Notes to an Apprentice Sky Mixer
This morning, a new portion of sky. A piece of skylight blue that has travelled like a package in a freighter from an indeterminate field of orbit to land on my window sill.
No address. No note attached from the sky mixer responsible. Scrutinize closely for evidence. This piece of sky is an elemental blue, the kind I’ve seen perhaps once or twice before. A rare breed, shunted off from a vaulted dome where it may have nursed a desert town in the middle of the southern hemisphere. At first glance, the arrival appears uncomfortable, self-conscious. Dabs of bluer blush. A tinge of barely recognizable scarlet. No need for that, I say. We’re out of reach of a city, and far fewer faces turn upwards to scan for sky perfection, or sky redemption, deliverance from their ordinary lives, than you’d think. If you’re worried about that. Adopt a mode of reassurance. Speak firmly, tenderly, as if speaking to yourself. Besides, the inhabitants here are too busy catching lobsters, hunting deer, stalking the woods in bright orange hunting jackets, looking down or across the horizon, anything rather than up. And when they do look up, it’s for rain, for navigation purposes, for good drying days, signs of temperament, bald eagles. Reassure, artlessly, as if you are not.
There are blues and blues. Dependent upon visibility, but also upon the mood of the mixer: whether wry or sour, song-struck or bad-tempered. The theory goes that as sky mixers we are not authentic artists, that we simply don’t have the palette, that we lack range. It’s not true of course, as you would recognize if you were in my position unseated by this startling morning visitor of elemental blue. Artists limit their palettes. Don’t think they don’t. In fear of being swept off the rocks of their determined artistic selves, in fear of slipping into color waters deeper than their initial band of choices. This is what every artist is told: stick to your voice, do not waver.
But you must waver. Sky mixers know this better than anyone. We mix and mix, struggling to match one shade of the sublime to another. Like Robert Henri and his experimentation, miniature dashes of colored pigment striped on page after page, now archived on what one hopes is long-lasting paper. Look him up: artist verging on sky mixer. Testing ultramarine, lapis, Prussian blue, sky blue. Stained-glass blue. Flighty blue. The patch of sky we see this morning has been tended by an expert, who readied the seams. This desert portion, tinged with a feathery red glow, call it Color of Heaven Number One (in case there are more), fits precisely against the sky to which it is now attached: a piece of Maine sky, Laments of the Sea. Just in time before the deep winter gloom descends. Just in time before we lose remembrances of summer. Look before you: the hand of a sky enhancer. Know that it is a rare and wonderful thing for a patch of sky to be so transplanted. An act of sky mixing from afar. A sorcerer’s touch, as if the sky mixer wields a laser.
And now it drifts. Allow yourself the pleasure of drifting along with it. The edges are perhaps a little rough, invisible like a hidden mending wound, but that is how a sky emits its skyness, by feeling itself through and through all the way into the heart and ache of its color. A blue entity. Blue hopes. Blue seams. True blue. When other sky colors elbow it out, eager to take a turn, this blue won’t sulk, but will simply edge around its territory, waiting for another chance, waiting for me to reassess, re-mix more of this very particular blue. If I can. I don’t live below the Tropic of Capricorn, so to mix it means exploring a new synaptic path, climbing like a goat into arid mountains to reach this perfect pitch of desert afternoon blue and wend it into the sky of northern climes.
Sky mixing as you must be aware by now, is not for the faint-hearted. Be warned. If the blue turns against you, all the blue will run out into your sky mixer’s hands, which will stain forever, while the patch of sky remains empty and forlorn on the studio wall, unable to sustain its saturation of color, a reminder of things that didn’t come to pass.
But there are rewards. If ever that patch of blue is no longer needed on the outer rim, only the sky mixer can finally claim the blue as her own. Only the sky mixer has the right to pin up the little piece of blue in her studio like a window pane, and look deeply, fearlessly inside it.
Sometimes when you least expect it, purity such as this morning’s piece of archetypal blue, breaks through as a reminder that the mixer is the real thing, a real painter, not one who merely dabbles in skies and sky touch-ups. Remember this. Worth every throb of dreariness, every second of juggling a palette of countless, nervously shifting skies, it’s the moment the sky mixer lives for. There is nothing that comes close to this sky knowledge. Like a sky anointment without the gods. Preserve it well.
– by Rosemary Jones
Copyright ©2013, by Rosemary Jones. All Rights Reserved.
Ms. Jones is an Australian living and teaching in the U.S. Among others, her work has
appeared in Mad Hatter’s Review, Cezanne’s Carrot, Bent Pin Quarterly, The
Sleepers Almanac 5 (Australia), Denver Quarterly, Sonora Review, Gargoyle, and
been read on Australian national radio. Her nonfiction has appeared in Alligator
Juniper, Creative Nonfiction and is forthcoming in Brain, Child.