When I was seventeen I landed a summer job in Columbus Ohio. I was working for a builder who won the contract for painting the boxcar-shaped ice-vending machines all over town. These things were humongous. I was well known as the painter-signwriter kid, so this slave wage job came to me through family contacts.
Three colors, yellow, black, and red, aluminum on top. Mostly, mostly yellow. Yards, acres, gallons, volumes of sticky stringy fumey yellow enamel on my hands and clothes, mixing with my sweat in the blasting Ohio sun. Yellow. "I C E" in six-foot high letters on the side, red with a black dropshade, (slab serif) on yellow. There was yellow on the weeds growing up around the rusty thing. There was yellow splattered on the gravelly godforsaken sweltering brokeup-blacktop parkinglot.
That rich orangy kind, "implement yellow." What is that? Pms 1235? I don't have perfect pitch for color, but I think it's around there. Maybe 123. Anyway that summer was a yellow hell. I hated it. And I hated that color for almost 20 years. I always would go for a light yellow, nothing above pms 109. I never thought too much about it, just avoided it.
It was a favorite editor at a university press that rehabilitated the color for me. Talking about yellow on a bookcover, she said simply, "use one of these deeper yellows," (how could she say such a thing?) and she seemed to really like the color. That was a watershed moment for me. You've got to be kidding, Caterpillar tractor yellow? But I respected Nancy's judgment a lot, pretty cool lady, so I was slowly turning, looking again. It was like seeing the color for the first time, letting it in, and I've liked it a lot almost since that moment. I had my whole spectrum back again. It looks so great with aqua orange and red -- or with black, etc., etc.
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