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C2 Color of the Month: Blue

What lies between violet and green on the spectrum of visible light? The most popular color on the spectrum:  Blue.  

One of the three primary colour pigments in painting and traditional colour theory as well as in the RGB colour model, it consistently ranks as the most popular colour in America-- and some would argue--the world, though delving into the history of blue, one discovers this was not always the case. 

THE HISTORY OF BLUE

Scientists generally agree that humans began to acknowledge blue as a colour when they finally started producing blue pigments.  A slow and laborious task that transports us some 6,000 years to the Egyptians. Lapis Lazuli, a semiprecious stone, mined in Afghanistan, became highly prized among them, and later became known as Egyptian Blue. Though it was not initially successfully produced as a paint colour they adored the brilliance of this mineral, and in further exploration discovered alternate methods and mixtures to generate other saturated blue pigments, which basically put the word "blue" on the map.

Egyptian Blue - <i>Figure of a Lion. ca. 1981–1640 B.C. (Photo: </i><a href="https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/546650"><i>Met Museum</i></a><i>, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922. (CC0 1.0))</i>

Until then, history confirms blue was never mentioned in any manner, only red, black and white. The dyes proved expensive - only royalty could afford them which confirms why they were used solely by those representing authority, royalty and high social standing.

In the later Renaissance period came the discovery of the pigment ultramarine, used by world master artists, the most expensive of all pigments. In the eighth century, Chinese artists used cobalt blue to colour fine blue and white porcelain. In the Middle Ages, European artists used it in the windows of cathedrals. Europeans wore clothing coloured with the vegetable dye woad until it was replaced by the finer indigo from America. Today, blue pigments and dyes are used widely, mostly now produced through a chemical process, rendering them popular and affordable.

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, circa 1665. (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665).jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a> {{PD-US}})

Fun fact: Art historians believe that Michelangelo left his painting The Entombment (1500–01) unfinished because he could not afford to buy more ultramarine blue.

THE MEANING OF BLUE

But perhaps most of us recognize blue as being nature’s colour for water and sky, and the open vast expanses of these spaces, which perhaps explains why blue is considered to be uplifting and non-threatening.  It’s a colour that also symbolizes loyalty, strength, wisdom and trust, and known for its calming effect on the psyche. Blue is also associated with dependability, harmony, masculinity and focused concentration.  

The use of blue in interiors is limitless. Whether it is a tonal mix of shades, a favourite single blue, pairing blue with an accent colour such as white (a classical theme ), a vibrant tangerine for the ultimate on-trend combination or veering into complementary greens to create a soothing environment that will stimulate your mind and improve your ability to communicate, definitely consider adding blue to your next design concept. 

Summer blues with a pop of Fandango

Darker, more saturated versions heading into indigo and nightshade blues offer a diverse encounter that can be moody, intense and dramatic, and support a burst of vibrant single colour in terms of fabrics or furniture. Another personal favourite is using a blue as the non-dominant colour on millwork, doors or wainscott.

Espionage C2-742 painted on this office wall creates focus while adding a pop of color

Wherever you decide to bring in blue, be it on your walls, trim and or ceilings, (which I often refer to as the fifth wall) consider the right paint sheen also, with consideration to light, wear and tear and surface texture.

Painting a ceiling in gloss with soft blue like Cousteau (C2-731) creates a dramatic effect.

DESIGN NOTES FOR BLUE PAINT COLORS

  • Consider the Undertone - The range of the blue scale is vast, so my suggestion is to consider the context of the environment to be painted, the mood you wish to create and the shades that most resonate for you personally. With so many blues to select from, it is the perfect opportunity to build an all blue palette with a cascading range -- from cooler blues to warmer moodier tones, and think about including the ceiling and doors, as well.
  • Go Bold - For a more contemporary kick of colour, consider an electric bold blue, like Windsor, with complimentary colour contrast, like Fandango, or Freida.
  • Dream in Color - The softer, more ethereal blues make for a beautiful bedroom setting, creating a place for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. What better way to nod off and wake refreshed? 

No matter where you are, or what your style home is, the selection and range of blue is vast. From the palest Watchet Blue, (a pale blue derived from the cliff faces of the English town Watchet, where the cliffs appear pale blue from their rich alabaster content), or more sobering grey blues to the most saturated inky shades, there surely is a blue for you. 

Perhaps, follow in the footsteps of a long-standing tradition dominant in the south, of painting the exterior veranda ceilings a specific shade of "Haint Blue". This blue was intended as warding off any evil spirits from the home, supposedly named Haint spirits, others claim it is a just a visual way to extend the feeling of a blue sky and daylight. I gravitate towards the first tale, for this attractive touch of sophisticated southern chic.

Haint Blue

Just thinking about blue and open spaces, brings on a personal desire to travel to far away exotic destinations, that dazzle the eye with crystalline warm waters of the Aegean or Mediterranean sea and infinite cloudless skies, where the meeting of these horizon blues, merge into oneness. 

Or to dine at the most incredible ostentatious Paris destination - Le Train Bleu, a design feast to the eye in this historic Belle Epoque style building. In homage of the original Train Bleu luxury express which took passengers (with its blue sleeper cars) from Paris to the Cote d’ Azure on the southern coast in much the same finery. 

Or the famous ultramarine Yves Klein Blue - named after the French artist who coined this colour Klein Blue, but was also well known for his persuasion to jump from buildings, ultimately his demise.

“L’accord bleu (RE 10)”, 1960 by Yves Klein. (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:L%27accord_bleu_(RE_10),_1960.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a> (CC BY-SA 3.0))

"Blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions,” believing that it could take the viewer outside the canvas itself." -- Yves Klein

It is also a genre in music, a popular girls name (I have often wished to be named a colour, like Blue, Jade or Grey) a descriptive of many a downcast mood, a healthy brain food rich in antioxidants … the blue history and stories are limitless, it seems.

Try a C2 blue from our full spectrum paint. I've included some of my selections below. Please send me a peek how you've transformed your room using blue --  I'd love to see! 

About the Author:

Philippa Radon

Color Expert, Philippa Radon cultivated her signature color-based design philosophy through many years of developing her professionally trained eye in the industry. Working with high profile British and U.S. designers, her work as a colour consultant led her to establish her own full-service design firm Philippa Radon Design, where she is immersed in a world of colour and design. She recently relocated from Los Angeles to Western NY, where she is inspired by the beauty of her own “work in progress’ farmhouse and its surroundings. She brings her attunement to nature back to the energetic pulse of city life, claiming that “the chickens keep her honest.” 


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