Chapter 1 - A COLLAPSE IN THE DUST
Before Einida’ gaze was a magnificent view of a long abandoned and graying farmhouse. The sun was well over the peaks of the hills, but there were still some of the glows of the southwest sun filtering through the clouds. It was a spectacular scene.
She, overwhelmed by the beauty, tried to take a deep breath but found herself taking a series of smaller panting inhalations. She gasped in dismay, "Why. Can’t. I. Paint?"
She heard a cracking sound and watched as her tripod easel collapsed, it knocked her off her stool. then she slumped back onto her stool. It collapsed suddenly.
"I regret everything!" she yelled as she tumbled down the hill.
A few hours later.
It was a scene of carnage, of startling disarray.
Viktor Criterion looked up from his GPS at Dr. Phil Bravo and said, "Where’s Einida? These are the right coordinates."
A broken tripod easel sprawled in the dust. A tactical backpack lay open in the dirt, with its guts of watercolor tubes, palettes, brushes and other artistic detritus spilling out onto the red Earth. Nearby, a small camping stool was flattened.
It was clear that something terrible had happened.
Viktor grimaced and said, "I’m rather surprised at the level of chaos here. I thought it would have been a much more peaceful affair."
"So, why did you bring me all the way out here?" Dr. Phil leaned against a tree. He wiped the sweat off his brow.
"Isn’t it obvious? You’re a doctor. And I was afraid of something like this happening during Einida’s first Painters Biathlon. And sadly it appears as if my calculations were correct." Viktor gestured towards the chaos that was before them.
"What’s a Painter’s Biathlon?" Dr. Phil said as he began peeling an orange that he pulled out of his pocket. To keep from adding to the chaos, he put the orange peel into his lab coat.
Viktor sat down on a rock and said, "Why is it a fascinating idea that originated from one of the Urban Sketching communities…"
Dr. Phil ate an orange wedge and said, "What’s Urban Sketching?"
Viktor patted his knees and said, "It’s where people meet at a specific location and do watercolors of urban areas and then they all put their watercolor paintings down on the ground for everyone to look at and comment on. It’s a rather delightful cooperative experience where artists share and learn from each other. And of course, someone thought that the cooperative spirit of sharing a lovely experience together would be greatly enhanced by adding a competitive edge. And so was born the Painter’s Biathlon."
Dr. Phil ate another orange wedge and said, "What are the rules?"
Viktor placed his finger in the air and with great gusto, began to explain, "It’s where a painter follows a map and runs to the first location. They set up their gear, paint what they see, pack their gear and then run to the next location. Some races are short like the Sprint & Splatter, the Sprint-n-Splash, the Great Watercolor Dash, the Trot & Tint & Trot, or The Hustle & Hue."
Dr. Phil said, "That’s interesting and all, but shouldn’t someone do something about this mess? It is offensive to my eye."
A small smile crept across Viktor’s face. He knew Dr. Phil couldn’t resist restoring order to chaos. This would give Viktor time to give a soliloquy and avoid the bother of cleaning the mess.
Dr. Phil stuffed the rest of the orange in his mouth and began collecting the spilled watercolor tubes.
Viktor leaned back on his rock and continued, "Other biathlons are more mid-range races that have 5 painting sites in 5 miles. Those races include the Race & Render which, of course, is different from the Run & Render.
Dr. Phil delicately placed the watercolor tubes into the backpack on the ground.
Viktor continued, "Others have 26 painting sites like the Pigment Pacers Marathon or the Pace Yourself and Paint. These are much longer races, where the artist's physical pacing is much more critical to the ability to paint coherently."
Dr. Phil began collecting the paint brushes that were scattered all over the painting site.
Viktor continued continuing, "Then, there are the more off-road races like the Scamper & Sketch, and the Scamper & Stipple where one has to climb over boulders and up and down cliffs to reach the painting targets."
Dr. Phil shoved the bottles of paint pigment into the backpack.
Viktor stroked his beard and said, "There are also the swankier races such as the Dash & Depicture and the Daub and Dash. Those races usually take place in culturally significant places like Rome, Paris and London."
Dr. Phil began collecting the watercolor palettes that were scattered all over the painting site.
Viktor continued, "Of course, there are the more philosophical and esoteric races like the Race Against Time and Blank Space, where one must compose poetry about their own mortality and other philosophical concepts and work it into the watercolor paintings."
Dr. Phil crammed the watercolor palettes into the backpack.
Viktor continued expounding, "There’s even The Rapid Rendering Relay, where after you paint the target, you run to the next target and hand your teammate the Watercolor Kit. Each segment of the race is painted by a different person, much like a Relay racing in running."
Dr. Phil picked up the broken tripod easel. He looked up and said, "What are they judged on?"
Viktor twirled his mustache and said, "A number of different things like, the total duration of time that it takes the painter to go from start to finish, whether every stop has a painting associated with it…"
Dr. Phil unflattened the camping chair. Then he sat down and laid the tripod across his knees to take a closer look at it. He said, "Do they have to set up the painting gear at every stop?"
Viktor smiled and said emphatically, "Of course! How quickly a painter can pack and unpack is of a critical nature in this race."
Dr. Phil pulled out a screwdriver from his lab coat and said, "I would think that in these races, the strongest, fittest person would win."
Viktor began to wave his hands enthusiastically as he said, "Well, artistic skills are also measured like the quality of their straight lines, especially towards the end of the competition. Another factor is the accuracy of color, as in ‘does the color palette remain consistent throughout the race’" He waggled his fingers while doing air quotes with his hands.
He continued, "And, of course, the traditional elements found in painting competitions like the quality of composition and how well the style of painting works with the subject."
Dr. Phil stood up and began looking for the missing parts of the tripod. He said wanly, "How interesting."
Viktor pointed at a small disco ball hanging from a tree branch. He said, "Oh, and the race organizers always hide a small item at each site to test the artists’ attention to detail, and to make sure that they were actually at the race site."
Dr. Phil wandered around the painting site and began picking up bottles of water that were strewn about. He’d given up on the tripod repair.
Viktor sighed happily and said, "It’s also a fascinating test of logistics. Everyone must carry all of their own supplies. One of the most important elements of logistics is water management. The painter must calculate how much water to carry for drinking and how much water for watercoloring. You lose points, and possibly brain cells, if you end up having to drink your watercolor water."
Dr. Phil began shoving water bottles into the backpack and said blandly, "How interesting."
Viktor raised his finger in the air and said, "It’s a fascinating mix of art and physical fitness, of competition and creativity…"
Then, he interrupted himself and said, " I simply must do a study to see how quickly one’s watercoloring abilities diminish during physical strain…"
Suddenly, they heard a whimpering voice croak, "Decimated…"
Viktor put down his finger that he had raised in anticipation of prolonging his point. He called out, "Einida! Is that you? Where are you?"
He got off of his rock and began to wander around.
"There you are. The race has been over for an hour and the organizers said you never showed up at the finish line. What happened? Are you alright?" Viktor said while gazing at the spectacle of chaos before him.
Einida was lying under a tree. She was covered in a mosaic of grime, dirt, and dried watercolors.
Dr. Phil ran to her and began taking her pulse. He said, "You look utterly exhausted!"
She sighed and said, "Viktor, your calculations were correct. My watercolor kit was… a tad heavier than necessary."
Dr. Phil said, "Your pulse is low. How’s your temperature?" He gave her a thermometer.
Viktor smiled gently and said, "I knew I’d find you at the 7th target. My calculations predicted that you would succumb to fatigue at the 4th target, but I also knew your uncommon grit and tenacity would propel you further."
They waited patiently until the thermometer beeped. Dr. Phil said, "Your temperature seems a little high. We need to get you somewhere cool."
VIktor held out his hand and helped her up.
He patted her on the shoulder and said, "Let’s go to the diner for a post-experiment denouement. We’ve got a lot to discuss."
Chapter 2 - THE DINER
Einida sat slumped over her key lime pie that had a 3" meringue. She, Dr. Phil and Viktor were tucked into a booth at their favorite diner.
In front of Viktor was a plate of chicken fried steak and eggs with crispy hashbrowns.
Dr. Phil was stirring a sensible bowl of chicken noodle soup.
"No need to snivel over spilt supplies," Viktor said while pulling napkins out of the napkin dispenser, and putting them in his lap rather than offering one to Einida.
She wiped some dirt from her hands with the bottom of her t-shirt. She muttered, "Bah. It was a disaster! Everything went wrong. First, I had too many colors to choose from."
Dr. Phil said, "Just how many colors did you bring?" as he began eating his soup.
Einida said, "I pre-prepared 12 palettes with 12 colors each, for 144 individual colors. But most of my colors did not match the "Target Tableaus." I wanted to be ready for sunrise, sunset, rain or blazing noonday sun. But somehow, the landscape was none of these colors."
Viktor shook his head and said gently, "Tut tut."
She lifted her fork and said, "Oh yes, then I painted abysmally because I was so tired from carrying my kit, I could barely hold the brush. I brought multiples of every supply I could think of. That’s what I do when we pack for an expedition, and that has always served us well." She took a bite of pie.
Then, she said, "And I may have packed a few too many water bottles."
Viktor pulled out another napkin and said, "Ah yes, but a competition isn’t an expedition. I admit that your ‘Tactical Watercolor Kit’ is an inspiration for… something, but it may be better suited for a vehicle. Sadly, it was not very efficient for this purpose. Running with a 40 pound weight can be quite the challenge."
Einida perked up and did the quick mental calculation, "That’s 18.14 kilograms." Mentally converting customary units to metric was one of her hobbies.
Then, she shook her head and said, "Finally, when I set up at my 7th target, I put my backpack on the tripod, as I usually do. But the weight of it finally collapsed the tripod easel, which knocked me off my stool, spilled my gear and sent me rolling down the hill into a cactus.
But the weight of it finally collapsed the tripod easel, I reached for it and missed, sat back in the stool which collapsed, my gear spilled, and I was sent rolling down the hill and landed on top of a cactus. It was ghastly, just ghastly!" She sat up and ate a large bite of pie.
Then she waved her bandaged arms at Dr. Phil. She said, "Though you did do a marvelous job of getting out the spines."
Dr. Phil grunted, while adding a cracker to his soup. Then, he suddenly dropped his spoon and said, "Oh, this is for you. I found it taped to your half painted canvas at the race. I think it’s a critique from the Biathalon’s critic."
He handed her a crumpled piece of paper.
Einida began to read it. She slumped further into the booth and groaned. "It’s bad. It’s really bad." Her head thumped onto the table in despair.
Viktor put down his napkins and grabbed the paper from her hand. He began reading it. He grimaced.
Then, he suddenly smiled and said brightly. "This is stupendous news! Failures are what we strive for, here at SFAQT Laboratories!" He gestured vaguely at the table.
He put the paper into his pocket. Though he disagreed with the critics point of view, he mentally giggled at the scathing language used.
After a quick bite of his biscuit dipped into the gravy of his chicken fried steak, he raised his finger and said, "Failures are what separates us from the layman! It’s science! We embrace failure. Without failure there is no learning. You eliminate a possibility and are now closer than ever to finding the right path to success. Failure should always be embraced." He started pulling more napkins from the napkin dispenser.
Dr. Phil looked up and said, "But failures in medicine are bad, especially if the patient dies." Then, he went back to eating his soup.
Viktor pulled out another napkin and said dramatically, "Failures always have a time and a place."
Einida lifted her head from the table and grumbled, "But a race isn't a controlled environment like a Laboratory. It's a test of self and I wanted to test my ability to do logistical thinking in a competitive environment. It was a measure of mettle. It was a way to see if one is found to be lacking...and I have found myself lacking." She put down her fork and slumped into the booth again.
Viktor pulled out another napkin and said, "I love failure so much. Let’s begin our analysis of the situation. You’ve explained WHY you brought multiples of the same supplies, but why did you bring such a vast variant of supplies, like tubes of gouache, watercolor half pans and full pans, tubes of spare color, watercolor pencils, packets of pigment powder…"
Einida interrupted him and said, "It’s because of Dr. Ricardo and his Wonderful Warehouse of Watercolor Supplies…"
Chapter 3 - DR. RICARDO AND HIS WONDERFUL WAREHOUSE OF WATERCOLOR SUPPLIES
Dear Gentle Reader, it is here in the story where we must flashback in time.
This occurred several months earlier at the Lab…
Viktor strode into the Lab and said, "Did you see the new Highway Vendor down by the Used Tarp Salesman? He's the new fellow in the hammock. I don't know what he's selling, but I simply adore it when the curbside economy expands."
The Whistler, the Lab’s landscaper, looked up from the lawnmower he was repairing and said, "What I would’ve given for a used tarp salesman when I was first starting off in the landscaping business. Tarps are so great! You can haul leaves, cover loads of dirt, and make shade. I could talk all day about tarps." He sighed happily.
Einida looked up from her clipboard and said, "We should go investigate."
Viktor shouted abruptly, "To the Tarp Salesman!"
The Whistler jumped up and said, "I need to buy some new used tarps. I’m coming too."
Later that day…
"There’s the Used Tarp salesman!" yelled The Whistler.
"Pull over!" yelled Viktor.
"Is that the man in the hammock?" said Einida quizzically.
They got out of the car. The Whistler ran towards the tarp salesman. Viktor and Einida walked toward the man who was swinging back and forth in the hammock.
"Normally, when one sees a man in a hammock, they are relaxing. But this man seems to be hard at work." Einida said.
"Are those easels with paintings on them... next to the hammock?" Viktor asked.
They moved even closer.
"Egads. Is he painting from a swinging hammock? That's impossible!" said Einida
"Hello!!" shouted the man. He waved to them and then motioned for them to come closer.
As they walked toward the man, Einida whispered "His white hair and beard makes him look wise. I wonder if his words will prove otherwise."
"Hello, I'm Dr. Ricardo. I've just moved in here. Are you my neighbors?" said the man.
Viktor thought deeply for a moment as he calculated the appropriate response out of thousands of possibilities. Then he said, "I suppose we are. Welcome. I'm Viktor. I make things."
He continued, "Clearly you are a painter and a man of leisure, if that hammock is any indicator."
Einida stepped forward, held out her hand and said, "Welcome, I’m Einida and I’m a painter too."
Dr. Ricardo shook her hand from the hammock and said, "I'm now retired, but I used to be in the business of manufacturing Plein Air painting supplies. I have a huge amount of supplies left over, and I've now got time to try out all the crazy ideas I've had over the years."
Viktor suddenly gasped and said "And you're currently testing the theory of whether or not you can Plein Air paint two paintings at the same time. What a fascinating idea!"
Einida said, "Is it working?"
The man stopped swinging and said, "Take a look. What do you think?"
Viktor stroked his beard and said, "By Jove, I think it IS working. Your pointillism style is on point." He tittered. "Retirement seems to suit you."
Dr. Ricardo began swinging his hammock again and said, "You know the best part of retirement? I finally get to follow my muse."
Einida said, "Who is your muse?
He said, "Why, Amico Aspertini of course."
The Whistler, who had wandered over, had a large stack of used tarps in his arms. He said, "Who’s Aspertini?"
Einida smiled and said, "I can answer that! You know that one of our hobbies is studying Eccentrics throughout history. Amico Aspertini was a well known Italian artist from 1475. He was eccentric not only because he was ambidextrous but also because he developed an incredible technique where he painted with BOTH hands at the same time!"
Viktor tittered gleefully and added, "He painted so expressively and outside the norms of the painting community that the critic, S. J. Freedberg, compared Aspertini’s works to those ‘that he would expect from a demented Michelangelo.’" Quote
Viktor clapped with delight.
Einida said, "And don’t forget that Giorgio Vasari, who, in 1568 wrote the book ‘The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects' said that Aspertini had ‘a half-insane personality.’ Although, when I read the book I don’t recall mention of Aspertini. I wonder what other eccentricities he had?"
Viktor clasped his hands together and with a twinkle in his eye he said, "Could this be a misattribution? This sounds like a delightful research project. Take a note!"
Dr. Ricardo twirled his paintbrushes and said, "Yes, he painted in the style of chiaroscuro, which is where there is a major contrast between light and dark. But the neat thing about him was that he was so fast he could paint the chiaro or light elements with one hand and the scuro or dark elements with the other. This, I believe, is the most efficient method of painting ever devised."
Einida asked, "Which hand was dedicated to the chiaro style? And which hand was the scuro style?"
Dr. Ricardo, "What an interesting question. I’m not sure anyone knows. I don’t think it matters, as I’ve tried it both ways."
The Whistler set his tarps down in a pile and said, "Well, what famous things did he do?"
Einida said, "Though not a 2-handed painting, I think his masterwork was the designs for the magnificent sculptures on the door of the The Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, Italy. Although, not many of his original designs have survived."
Viktor suddenly began reciting a long list of Aspertini’s works that no one there had ever heard of.
Dr. Ricardo looked at his watch. Then, he interrupted Viktor’s listing and pointed one of his paintbrushes at his paintings. He said "What do you think?"
Viktor looked at the paintings and said, "Why, it looks like you’re using a variant of the Aspertini technique to paint 2 completely different watercolor paintings instead of using it for lights and darks. How remarkable!"
Einida smiled and said, "I think you can tell me more about your leftover supplies. You see, I'm thinking about becoming a competitive painter and I need a new supplier..." She told him the whole story about the recent explosion of Painters Biathlons and her desire to add more supplies to her racing technique.
"Well, you simply must come to my warehouse. It will be a pleasant surprise, I think. And you'll be doing me a favor by freeing up some space. You need more supplies and I need more shelf space. What a perfect match we are." Said Dr. Ricardo as he handed them a business card.
Then, he said with a smile, "Would you like to buy a watercolor?"
As Viktor, Einida and The Whistler walked back to the car, Einida shifted the signed watercolor under her arm and stared at the business card in her hand.
She said with a smile, "What a delightful gentleman and what a fortuitous coincidence. I think things are really looking up for me."
Chapter 4 - BACK AT THE DINER
Einida sighed happily, "Being in the The Watercolor Warehouse was one of the most wonderful days of my life. It was so full of every kind of painting supply. I even found elements I never knew existed like aisles of different types of baby shampoo for cleaning brushes, cases of castile soap for protecting your brushes when using masking fluids, and boxes upon boxes of restaurant napkins for blotting your paintings… Why, there was even an aisle dedicated to different kinds of brush holders. And he had watercolor kits from everywhere! Even from Russia… At least I think they were watercolors. My cyrillic is a little rusty!" She took a bite of pie.
Then she said, "But being presented with such a generous offer of free watercolor supplies of every shape and color may have encouraged me to change my competition strategy to ‘more is better.’"
Viktor pulled out another napkin and said, "Remember, the race is not only meant to test your endurance and cardiovascular training but it is also a duel with your equipment where your only weapon is your spatial reasoning and your grasp of logistics."
Viktor continued, "Most people fall into the trap of wanting to see if they are more pack mule than painter and miss an opportunity to do, what I call, the Zen art of packing which is 'How little can you put in a sack before it feels empty'."
Einida and Dr. Phil exchanged confused glances.
Then, Einida sighed and said, "I suppose I understand it now. It’s a bit like composing a haiku with your belongings: every piece must carry its weight in meaning."
Viktor, his hands full of napkins, clapped in delight. It was a muffled clap.
Dr. Phil shook his head and said, "So what are you going to do now? How are you going to find the ‘haiku of a Painter’s Biathlon?’"
Einida leaned forward and pointed her fork at Dr. Phil. She said, "I will need to find A SYSTEM where I become the laureate of logistics, rather than a pack mule of painting."
Viktor patted his large stack of napkins and said, "Someone else in the world must have had a similar experience. This idea has really set my research senses to tingling. To the Watercolor Nook… well soon… after lunch"
Dr. Phil said, "How many days until your next competition?"
"15 days", said Einida grimly.
Chapter 5 - FIGHTING THE COLORS
Fifteen days until the next competition…
On the table, in the Watercolor Nook, there lay an armada of watercolor supplies, arrayed with the precision of a Naval ship convoy. Each diminutive, rectangular pan, ensconced in its own berth, held a solid cake of paint, the potential of a thousand hues captive in their rest. The colors navigated in an unbroken flank across the vast sea of the tabletop.
This collection was not merely the artist's arsenal but the silent symphony of potential, each pan a note awaiting the maestro's touch to unleash the grand concert of pigments on paper, the very transmutation of the prosaic into the profound.
Einida was slumped in her chair and her hands dangling motionless in front of this dazzling display of supplies.
Viktor was enthusiastically re-arranging the supplies into different lines, like a seasoned admiral preparing to deploy his fleet in a tumultuous battle.
Einida shifted in her chair. She narrowed her eyes and her words came out sharper than usual as she said, "Viktor, we need to figure this out, I only have 15 days until my next painters biathlon. How can I minimize my art supplies?"
Viktor was surprised. He had forgotten the task at hand.
He stopped arranging his supplies into a naval flotilla and said, "Perhaps we’ve been going about this the wrong way." He gestured at the table.
Secretly, he was saddened that there would be no naval battles between watercolor supplies today.
He wiped watercolor dust from his hands with a napkin he had just discovered in his pocket and said, "We’ve been trying to subtract supplies from your packing list. Instead I think we must build up your supplies from zero." He paused for dramatic effect.
Then, he smacked his fist on the table with a loud, thwack. The painting supplies bounced on the table.
He said, "Let’s start at the beginning and follow in the footsteps of giants. Here’s the first pertinent question; What was the monochrome painting technique that was often used by Americo Aspertini?"
Einida gasped and said, "Grisaille!"
The Whistler, who had just walked in carrying a weed-whacker, said, "What’s that? It sounds like the technique of cooking a sailfish on a grill."
Einida turned to him and said "Grisaille, which has been around for hundreds of years, consists of painting in shades of grey. It was used to stunning effect in Picasso’s magnum opus, ‘Guernica.’"
Viktor also turned to The Whistler and said, "In this haunting tableau, Picasso forgoes the garish parade of the colors of war. He opts instead for the grace of greys, thus elevating the work to a more solemn symbolic representation of the calamitous consequences of conflict."
Einida picked up a tube of grey paint and continued, "Or it can have the opposite effect, like the statuesque greys of the doors on the closed Portinari altarpiece, as it would have been displayed except during important celebrations."
Her enthusiasm growing, she continued, "Which serves as a vivid contrast of the altar when its grey doors are opened and an explosion of color portraying a biblical event is revealed."
Viktor smiled triumphantly and said, "Make a note! The first part of our soon-to-be patented ‘Knowledge Triangle’ has been completed."
Einida made a note and said, "Oh, you mean Rule number 360, ‘When in doubt, triangle it out."
The Whistler set down his weed-wacker. He said, "I don’t remember this rule? What’s a ‘Knowledge Triangle?’ How does it work?"
Viktor grimaced and stuffed a watercolor stained napkin into the pocket of his lab coat.
He inhaled deeply and began, "It is the secret formula, the stable base of the pyramid, upon which civilization and science is built. Without it we would have no Astronomy, Navigation, Mathematics…it is the divine secret hand of nature itself that guides us all through…" He stopped, seeing the confusion on The Whistler’s face.
Viktor recomposed his thoughts and said, "Put simply, it is a technique to take two knowns to discover the 3rd unknown."
Einida suddenly slumped back into her chair, "But how can I enter the competition with a monochrome palette? I suppose it is technically correct and doesn’t violate the rules of competition where the ‘accuracy of the color palette MUST remain consistent throughout the race.’ But I don’t think anyone has ever competed using only one color."
Viktor tittered, "Technically correct, is best correct," he said with a Russian accent, as he sat down in a chair.
She sighed and said, "I can’t limit my palette to only a single color. There are so many colors outside. How can I capture the magnificence of a sunset, or the delicate foliage of a bird leaf? What about the immense colors of a rainbow…"
The Whistler said, "What’s a bird leaf?"
Viktor said, "We have no time to answer that! We are in the middle of an experiment."
Then, he raised his finger triumphantly, hoping to lessen her doldrums. He whispered dramatically, "Aspertini’s Grisaille technique is the first known in our hypothetical triangle of watercolor philosophy. We need to find the second known part of the triangle and this will lead us to knowing the unknown."
"So, obviously the second part of the Knowledge Triangle is to study an artist that only used two colors," said The Whistler triumphantly.
Viktor thumped the table again. He said, "No! No time for that either. Obviously, we must skip a bit and jump straight into the study of a 4 color palette."
Einida gasped, "You don’t mean the Zorn Palette, do you?"
Viktor thumped the table again and said, "Yes, I do. Although it can also be referred to by its original name, ‘The Apelles Palette.’ Which was originally developed in the 4th Century B.C. by the painter Apelles of Kos long before Swedish Artist Anders Zorn popularized the palette in the early 20th century."
The Whistler unexpectedly dropped his screwdriver with a ‘clang’ and said, "What is it though?"
Einida said, "It’s a simple, yet complex system of painting with only 4 colors. You use the colors black, white, red and yellow."
Viktor interjected, "Specifically Ivory Black, Titanium White, Cadmium Red, and Yellow Ochre."
The Whistler said, "Why only 4 colors?"
Einida laughed and said, "Because artists love excess and often will start with far too many colors for their own good. It’s a great technical challenge to limit one’s color choices." She furtively glanced at the large piles of palettes on the end of the table.
Viktor repeated the sentiments of Einida, alternately holding up first his left hand and then his right hand while saying, "It’s a challenge that vexes the artist. It attracts... yet repels them. It fascinates… yet causes revulsions. It’s the perfect metaphor for good and evil."
At the end of his speech he stared for a moment at both raised fists before dropping them back to the table.
Einida said, "But it’s not an unrealistic challenge. One can easily generate an array of hues limited only by the amount of fractional mixing they are willing to concede."
Viktor slapped his hands flat on the table triumphantly and said, "Congratulations are in order. We have just uncovered the second part of the ‘Knowledge Triangle’. It is the Zorn… or if you prefer, the Apelles Palette. Let us be off to 3D print a container for this 4 color palette and see where it leads."
Chapter 6 - THE PINBALL TOKEN CHALLENGE
Twelve days until the next competition…
Einida was outside of the Laboratory, sitting in front of an easel. She had the newly 3D printed watercolor pan holder. She applied paint to a wet sheet of paper. There was a pile of finished watercolors laying in the grass, anchored by rocks. The wind would occasionally catch one and attempt to fling it skyward but the rocks were steadfast in doing their job. They were all painted with the 4 Zorn colors.
Viktor strode up to her and said, "Ahoy ahoy. How are your experiments going?"
She grimaced and said, "Look at this incredible sky. Do you see the somber shades shifting in the sea of blue, subtly taunting me? Do you see how the colors of the sky mock my Zorn palette? It’s as if Apollo himself rides occasionally from behind a cloud to laugh at my limited color palette."
Viktor studied the pile of watercolors. Then, he said, "Hmmm, you’re right. These paintings really don’t capture the feeling of this landscape. Perhaps if you were painting a closeup portrait of a person attired in greys in front of an unseen landscape of the Saharan desert on the one rainy day of the year, this technique would be better suited."
Einida looked at Viktor then back at her painting, her eyes rolling in their sockets.
He stroked his goatee thoughtfully and said, "Don’t worry. The third part of the Knowledge Triangle will present itself to us soon as I’m sure we’ll find an artist that has evolved the palette further. I think we need to continue our studies. We need to uncover the very science behind how watercolors work. You know what to do."
Einida got up and walked briskly to the intercom near the front door of the Lab. She pushed the ‘All’ button and with an imperious voice, said, "Attention! Attention to all staff. Our latest challenge is learning the science behind watercolor. Please contact Viktor or myself if you have any information about this. Whoever gives us actionable next steps for this shall be rewarded 5 pinball tokens. Thank you."
Viktor said, "I simply adore when we issue pinball tokens as prizes. It’s such a win-win-win situation. The staff loves to receive them, they spend them, and we get to re-issue them. Another perfect triangle!"
Einida smiled and said, "And it’s always so interesting to see what our staff leads us to. One must always be open to inspiration no matter what form it takes."
Chapter 7 - THE SOLUTION PRESENTS ITSELF
Eleven days until the next competition…
The Whistler burst into the Library. He startled Viktor, who was immersed in a large pile of art books.
"I’ve got the perfect thing for your project!" shouted The Whistler.
"Great Scott, man! What is it?" Viktor jumped up from his desk.
The Whistler plopped down on the couch and said, "I was looking to add more color variety to the flowers in my landscaping designs, so I signed up for a Watercolor course on Udemy.com."
Viktor sat back down and said, "Indeed?"
The Whistler said, "Yeah, and I found this class that was great. It was so great that my interest rose and fell right from the beginning, because the teacher was talking about molecules and surface tension. Way more than I wanted to know, but it might be perfect for what you want."
Viktor jumped up from his desk again and said, "What!? An art teacher speaking the sacred languages of physics and chemistry! Tell me more!"
The Whistler said, "I don’t remember any more. But I do remember her name. It was Jill Poyerd. She’s an artist."
Viktor sat back down at his desk and said, "Why were you taking a watercolor course?"
The Whistler put his feet up on the coffee table and said, "Because I’m an artist. Landscaping is like making a painting out of greenery and guano. And I wanted to have more design tools. When landscaping I usually draw what I want to happen. So, I thought with watercolors, I could add splashes of color and really design a masterpiece."
Viktor said, "I understand! You wanted to paint a buffet of bushes , a cacophony of cacti, and a gala of grasses. Thank you for your suggestion."
He leaped up and said, "Here are your well won pinball tokens. Be sure to use them wisely. I must get to the Computer and begin to research this course."
"Great gobs of Grisalle!" Shouted Viktor. His voice echoed throughout the Laboratory. "Einida, I need you here."
Chapter 8 - THE JILLINING
Ten days until the next competition…
Einida was washing some watercolor brushes when she heard Viktor’s voice echoing throughout the Lab.
She rushed into the Library. "What is it? What’s wrong?"
Viktor was standing in front of the projector screen.
"The answer…" he whispered, while pointing at the screen. "It is better than we could have imagined. There are two courses the first called Foundations for Mastering Watercolor Painting FIRST STEPS and The Mechanics of Watercolor Painting - LEARN THE BASICS
"We get to take two courses, that is certainly better than taking one.", said Einida.
Viktor suddenly shouted in triumph, "It is the predicted 3rd leg of the triangle."
He rubbed his hands together gleefully and said, "The answer to your palette problems has been found… " He paused for dramatic effect.
Then he cackled with delight and said, "This artist is like a modern prometheus, but instead of bringing fire to humankind she has found a way to bridge the vast chasm between science and art."
He paused to inhale deeply. Then he said, "To reduce color, pigments, minerals, and water into an ordered thoughtful process instead of the normal muddy brown chaos of color mixing theory… She ABSOLUTELY understands the microscopic rules of the Universe."
He began to flail his arms wildly.
"SURFACE TENSION! She mentioned surface tension!" Viktor exhorted gleefully.
Then he added, "You know one of my hobbies is studying surface tension…"
He stopped flailing his arms and began to whisper, "She can truly see the grain of sand at the heart of every beach… It is a magnificent class. It’s as if she…" Viktor sputtered, lost in the thought of the hidden secrets of the Universe and of the glories that await those who search for them.
Einida’s eyes lit up with glee. She said, "Oooh! That sounds perfect for my pesky palette problem. Let’s watch the class together!"
Chapter 9 - THE CLASS EXPLANATION
Four days until the next competition…
Viktor and Einida were sitting on the couch in the Library. They had just finished watching the last lesson of Jill Poyerd’s class.
Einida laughed with a touch of mania and said, "I feel like we’ve just gone on a journey from watercolor Acolyte to Alchemist."
She rubbed her hands together with excitement and said, "I really can’t wait to apply this knowledge. It is so remarkable that Jill explained in great molecular detail about how watercolors work, how to mix colors scientifically and…"
"How it really is all about chemistry." Viktor interrupted. "Art IS chemistry! The fact that paint is merely a pigment mixed with a binder is so simple, it astonishes the mind!"
The Whistler walked into the Library. He placed his pruning shears onto the table.
Viktor said to him, "Do we have any Acacia trees (1)? I want to mix my own paint."
The Whistler gave him a strange look and said slowly, "Well, the Acacia trees are local to the Sudan region in Africa. And we’re a long way from there."
Viktor continued, "Because a watercolor paint is basically a pigment that is mixed with gum arabic, which is the binding agent one gets from an acacia tree. And, for those artists who make mistakes, unlike myself, this pigment can actually be reworked when rewetted on paper."
Einida said, "Do we have any chickens? Someday, I’ll want to mix my own Tempera paint. The binder requires egg yolk and if one wants a low flow paint, you can mix it with egg whites."
The Whistler gave her a strange look and said, "No, because the chicken is like the chicken nugget in the animal world. Having a chicken coop is like having a free buffet for every predator in the neighborhood. You remember when…"
Viktor interrupted him, "Do we have any walls that need plastering? I’ll want to mix some pigments with plaster and paint some frescoes, someday. The binder for fresco paint is plaster."
The Whistler looked quizzically first at Einida, then back at Viktor. He said, "No, because we haven’t built any new rooms… Why are you both so interested in binders?"
Viktor turned to Einida and said, "How is our acrylic polymer supply? One day, I’m sure we’ll want to mix our own acrylic paints."
She didn’t hear him, as she began to speak, "I suddenly feel this burning need to mix our own paints, now that we know how! It’s so simple! One can find binders EVERYWHERE!"
Einida pulled a knife out of her pocket. She held it up reverently and said, "A binder is like the Swiss Army Glue of painting chemicals. Not only do they regulate the viscosity of the paint, but binders also seal the pigment on the surface after the water has dried." She put the knife back into her pocket.
Viktor could see The Whistler was about to sit down at the table, so he shouted, "Surface tension!"
He startled everyone.
Then, he continued earnestly, "How much you dilute the paint with Gum arabic determines the viscosity and surface tension of the paint. You can control the surface tension of your water colors!" He stuttered to stop as multiple ideas tried to come out of his mouth at once.
He said, "Of course we all know you can even use Aquapasto medium (2) to paint directly with the watercolor pigment as if it were a type of encaustic. This is called the impasto method (3), which is about layering paint thickly onto a surface, giving the painting a more sculptural quality…"
Einida interrupted Viktors sure-to-be long monologue about surface tension by saying, "I love how Jill also demonstrated how much the quality of your art supplies matter. It’s truly astonishing that quality is EVERYTHING in watercolors… how important every material is, how cheap pigments do not work like high quality pigments, how the surface finish of the paper is a factor, how the absorbency of the paper is also a factor… all of these tiny details that add up to a symphony of a successful painting. And if you miss one little detail, your glorious multicolor symphony instead becomes a cacophony of mauve, taupe, and that specific muddy brown."
Viktor saw that The Whistler’s eyes had begun to glaze, so he changed the topic slightly.
He said, "And you can also find pigments everywhere. You simply grind almost any mineral, animal, or plant product into a powder and then mix it with a specific binder."
The Whistler's eyes narrowed as he leaned forward on the table. He said firmly, "You are NOT going to be grinding ANY of my plants into pigments!"
Viktor said, "Surely you have some Rubia Tinctorum root I can use? You may know it by its common name, ‘Madder plant root (4).’ It will make such a delightful Alizarin crimson color."
The Whistler retorted, "No!"
Einida said, "What about stones? Do we have any Lapis Lazuli (5)? It makes the most wonderful Ultramarine blue paint. Don’t you have a collection of stones somewhere?
The Whistler crossed his arms and said "No! Don’t crush my rocks!"
Viktor said, "I know that Lapis Lazuli comes from Afghanistan. And I can only imagine the tingly thrills of painting with a color that has been mined for more than 6,500 years. It’s as though when you put a brush to paper, you can feel the history of civilization coursing through your blood and …"
Einida said, lying slightly, "We won’t even need that much Lapis Lazuli. To make pigments, the tinting strength which describes how small the particles are can change the hue of other pigments. And it’s all just a matter of granulation anyway…"
Viktor said, "...how the heavier and smaller pigments settle first in crevices. And how the size of the particles can change how much light is reflected back from the surface of the canvas, it is a practical display of…"
"…Opacity!", said Einida enthusiastically, " In fact in the study of staining techniques…"
Viktor changed the topic again and said, "The history of pigments is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever researched. Did you know that there are two International Bodies that say what a certain color consits of. They keep databases of colors and formulas. American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists - Society of Dyers and Colourists - SDC
The Whistler shook his head and picked up his pruning shears. He had forgotten why he came into the Library.
He suddenly interrupted Viktor’s monologue on the history of pigments and said, "Why don’t y’all just go back to the Warehouse of Watercolor Wonders. That dude’s got everything you need there. Or just look at the tubes you already have. Didn’t the class teach you how to read a tube?" He walked hastily out of the room.
Einida called after him, "Of course, Jill Poyerd taught us how to read a paint tube. Every color is in a database (8) and has a name, a number and a chemical formula. It’s a perfect system of inventory management."
In unison they said, "To the Warehouse!"
- (1) Acacia Tree https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia
- (2) Aquapasto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FmGLe8vLBo
- (3) Impasto https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impasto
- (4) Madder plant root https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubia_tinctorum
- (5) Lapis Lazuli https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapis_lazuli
- (6) Staining Techniques
- (7) History of Pigments https://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/indiv/recipe/ultramarine.html
- (8) The Color of Art Pigment Database
Chapter 10 - THE COLOR WHEEL
Three days until the next competition…
Viktor and Einida were in the Watercolor Nook. They were both standing in front of easels, furiously painting.
Einida said, "That trip back to the warehouse was great! This time we got even more pigments and chemicals than we could possibly ever need. It’s time to make our own color wheels."
Viktor raised his brush into the air and said, "Never again shall I be held prisoner to the shallow nature of store bought Color Wheels. Most people only know that a store bought color wheel can give them a list of Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Complimentary colors. (2)"
He continued, "But a homemade color wheel can do so much more. A properly designed color wheel can reveal the chemistry of the pigments (3)."
The Whistler walked in carrying a gallon of gasoline.
He stopped and looked at Einida’s painting. He said, "That is beautiful. Einida, What kind of flower are you painting? To me it looks like a psychedelic daisy."
"It is not a flower," she interjected, "I think it’s called an ‘Applied Color Wheel…(4)" She put down her brush.
The Whistler stopped and set down the gasoline. He knew he wouldn’t be doing any more work, until Viktor and Einida had said a certain number of words.
Einida picked up the damp color wheel that she was painting. She showed it to him and said, "We recently learned that it is simply not enough to have ONLY the primary colors, because most paints are not 100% true to the primary color."
She began pointing at the colors on the color wheel and said, "So, every Red, Yellow and Blue color has a warm version and a cool version. The chemistry either tends to skew towards warm or cool colors. They are either clockwise or counter clockwise on the wheel from the real primary color."
The Whistler sat down at the table.
Einida continued, "You can combine colors going from ratios of mixes from primary to primary color. Or in this case, from the warm or cool of one primary to the warm or cool of another primary."
She pointed at different colors on the wheel. She said, "This creates all the hues that one can create from any given set of pigments."
She poked the blank spaces on the color wheel enthusiastically. She said, "By adding a little white or black to a pure color, you can also change the VALUE of the color. You’ve just expanded your color palette massively… it’s so simple, yet so BRILLIANT!"
Viktor looked up from his painting and said, "These color wheels and the All Color Charts are like non-explosive chemistry sets. You have 12 different chemicals. You place chemical A into a test tube. Then you add chemical B and you end up with a mix of chemicals we’ll call C. Then, you observe the reaction. Do that with all twelve different chemicals and you have a color wheel of chemistry… so to speak."
"The only explosion we have to worry about is the explosion of color!" said Einida with a sly grin.
The Whistler perked up and said, "This reminds me of what happens when you genetically breed roses. It’s alway exciting when you mix two different colors of roses and then wait to see what the color of the offspring will finally be."
He stood up and walked over to Viktor’s easel. He said, "That sure is a nice color wheel you’re working on, why does this look so different?"
The Nice Color Wheel Printable PDF
Viktor stopped painting. He smiled and said, "Because this is a ‘Claudia Nice Color Wheel’ So named because of the legendary artist (5) who featured it in her books on pen and Ink watercoloring techniques."
Einida smiled gently and said to The Whistler, "Viktor is painting it as an homage to her brilliance."
Viktor’s smile faltered. He said, "She was a wonderful artist that taught me how to combine the subtle hues of watercolor with the stark contrast of pen and ink. In fact, I was doing a lesson from one of her books (6) when I painted my first color wheel that combined the two."
Viktor shook his head sadly and said, "It is a great weight on my heart that we never got to take an in person painting class from her before she died."
Einida said brightly, "Then, next year we can plan a pilgrimage to Urban Sketch in her hometown."
He shook the sadness from his heart. Then he began to wave his hands majestically. He said, "Thanks to Jill’s class I finally understood the theories that Claudia Nice had tried to convey, but I was too dense to grasp."
He pointed at the color wheel and said, "In the Nice Color Wheel we not only go clockwise to get the colors. We also cross the colors along the diameter of the wheel, focusing on how the complementary, tertiary, and primary colors mix when paired with their opposite counterparts."
Einida waved toward another painting that looked like a disco dance floor grid and said, "The same thing happens in one of Jill’s All Color Charts."
Viktor said triumphantly, "Now that we have speed run these courses it is time to put together our own version of a portable palette."
He paused and began calculating, "Let’s see… that’s 3 primary colors times 1 warm and 1 cool per primary, the earth tones like sepia, burnt sienna, sap green, and Payne's gray, plus your black and white. That brings us to a grand total of 12 colors. The size of a watercolor pan is 30mm by 19mm which means a portable palette will be a grand total 64.80 square centimeters."
Einida put her color wheel down. She said, "Viktor, that is 10 square inches, we’re trying to make the palette smaller, not larger. Shouldn’t we be using half pans, so that the total size will be under 6 inches squared?"
Viktor looked thoughtful. He said, "By Jove, you’re right! Your palette needs to be more portable than this. We need to miniaturize. We need to research the small watercolor sets other people have done. To the Research Library!"
Chapter 11 - THE SMALLEST SOLUTION
Two days until the next competition…They researched and studied all manner of small palettes. Yet, the smallest solution continued to elude them.
Two days until the next competition…They researched and studied all manner of small palettes. Yet, the smallest solution continued to elude them.
Einida was in the Hardware Nook. She had a clipboard in hand and a magnetic bracer on her left arm. Her cactus injuries had healed nicely.
Attached to the bracer was a small Altoid tin.
Viktor was staring at her.
He said, "Why are you wearing an Altoid tin on your wrist?"
She wrote something on the clipboard and said, "So I can pick up small bits that I find during inventory. Didn’t you get the memo? I’m re-processing inventory so I can generate ideas for our small palette problem."
Viktor began swaying back and forth with a vacant look on his face. He said in a monochromatic voice, "Why is it you do it this way?"
Einida looked up and said, "Viktor, why is it you do not? Besides, it's efficient and ever so handy… Are you in a trance?"
Viktor stopped swaying and snorted impatiently, "The palette for the Painter’s Biathlon! What if we could fit a tiny palette into an Altoids Smalls tin?"
She gasped and dropped her clipboard with a ’THWACK!’ Then she said, "That’s it! That’s it! That’s the perfect idea!"
Viktor shouted, "To the 3D Printer!" He ran out of the Nook.
Einida yelled after him, "How many colors do you think it will fit?"
Chapter 12 - THE INKTENSE BLACK HOLE OF DENSITY AND DESTINY
One day until the next competition…
Einida walked into the Library. Viktor was sitting at a table surrounded by books. There was a stack of 3D printed palettes sitting on the table, some watercolor sketches, and a pile of Altoid tins affixed to magnetic bracers.
"Viktor, look at this. I found this during the inventory." She handed him a box and sat on the couch.
Viktor looked at the box. He said "Why, these Derwent Inktense blocks are water soluble. Egads! They seem to be a form of watercolor! Gracious me, the colors seem to be astonishingly bright."
EinidaI leaned back and sighed happily. She said "I do love bright colors."
He looked at her and said, "You do indeed see the world in highlighter colors… of which these are not." He began reading the box.
He suddenly gasped and said, "Oooh, listen to this list of colors; apple green, leaf green, teal green, baked earth, bark, deep indigo, sea blue, fuchsia, poppy red, tangerine, Sun yellow, and an Ink black…"
Einida jumped up. She said, "A Sun yellow! What exquisite color choices! I must examine them more closely." He opened the box and pulled out an Inktense block. Then, he handed her the package.
Viktor studied the block closely with a magnifier.
Eninda was reading the box. She said, "These have the cool colors AND the warm colors from our color wheel exercises."
Viktor scraped the side of the block with the blade of his swiss army knife. He looked at the scrapings with his magnifier.
He gasped again and said, "They are DRY pigments…" he sputtered. "They seem to be the MAXIMUM amount of color that one can compress into a single block, this BLACK block for example is like a tiny black hole!" He collapsed into his chair. He was overcome with this discovery.
He shook his head and leaped up again with renewed vigor. He said in a barely contained whisper, "We’ve found it…the black holes of pigments. The densest pigment on the planet…"
He pulled out his ruler. "And they happen to be less than a centimeter on each side. Which means that they can be cut down to LESS than 1 cubic centimeter and then TWELVE of them should fit into an Altoids Smalls tin!"
Einida wasn’t listening as she was still reading the box.
Suddenly, she tittered in delight. Then she sputtered, "LOOK! These colors are PERMANENT! After they dry… they can’t wash away… it’s a miracle of science and art. They are PERMANENT!!"
Viktor was at the computer furiously designing something. He said, without looking up, "Why is that important?"
She picked up a stack of watercolor paintings from the table and shook them vigorously.
She said, "It’s a thing! It’s a terrible thing that often happens during a "Painter’s Biathlon." You get tired, you get uncoordinated, you spill your water… all over your painting. Your painting washes away like ‘tears in rain.’ Oh, and you will cry…"
She paused, took a deep breath and continued, "You simply wouldn’t believe the number of paintings ruined during the biathlon because a competitor spills their bottled water on a finished painting. In fact, It is such an egregious occupational hazard that racers will often paint 2 versions…it adds precious minutes to your time." She shook her head.
Viktor smiled slowly. He whispered to himself, "The 2nd third leg of the Knowledge Triangle has finally been revealed. I knew it wouldn't fail us."
Then, out loud, he said "To the 3D printer!!"
Chapter 13 - THE FINAL PALETTE
The day of the competition…
Viktor said, "You seem ready. There’s a fire of victory in your eyes."
Einida stopped stretching and patted her Altoid tin bracer. She smiled broadly and said, "The final part of the Knowledge Triangle is complete. This tiny, portable 12 color Inktense palette is incredible. It’s exactly what I need to paint efficiently and with all the colors I could possibly need."
[INSERT IMAGE OF PALETTE ALTOID TIN BRACER] [Link to Etsy]
She pointed to her small backpack filled with water bottles and said with a smile, "Look how aerodynamic I am…"
Then she frowned and said, "Look how burdened they are." She pointed at her competitors.
She said, "Their cargo shorts are bulging at the seams. Some of them are wearing belts AND suspenders. How gauche!"
Viiktor giggled and said, I think you meant to say ‘how gouache! Like the paint." He continued to chuckle.
Then he said, "Some are even wearing multiple backpacks. I remember when you went through that phase. I’m glad that we’ve gotten this all sorted out." He pointed to her Altoid tin mounted on her wrist.
She raised her finger in the air triumphantly and said "I may not yet be a great watercolor painter but at least I've evolved from a simple palette packer to a titan of tactical planning! I regret nothing."
The race organizer suddenly began speaking through a megaphone, and said, "Racer’s to your marks, the ‘Marathon of Muses’ begins in 1 minute."