When I figured out why regular paint looks so bad, I got a little nutty and decided to make my own full spectrum hues. The only paint store that would let me play with color was almost an hour away, and it seemed to take forever to blend the colors so they were exactly right. The process was laborious & difficult & incredibly satisfying.
My lovely clients were thrilled with my first few creations, and I became obsessed with really great color. Looking at my favorite palo verde tree one day, I suddenly had to get that funky yellow-green color. Then my darling neighbor Cindy rescued a puppy with the most beautiful fur. Needless to say, I started going nuts - all these beautiful, tasty, quirky things around me - all these amazing colors I wanted to wrap myself & my clients' walls in.
My mom had died before I started mixing paint, so I was feeling sentimental and very tender. I wanted to recreate all my favorite things as colors: childhood vacations, great books, yummy desserts, tender moments and all the incredible people that I love.
It's been intriguing that my color names have struck such a chord. I don't know if it's because most paint names are void of humanity or because I'm making colors that echo some real thing. Maybe we all want to feel connected and authentic names resonate. Still, for me, the name is just the tip of the iceberg, all the really good stuff is underneath: relationships and memories with the family and friends who've been a part of my world. I've named colors after each of my three sons, my friends, my husband, my sisters & dad, and, of course, my mom. My color names whisper the blessings of nature and beauty and those I love. Here are a few of the stories...
#03 lala's laugh ™
When I was a bored teenager at a family dinner, I heard my grandmother laughing in the next room. It was such an infectious, rolling sound; it broke through my disdain for all things adult. I realized how completely cool my Lala was. Plus, she used to spike our juice at dinner.
#04 butterscotch ™
My first-ever, homemade, full spectrum color. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing, but managed to persevere through a whole bunch of badly mixed versions. When I thought the recipe looked right, I painted a few walls. That night, with the pale caramel walls glowing, I was so happy I teared up. There was this space between the wall and the air that was made of light. The color addiction began.
#06 cashmere sweater ™
I started wearing vintage clothes in high school (mortifying my family). My Lala loved the funky style and gave me her prize sweater from the 50's. It was heavily beaded, silk-trimmed and, baby, it was all cashmere. It was the perfect hue; a glorious mix of pearl and cameo. I struggled with the subtlety of that color till I thought it wasn't possible. Once I had mastered a lot of other colors, though, I tried it again. Finally, there were ten pigments, in quantities so tiny they barely whispered. Somehow it worked, and Lala's amazing sweater lives on.
#13 rascal ™
I was pretty outspoken as a kid. Though some might have called me worse, my lala loved my spunk, so she called me rascal. (She also called me monkey doodle which my staff immediately rejected as a color name.) I was nutty about lala & felt special to have a pet name. What makes this remembrance so sweet for me is what happened 30 years later. My dad introduced me to his lovely companion, Eileen. Shes funny & gracious & beautiful & smart. Apparently shes also got me completely wired, because without knowing one thing about my lala, she starts calling me rascal. Even more wonderful, she and my dad have married. Cece calls her our bonus mom & shes all of that. Sigh, I love you, Eileen.
#16 ripe tomato ™
One high school summer, my three sisters, Mom, Dad and I were all working and busy. Magically, my parents had grown a garden. Everything was ripe at once, and the six of us sat down to a feast: sourdough bread, fresh corn on the cob and the most glorious tomatoes ever eaten. And, this is so my Mom, she had peeled and marinated all the tomatoes! Food of the gods.
#18 first kiss ™
By the end of elementary school, I had grown into a dork. I barely stood four and a half feet tall, wore braces, and was as skinny as a bean pole. Unbelievably, the quiet hunk of our eighth grade class gave me the sweetest kiss at our graduation dance. I swooned all summer. Thank you, Ray.
#35 magic hour ™
As the sun slides down in Tucson, the light gets sideways and golden halos transform the desert. Ordinary trees become glowing sculptures and mountains become epic. The drab curtain of the day is parted, and you can glimpse the beauty that's always there. My family calls it magic hour.
#39 palo verde ™
Do you remember the scene in the movie The Miracle Worker, when Helen Keller finally understands sign language as communication? My color epiphany was cinematically unremarkable. I was riding my stationary bike to nowhere, reading a book on color and looked up at the elegant palo verde tree outside my window. Its natural beauty made me realize that I didn't have to make colors that other paint companies made. I could create any color that inspired me.
#44 pickle delight ™
I grew up spending magical summers at our tiny beach house in alamitos bay. my sisters & I jumped out of bed ready to float on rafts, make sand castles, play kick the can & then fall into bed happily exhausted each night. As we got bigger, we body surfed on the ocean side, listened to our first beatles albums & had crushes on some very cute boys. Every friday, our groovy mom made pickle delight for lunch. Using toothpicks as utensils, we became beach gourmets, catching little pieces of cheese, bologna & pickles (of course) in a big wooden bowl. Mom called them sandwiches without the sand.
#52 somersault ™
When I was six, my family moved to a beautiful house set on a high sweep of hill. That slope of lawn would beckon Laura & Cece & Sharla & I, and wed turn into potato bugs & go somersaulting. The crazy thing is it was kinda scary to start. Wed get that feeling that, maybe, this wasnt such a great idea. But wed curl up & push ourselves off. Then wed hit the really steep part and everything was whirling & wed think Im going too fast & Im gonna roll right into the street & Im gonna die! Wed flatten out in a whoosh in that gentle curve at the bottom and wed have survived! The release from escaping a most certain demise was completely exhilarating & there was nothing for it, but to jump up & fling ourselves down that hill again.
#55 downpour ™
Last summer, my son, Brian, & I were laying on my bed watching the lightning of a dry storm. Wed been out of town & had sadly missed one of Tucsons craziest monsoons, so we were soaking in all the weather we could. With the lights out & the windows wide open, we watched the silent drama behind the catalina mountains. Brian mentioned that the mountains seemed to be getting foggier & the lightning was getting closer. As faint echoes of thunder reverberated (we wondered aloud how it really does sound like its rolling), we could see lightning strikes a couple of miles away. Somehow, our entire view was becoming obscured by clouds. Rain started pounding, when a fat strike of lightning hit next to the house & thunder exploded. The lightning illuminated such a sexy color of fierce, smoky rain that i was completely inspired. Wind blasted the rain sideways, straight through our open windows & hit Brian & I in the face six feet away. We slammed the windows shut, drenched, laughing, & Brian said, Mom, that whole storm was 11 minutes!. Gorgeous.
#60 mr darcy ™
I've had a huge crush on Darcy ever since Jane Austen introduced us. My wonderful husband Rick is a good sport about it, and he leaves me to indulge pure girly heaven when I'm doing a Pride and Prejudice marathon -- and falling in love with Darcy and Lizzie all over again.
#65 soul sister ™
My little sister Cece & I went to holy names high school in Oakland, where lots of our classmates had fabulous rhythm & we didnt. We knew we needed some dance moves, badly. Blasting music from Tower of Power or the Pointer sisters, we practiced our grooves over & over in front of Ceces mirror. Wed catch each other looking particularly goofy & crack up. It was a salve for our strained friendship. In the years ahead, Cece & I became easier friends & kept getting closer. We helped each other navigate our grown up lives
through boyfriends & husbands & little kids & crazy careers. She became my true soul sister & sweetest friend. And in the end, the dancing helped... Cece & I may have only just missed being the spazziest white girls at the school dances, but we had each others backs.
#67 big city girl ™
My sister-in-law/fellow out-law, Lee Ann and I had spent a perfect day in San Francisco: shopping, eating and shopping some more. It was rush hour, and she was dropping me off at a Bay Area subway station. Cars were stacked up behind us, everyone was honking, she was practically pushing me out of the car, and suddenly pipes up, "Oh, by the way, this is a really dangerous station, so be a heads-up big city girl. Bye!" Classic Lee Ann.
#79 puppy fur ™
You know that yummy blonde color on a yellow lab? My neighbors rescued a little lab puppy and I flipped over her fur. I was so inspired that I raced down to the studio to create the exact color. Luckily, my neighbors never caught me comparing swatches to the puppy's fur.
#80 double latte ™
My favorite caffeine delivery system. First the spreading warmth, then the caffeine hum, and next I'm talking like Minnie Mouse. There's a reason I don't have triple latte.
#84 hello, betty ™
When my boys were little, my sister Cece taught them to say "helloooo, betty" (roughly translated as hubba-hubba). My dear soul sister Cece is funny, generous and supportive. While my passions keep me exploring, Cece is there as my anchor. This paint business is the most extreme thing I've done, and there are moments when the hostility of the paint community has overwhelmed me. She's showered me with loving cards and a hundred phone calls. One particularly bad day, she told me, "Don't worry where you're going C J, it's an incredible journey. We don't know where you'll be in a year - but I can't wait to see." Thank you, beautiful sister and unconditional friend, I can't imagine my life without you.