Understanding Blue

Nobody, not even Yves Klein, can own a colour. Of all colours perhaps the hardest to own is blue: we work with it and we live in it. We love it because it represents the emotional connection between Picasso and Gene Vincent. Of “blue” movies. The synthetic stun of a Hollywood sky. Duck egg fragility through to the colour of electricity. Memories are filtered by the mind’s blue lens. Linger on, your pale blue eyes. Is the perfect blue that of the unwashed denim of Huston’s film “The Misfits”? A blue smoking jacket by Yves Saint Laurent from 1971? Is there a perfect blue? Are not all blues perfect?

Joni was drunk on the colour when she sang of a million comedowns and breakups. Tim Buckley’s Afternoon and Cohen’s famous raincoat. Madonna’s True. African skin by the light of the Moon. The ink used to write a letter. Kind of Miles. Blue Monday. Blue period. Blue Flowers. Blue pills.

Hockney with his white face and yellow hair, wearing a red jumper and green trousers, splashed it in the LA sunshine making it the colour of languid heat and daydreaming sensuality.

Almost Blue. Blue blood. The boys in Blue. A Blue Bar. Blue Moon of Kentucky. Blue collar pleasures.

Can you imagine a shade of blue that does not exist? Blue is never what it seems, and that is its beauty. If this is the case, how would you anoint the walls of a room with all of the colour’s potential?

Start with a canvas and build up layers of hide glue, chalk and pigment to create gesso. Keep layering on fields of hue and at a point cast red mica dust across the blue. This brings the blue a lavender iridescence, one that shifts in the light. This is the formula that David Collins Studio designed for its “Lutyens Blue”, an ode to Edwin Lutyens.

They say you can never jump into the same river twice; this blue, that blue, only existed in that room. Less painting a wall than submerging a room into pelagic depths.

There is no colour more fragile. There is no colour more easy to get wrong.

Graham Erickson is a freelance editor and writer living in London.

Sam Wood is an illustrator living in London.