump off the page!
So next time you reach for your golds, oranges, and earthy tones, remember that blue is your friend. It cools, refreshes, and calms. It means shady days and no storms threatening. It means clean and honest, clear, and bright. As I went on my daily run today, I had this blog post in my head. The beautiful elms in my neighborhood robed in oranges and golds were so beautiful against the vibrant blue Texas sky. How thankful I am to live in a world where I can easily capture this complementary phenomenon, just with a run to the store and a few bucks. Michelangelo himself wasn’t as lucky.
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