The first thing Phill Uperdone noticed that early November morning was that yellow was everywhere. The next thing he noticed is that there was no purple. The studio was a vast wash of yellow ocher and cadmium yellow (deep, medium, and pale); there were lemon, Indian, golden and gamboge yellows, and these were smeared, sprayed, brushed, dumped and dribbled everywhere. But he could not find one Phthalo purple, mauve, or thio violet anywhere. The problem wasn’t that the tubes were squeezed dry; The problem was that the tubes did not exist.
And when a primary does not have its complement, there will be hell to pay. This is how Phill Uperdone thought about it. Especially since he was three weeks away from a deadline to hang an exhibit he had entitled “Purple Underwear” that was to hang over the wonderfully sales happy Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Black Friday! He tried mixing rose madder with ultamarine blue, but got only a drudge gray of the sort that might be referred to as dirty tighty whitey. He even squeezed bit of cobalt blue in with vermillion. This was drudgier than madder and ultamarine, something akin to soiled, dirty tighty whiteys.
What was even worse was that when the model disrobed, she was in tighty whities of various shades, hues, or discolorations or another. Needless to say, she was very displeased. She had been displeased with this job anyway. Being an exhibitionist a la naturale, she had not been happy with coverage of any kind, but money is money and as with most exhibitionists a la naturale she needed the cash. And now her a la naturales were being hidden by extremely shitty shades of blah. She was not a happy young woman.
Something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. And this was exactly the wrong time for things to go terribly, terribly wrong. This was the worst time in Phill’s rising and paint flecked career for the universe to decide that purple was no longer in the rainbow. But decided it had, apparently. It was not a pleasant morning in the studio.
I wish I could tell you that Phill woke up from his nightmare and was relieved to find purple splashed in all the complementary places. But he didn’t. On November 9th, 2016 he woke up and the color purple was definitely not anywhere to be painted.
His young African American model quit. And so the Thanksgiving exhibit opened to a show of a series of very bland canvases of a skinny, pale woman who had insisted on ankle to chin white under the untidy tighty whities. Nobody bought anything. And Phil was stuck with retrieving some very dull paintings from the gallery. Obviously, the gallery informed him that his work was no longer welcome there.
He burned everything. The flames crackled and snickered various yellows, blues, reds and oranges. But the color purple was gone and the fire was very, very dull. Hell had been paid.