I know it’s my all-time favorite Crayola color, a blue infused with white, a touch of red. I don’t know what a cornflower is, but from the name I imagine it to grow in wide fields somewhere in the vicinity of Iowa. I picture it to be small with wispy petals, blue-purple, and yellow eyes. Like purple aster. A poor man’s flower. An everyman’s flower.
Cornflower was the color I picked to paint a New Mexico sky. As a child I didn’t think “New Mexico sky” or “Washington, DC sky.” Sky was sky. There was no sense of this place or that place. I only knew where it was I came from — New Mexico dirt, scrub oak, piñon, extreme wind, extreme heat and cold, a crisp blue sky almost always.
Midnight Blue was my night sky color. Midnight. Crayola gave me the cues to know which colors to pick. Flesh. Pine Green, which I saved for piñon trees, but then the darker Forest Green was confusing; didn’t piñons grow in forests? I used Melon for fruit, Turquoise Blue for the bracelet on Grandma’s wrist.
I never understood the raw colors, Raw Sienna and Raw Umber. Why raw? They were shades of brown, and the browns threw me off the most. Sepia and Mahogany, even Maroon was a sort of brown.
But Cornflower, Cornflower didn’t give me any signals. Nothing but the color of the waxy crayon tip to tell me where to put it on my page. I was a tidy artist, one to stay inside the lines. Dad’s accounting sensibility rubbed off on me. He once put a drawing of mine into his briefcase and took it to work.
I colored to please my father, colored because I could produce something tidy, clean, literal at the end of the exercise. Something to march home and show: this is me, me being you, this is you.
Everything I know about Cornflower I learned by fifth grade. I learned it was good to be an enigma, something defiant of a label.
In the box of Crayola crayons, the big boxes with the colorful sticks laid out in rows, one row on top of another on top of another, the world was divided into clusters. My red tones here, my brown tones next, yellows and greens residing side by side. Blues were calm, Cerulean, Midnight Blue, its cousin Navy, Turquoise Blue almost too bright for its peer group.
But Cornflower, that amazing plant growing in the wide Iowa plains, Cornflower was the calmest of colors. Not a still sea with who knows what churning under the surface. Not a night where things might appear, vague and menacing. But a clear, crisp sky. A home, a place, a moment.
-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT THE COLOR BURNT SIENNA…