My favorite blue happens to be Ultramarine. 

It was years before I discovered that this color had been mined in Afghanistan and taken to Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, and that it was Lapis Lazuli that had been ground down into a powder to get that exhilirating blue. It was so expensive that at one time it was only used to paint the Madonna’s veil, at least that is what I have read.

My other favorite tube blue is Cobalt and my least favorite is Cerulean, because it registers as too yellow for me. In fact I start out trying to paint my skies blue and, in the end, they end up being any other color, but mostly pale yellow.

Then there was Picasso and his Blue Period. Some of us relate using blue with being depressed. I don’t. I associate blue with calm and serenity. However, I have read that even Picasso associated his Blue Period with being depressed after the suicide of a close friend. This causes me to pause and feel a sad quiver of recognition.

Back to blue and remembering how intense the blue of the sea was around the Greek islands I visited. Here I could dip my brush in ultramarine and flood the paper with this glorious color and it did not feel out of place. I have found this ultramarine blue also in the shadows painted by the Canadian Group of Seven, who I thought were exaggerating until I too visited Northern Ontario and saw the colors for myself. Again I have seen this ultramarine in the early morning when driving up Mount Rest, which we see from the field we keep the horses. It was difficult to look at the intensity of that blue in nature.

The image … Water Lillies ( was painted during one of several workshops with the Italian painter Rolando di Gaetani, you can find more about him on the Internet. It was he who told us not to use too much white in a painting because it killed color, and to use black because it intensified the light. So, yes, I sometimes use black, but I still prefer my blues.

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