This one is something of a fantasy piece and is doing double duty. I read it for the Manomet Writers’ Group and they liked it. Their prompt was, ‘Inspired by the lyrics.’ I froze up on this one and couldn’t, for the life of me, come up with something for that prompt. But then I came across a note-to-self that was a what-if scenario: what if you could see a color that no one else could? From that, this story was born.
Skye Blue Brautigan could see a color that very few did. She grew up with the idea that what she saw was normal. That the color never came up in conversation and didn’t have a name (that she knew of) didn’t seem strange.
Skye’s mother named her for the color of her eyes, which had changed slightly with age to a blue sky that hinted at the calm before a storm. It was a name that set her course not for a life as an accountant, a lawyer, or a woman of business; the name spoke of a life in the arts. After studying great masters such as Monet, Picasso, DaVinci, and Mondrian, she began painting full time after college.
It wasn’t until she took a trip to Europe to see some of the great paintings—which she had only viewed from photographs, that she finally understood that she could see that unnamed color. Cameras did not see the color either; could not, because it was beyond their technology. The realization that she could see what others could not stunned her. That the color was used by the masters in some of their paintings emboldened her.
While she was in Europe, she visited several art shops and discovered a source for the color, which was sold as a variation of grey/white. That hinted at what others, who did not see the color for what it was, actually saw. It is how dogs and color blind people perceive the colors that elude them. For the color blind, certain colors are muted to the spectrum of grey.
But even the color challenged, get something of the color they cannot see. They can discern something unique. And so it is with the color that Skye saw. It did lend a sort of music to an otherwise soundless portrait and brought the painting to life. It is what makes the Masters who they are. One color, virtually unobservable, can influence so many.
Skye returned to the States to paint with her new found color. She rarely came out of her studio, painting day and night. She painted landscapes from memory, self portraits, and even used her half eaten food as subjects.
One day a colleague, Eva Brown, from Skye’s school days showed up for a visit. Eva had opened a gallery and was visiting old friends to see what they were up to. By the time she got around to visiting Skye, her expectations had been lowered. Many had done nothing with the skill and knowledge found in their university years.
When Eva was finally shown around Skye’s studio, she was pleasantly surprised. To see the quality and quantity of Skye’s art amazed her. Eva wanted to host a show for Skye and clapped her hands together quickly and kindly, as if at an opera, when Skye accepted the offer. She would invite big names to view Skye Blue on canvas. Eva was so confidant about Skye’s talent that she said it would be an exclusive show.
The subject of color came up and Skye discovered that Eva could see the unnamed color as well. When Eva asked Skye what she called it, Skye thought for a moment. She thought about how she felt when she viewed the great paintings in Europe the first time; how that single color leant a sense of musicality to the art. But it wasn’t just music that she heard, the paintings spoke to her. With names out there like burnt sienna, lemon yellow, and olive green, her color name would not seem out of place. She called the color Lyric.
Skye Blue Brautigan was there for the show’s opening with Eva Brown fussing over art dignitaries. Skye and Eva walked together around the gallery, stopping to talk throughout the day. Flutes of champagne were held by all and it seemed that every piece presented that day sold within hours.
During the show Skye was asked about her choice of subjects and she responded vaguely, saying that she simply painted any old thing that came to her just to keep painting. Eva moved in and told her in whispers to be less ambiguous because they were buyers and they wanted a story to relate—back in their world when someone asked about Skye’s paintings.
The next query regarded brush and color choice and she told them that she liked Siberian Squirrel hair brushes when she started out, but lately found that red sable brushes were better suited to her work. For the finer details, she used Kolinsky sable.
As for color, she mixed right on a palette with her brush as most artists do. It is a way for the artist to search for just the right hue of any color a dab at a time.
The last question came from an older woman who had purchased a large landscape with the ocean in the background. Skye had used Lyric to great effect, giving the horizon over the water an alluring sense of adventure. Even Skye found it hard to avert her eyes once they caught sight of it. She was sad to see that painting go. The new owner wanted to know what inspired Skye to paint the way she did.
Skye thought about that and then told the group that she had always expressed herself with color. It came natural to her to mix reds and yellows to paint the perfect Day Lily, or red and blue with a hint of black to bring an Iris to life. But it wasn’t until she discovered the color Lyric that she felt she had to paint so prolifically. Anyone could paint with the reds—crimson to cadmium to magenta, the yellows of lemon and canary, and cerulean or electric blues.
She was inspired by the Lyrics.