Photo Source: Snappy Goat
When I was a child I used to read the paint-cards. You know—the colour-samples: twenty-four shades of Mushroom to Camel; twenty-four varieties of red or almost-red or not-so-far-off-reddish. Twenty-four almost imperceptible steps of white to yellow, and each with its own unique name, some so exotic I had to read the dictionary too.
Mimosa, Magnolia, Cowslip, Primrose—all stood ranked between Cream and Pale Lemon. Part of me didn’t see the point of so many ways to paint a wall; part of me loved the idea of almost infinite colours; and I hadn’t yet decided who I was. But one way or another I’ve never been able to see a colour on its own since then.
Even a single tree refuses to take the label green. It will nudge in places a nuance of brown or hint in its shadows at something nearer blue. It will ripple a suggestion of white in the wind or lean towards yellow in the light. Nature can summon a hundred greens but never once touch Baize.
You can revel in the earthy feel of ambers and umbers, spices and siennas. Forget your walls and stare at old canvases: Hogarth’s shadowy oils or Constable’s thickest muds. I wondered, sometimes, why people paint their walls a single colour when they could do so much more. Marbling or murals or swirling strokes of your favourite end of the rainbow. Pinks and purples to dance before you in cotillons of fairytale and flower. Someone once gave me a fuchsia in a pot, a tiny ballerina-tree. Is Fuchsia a pink or a purple?—because mine flaunted both in mesmerising brilliance. Candyfloss and Marshmallow fade out towards Angel Wing. Have you seen the pink tinge at the edge of daisy-petals, when they close for night or rain? The paint-people missed that one. And another pink under the clouds at dawn, that pink that’s nearly gold, still waits for a name.
Live dangerously: dive down into blue, drink in and drown in Azure to Zephyr, Cerulean, Heaven. Names so thrilling that even the poets must handle them with care: Don’t treat them with familiarity. Don’t press them into rhyme. If you dream in blue, you forget to breathe.
In a world I’m not sure I recognise, you can capture every colour on a screen by its parameters. My children have told me this, so it must be true, or at least it must be factual. Whiteness or blackness or proportions of mix. Clear colours flow from one primary to the next; muddy colours emerge from all the three together. The brilliance, sharpness, intensity of a colour is called its saturation, and you can index that by number too. Colours don’t need names.
But I still need to name them. There’s a certain thin, acidic orange I want to call Toothache, and a menacing blue-grey that someone must have named Storm before me. There’s a pearlescent-metallic sea-green we need to agree is Mermaids’ Hair, and Icarus is the hot obsessive yellow that drew Van Gogh towards madness.
I know what I want to be when I’ve finished with other things. I want to be the person who names all the colours as Adam named the creatures of Eden. Whether I meant to or not, I’ve studied and trained for this role. I guarantee I will fulfil my contracted responsibilities with competence, commitment and care. Deep Water… Drowning… Mermaids’ Hair….
Fiona M Jones writes very small things: shorts, flashes and micros in fiction and nonfiction. Her most exciting anthology so far is on Smashwords here, and she has other work under publication by Andrew Fox (Again, Hazardous Imaginings, available on Amazon here), Honeyguide Literary Magazine, All Guts No Glory, Truth Serum Press, Writers' Cache and The Future Fire. Please follow Fiona at @FiiJ20 on Facebook, Twitter and Thinkerbeat.