I can tell you first hand what indigo looks like, it is the color of the bruise that appeared on my right hip after Tara my filly kicked out at the gelding Mortimer and got me instead. That is what indigo looks like. I have never seen a horse express so much remorse, her neck curved, head down, mouth making that chewing motion that I have read about in Monty Roberts’ books on training horses.

I have decided that Tara really needs to drop this habit… or should I write … kick ….

Back to the color indigo. Possibly I have approached indigo in this little painting I did of a friend leading his horse across the land under a night sky. I have changed everything, the horse was not a paint, the saddle was not Western, he was leading the horse through the woods and over rough stone during the day, but the painting was created more because this friend taught me horses see much better than we do at night.

Sometimes a group of us would mistake the distance we needed to travel and be riding homewards under the stars. We could all have closed our eyes and let go of the reins and we would have been carried home safe and sound by our sure-footed horses with their night vision eyes.

Those nights were not indigo, because there was always the light from the sky, starlight or moonlight. The night seemed to be soft, grey, tinged with pale gold, at least that is how I remember it; with the light escaping as a breath from the dark trees and the ground.

I remember the indigo used to color the clothes being sold in the markets in Guatemala. Joya Hairs, my mother’s friend from childhood, took me and my mother under her wing and introduced us to that country. I remember that many of the traditional garments were woven in white and indigo stripes, striking. Then there were the beautiful embroidered huipil, covered in designs or sewn with realistic flowers against the indigo background. I wonder where mine is now, I hardly ever wore it because it was too warm, too cold or too beautiful.

Guatemala I remember as being tinged blue, indigo, the mountains sweeping off into the distance, the lakes in the valleys. Joya made us mushrooms in a cream sauce, cooked on a tiny gas burner at the side of a mountain road. Women walked by us in their indigo and white striped garments, always carrying something.

I am aware that others percieve indigo as a wide range of colors from light blue to violet, it has been used since 4000 BCE, the Bronze Age. For many indigo is a deeply spiritual color, may be because some see this color as darker than night. It is a color that draws you in and wraps its veil around you.

Indigo in Europe was named woad – I remember being told in history class that the early Britons used woad to color their skin, a fashion statement or was it to frighten their enemies, who were, at one time, the Romans?

Indigo was one of the least expensive blues, as it was sourced from a plant and not a mineral. Indigo was synthesised in 1878, by a German chemist Von Baeyer.

If you are curious about reading more about Indigo I recommend that you skip over to Wikipedia and the Winsor & Newton articles about the different colors.

Please share your comments.

Happy painting.

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