Bev Jackson Cotter: Is the sky really blue? Maybe…

Published 9:00 am Saturday, January 18, 2020

Art is… by Bev Jackson Cotter

Bev Jackson Cotter


More than 40 years ago, I registered for a color design class taught by Ione Bell at Austin Community College. I did not know that her inspiring lessons would affect the way I look at color for the rest of my life. The first day of class, I drove home looking at the sky, the blue sky. Or was it really blue?

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On Jan. 1, the sunrise was ablaze with color, and throughout the day I watched as changes occurred. The following essay resulted from my observing and Ione Bell’s lessons.

The sky is blue. Really? Well, yes and no.

The sunrise this morning is spectacular. The brilliant reds and oranges and yellows are streaming across the sky, blending into bright, hazy purple shades. I only notice the impossibly beautiful colors, encouraging me to “Oooh” and “Aaah” as if I were watching the Fourth of July fireworks.

My mother used to say, “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”

Since I’m not at sea, I can enjoy the colors and not be concerned.

The sky is blue. Really?

After starting the coffee maker and peeling an orange, I look out the window again. This time I recognize sky blue: the color that we learned in grade school, the color in the Crayola boxes, the color we used surrounding the sun in the corner of our second-grade paintings, the color around the puffy white clouds floating across the bright winter sky. Yet, as the day moves on, even the sky blue color changes; sometimes deeper, sometimes brighter, sometimes lighter.

The sky is blue. Really?

In midafternoon the sky is gray. Not solid, dark threatening gray, but a lighter, softer color tinged with pale blue streaks that gradually fade to a dusty white. As I tip my head back and my eyes rise to the heavens, on the horizon there is a pale, sky-blue streak above a darker, almost orchid solid border. As I watch, the colors change and blend, softening and darkening, becoming brighter as the sun peeks through the clouds. It’s too bright and now I cannot look.

In the evening, there is a rose colored sunset.

“Red sky at night. Sailor’s delight.”

My delight, too. This time the color is softer, a gentle closure to a good day with sweet memories and curious questions.

But wait, there is one more. Tonight there are no stars in the sky. There is only darkness, very dark darkness. It’s not even dark blue. It’s just dark.

Is the sky really blue?  Well, yes, no, maybe, sometimes … always.

Ione Bell’s design classes challenged us to look beyond what we thought we saw. Was that scarf green or did it look green because of the yellow sweater she was wearing? Will its color appear to change when she goes outside and it is under natural lighting?

Ione Bell encouraged us to open our eyes and to search for our inner creativity, the art that only we can offer.

Speaking of expressing that inner creativity, the annual all-member show is currently on display at The Albert Lea Art Center. A special thank you to all the local artists and Art Center members who submitted their work. No matter how they were inspired — by a parent, a teacher, a book or even a stubborn childhood determination that said, “This is fun.  I’ve gotta’ keep doing it,” we’re glad they have dared to say “I want to look at the world through the eyes of an artist and I’d like to share my creations.”

Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of The Albert Lea Art Center, 101 S. Broadway, where the annual all-member show will be on display through Feb. 15.