19 October 2012

Settling into autumn

After a period of temperamental skies and rain, Florence has had a week of classic autumn days ~

blue skied with a crisp bite
tempered by the warmth of
the kind of golden light that
goes hand-in-hand with
ever-shortening days
dissolving into indigo...

At least I think those dozens of gradations of blue at twilight culminate in indigo...though, in all honesty, I'm still not sure. With the latest ROY G BIV challenge at the back of my mind the last few weeks, I've kept my eyes open for the 'I'which stands for indigo and is October's color. And it's brought up the question: What exactly is indigo?

The other artists participating in the challenge all commented that indigo was going to be a tough one. My perception of indigo shifts constantly, so I knew I needed to get a better grasp of what the color truly is. But trying to 'educate' myself only placed more doubts in my mind. Perusing the web didn't help much; I tried replicating the color 'formulas' I found for indigo, but the values that appeared on the computer screen each looked like shades of purple. In my mind, indigo more closely resembles the indigo dye that comes from the plant that originally inspired the name (which Wikipedia says is in fact closer to the 'Midnight Blue' used for the web).

As always, though, I enjoy the search. I was thrilled when, as I scrubbed the knees of my daughter's jeans one day, indigo dye began to run onto the washboard of the laundry sink. I grabbed my camera to preserve the watery lines of indigo, but in that darkest corner of the apartment the shots couldn't capture the color. It did remind me to find the scrap from a pair of jeans that I had spotted recently, as possible inspiration.

After the inconclusive research and the 'lost' dye, I decided to try something different this month. With the idea of creating some indigo-themed work in the studio, I visited a belle arti (art supplies) shop to calibrate my notion of the elusive shade. Fortunately, some brands conveniently define their colors with names, which made it easy to choose an indigo pencil and a couple of tubes of indigo watercolor paint. I also tried my luck at the only craft store I know of in Florence (a funny little place that never seems to have the items on my listeverything is always due to arrive 'in about ten days'), but I realized that many crafts companies code the colors of their products with numbers. I spent ages opening dozens of drawers as I searched for the embroidery thread that most resembled what I think indigo is, contemplated the bead rack before choosing a tiny container of sequins that mayor may not!be indigo, and stood puzzling before displays of ribbons, paints, mosaics, glitter, papers, etc. I did walk away with a slightly larger collection of possibly- indigo-colored bits and pieces.

Each time I cleared up a pile, box or corner of the studio this month, I was on the lookout for indigo treasures; some are gathered on the tray in the photo at the top of this entry. Besides my small purchases, there's the scrap of old jeans, a postcard retrieved from a collage I made years ago, the book Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender, a sheet of locally marbled paper, and some vintage stampsa thoughtful gift from Angela Liguori.

Building on a form that has guided several other projects currently in progress in the studio, the indigo things will be brought together and transformed into something new. I am hoping to have the project done in time to post photos before this month's ROY G BIV deadline (Saturday at midnight EST). Of course, colors don't necessarily translate accurately via the camerawhich has proved to be another challenging aspect of this month's color...not to mention that colors show up differently from one monitor to the next. It only makes me want to laugh about this whole quest to find 'INDIGO'. Just another reminder of the importance of savoring the journey.

* * *

As I was brainstorming about 'INDIGO' one night, I remembered the title of an Italian song: Indaco dagli occhi del cielo. Translating as the rather vague 'Indigo from the eyes of the sky', the lyrics of this so-called cover recorded by Zucchero don't seem to have anything in common with the original, Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime. (I still remember when The Korgies' came out with the single in 1980; I was just twelve, and even now, hearing the song recalls that first summer in the US after my family had moved back from Brazil.) 

I'll leave you with a 'video' of the Italian version from You Tube. The sound quality is good, but there's only a still image; unfortunately, the only videos I could find were shaky recordings made at concerts. Many of you will likely recognize the familiar melody...

{I imagine that, as usual, Jennifer & Julie (the artists who first inspired this ROY G BIV challenge) will be posting their own images + links to other participants. I'm very curious, but am saving my blog visits until I've completed mine!}


  1. Ah, indigo! That fugitive, elusive blue.
    Your tray of blues is lovely.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by for a look! It's been fun - if perplexing - trying to figure out what qualifies as indigo...
      - Lisa

  2. Lisa- I am just home from work and so enjoyed your post! I love the story of your search for the elusive Indigo. I'm really looking forward to seeing the creation that will be inspired by this color that seems to be a real chameleon. I am curious about the book Everyday Sacred. I played Zucchero's song and it had me dancing in the kitchen while getting my dinner ready..thank you for always being such an "all in" participant in this silly but wonderful challenge!--Julie

    1. Thanks, Julie. I'm glad you found some inspiration in the post (even if if wasn't the post/photos I had intended). Everyday Sacred is a collection of short meditations/'lessons learned' type of book, with a sensitivity toward the creative mind (if that makes sense - I always find it difficult to sum up an entire book in only a sentence or two). I'm happy that you enjoyed the Zucchero song - having good music in the kitchen is a must...for me it can mean the difference between doing the dishes after dinner or leaving them until the next day!
      As you may have seen from my next post, I am still in the process of seeing through this thing with crazy indigo... Thanks again for the inspiration to follow you and Jennifer!
      - Lisa

    2. Lisa- Thanks for all your inspiring posts. It occurred to me that I recognized Sue Bender's name. I went to look up Everyday Sacred and realized I'd read her first book...which I believe is called Plain and Simple...about her living for a period of time with the Amish. If you haven't read that, I'd recommend it. Can't wait to see your final Indigo creation!

  3. I second what Julie said! You stated so eloquently the problem I had with indigo...just what is it? I think of it as the blue dye of jeans as well, but mostly of the lovely fabrics from Japan. Indigo really had me stumped because of my own preconceptions of the color. Violet, however, I'm choosing to interpret simply as purple, a color I love.

    Thank you for playing with us!

    1. I am really excited to see how you and the others have interpreted/captured indigo, Jennifer - and I didn't even think about the Japanese fabrics (probably applies to washi paper as well)...I just realized that my 20+ year-old sarong from Indonesia is predominantly indigo. Maybe the longer you search, the more indigo you uncover.
      I'm with you on the violet/purple - it will be so much 'easier'! Looking forward to it as I love many of the deeper, warmer shades of purple. I have found having so much blue on my blog lately to be a little disconcerting - but have enjoyed the challenge, so thank you for the motivation & encouragement!
      - Lisa


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