Edward Ficklin

Crazy for color

published15 days ago
1 min read

Hello darlings, how are you?

A fabulous recent read that I have to share with you. The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair. It’s not an art book, definitely not science, and not exactly social history. But there are elements of all of those. It’s a collection of short essays, each focused on a single color. We might get a bit of art history around the usage of the color. We might get a bit of fashion history about a color’s role in the social fabric (lol). You never quite know where each little essay is going to take you.

If you’re looking for reasoned arguments, a through-line, some over-arching theme or purpose, you won’t find it. Just dive in and enjoy the stream of weird trivia. At the end, you will come away with a newfound wonder at just how batshit crazy humans get about color.

Glimpse the mercantile empires that rose and fell around indigo, madder, and azurite (aka ultramarine)—all for the sake of dyes and paints. Learn little tidbits about the laws, yes laws, darling, about who could wear what color. Laugh at the medieval artists who thought mixing colors was a sin. Few modern painters like that, too, I suppose.

But the most fascinating aspect of this book is the laundry list of weird ass shit people have made paint out of. Of course we’ve got the expected rocks, crystals, charcoal, rust, and plants—along with a frightening list of deadly toxic metals. But we’ve also got the truly bizarre: cow piss, bug guts, cephalopod ink sacs, and mummies (yes, the embalmed dead bodies of ancient Egyptians). I thought being a crash test cadaver would be an interesting use of my corpse. But becoming part of a painting that could last centuries? Not too shabby.

Our quest for color knows no bounds. A quick, delightful read that will likely up your Jeopardy game and make give your paints tubes the side eye.

Before I go...

I’ve added some new drawing the online emporium. These bois are sure to delight. (And no bugs, piss, or toxic metal involved!)

graphite drawing of nude male, with angel wings pointing a bow and arrow graphite drawing of nude male, from behind

Until next time, flame on! 🔥

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