A perfect stage for colorful thoughts

Between myth and reality

After months of grey weather, like a heavy lid over our heads, the craving for blue sky is as vivid as the need for fresh air.

Once the sun is finally back, the sky spreads it’s radiant wings upon us, and looking deeper into it, from the philosopher-painter’s eye, I realize that such thing as a blue sky does not exist. It is more a myth than an optic reality. If you look closer, it is an ever evolving stage where infinite combinations can happen, from light to dark blue, to purples and greys, pinks, reds and oranges and all the way to the rainbow itself.

No piece of sky is ever alike. Winter and Summer play totally different repertoires. Latitudes will also change the quality of light, hence the colors. Sky is an unending, fascinating subject for painters, yet hardly ever an actor on its own, except for some cloud studies. Through History of Art, masters had their codes and favorite colors, accompanying or illustrating the main emotion of the painting.

Sky blue, pigments and imagination

If we stick to the idealistic blue version of a sky, wishing to paint a Summer elysian scene, say a piece of sky above a mediterranean ruin for instance, how indeed would I proceed? What pigments would I tell a student to use? If crushed lapis lazuli is no longer the unique option to represent a celestial vault, there is a whole range of modern synthetic pigments to chose from.

For a clear blue sky, you would chose first of all a cobalt blue, or a hue of caeruleum (which comes from latin, meaning « like the sky, azure, blue »). At the school for theater set painting we were taught to put a shade of ultramarine high above, blending it further down with a lighter blue, spiced up with a hint of viridian to make it warmer, thus more “inhabitable”. Then, at some point above the horizon, no more blue at all, but a stroke of pale ocre to make the air dissolve into a golden halo above the landscape. The illusion will be stunningly inviting, you might as well feel like Mary Poppins and jump into the picture to wander about a world of magic and wonders…

Since I started this post, the sky has taken a million new shades and played an infinity of new dramas. Who knows when the sun will return to its blue shrine. Down on earth, under the clouds, the song of blue sky is back on the radio of dreams.