Chapter 1 : The Colour Wheel
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I’ve always had a bit of a bad feeling about Wednesday. Wednesday cleaves the week in two – not very neatly, I might add – already too far away from Monday and somehow even further from the end of the week. I never had any frees (ahem, I mean, study periods) on a Wednesday when I was at Hogwarts, and it also just so happened that my arch nemesis of sixth year was a girl called Wednesday. Bad things always happened to me on a Wednesday – the time I broke my arm when I was eight, the time Rory Rothbart dumped me (well, the first time he dumped me, anyway) when I was in sixth year, the time I blew up my first cauldron in Potions and scored myself a string of detentions that, naturally, fell on a Wednesday night.
Actually, I think it’s more appropriate to say that I harbour an intense dislike for Wednesday, and that intense dislike is very much mutual.
Perhaps my biggest issue with Wednesdays is that they’re boring. It’s like a rule. Even art school, haven of absurdity and bizarre goings-on, isn’t exempt from this rule. This Wednesday was no different. I’d sunk so low into the sofa that the tatty cushions threatened to swallow me whole, and the book I had open in my hands was near to slipping from my grasp; the words bled together on the page. I shut the book, yawned, and gazed through the soporific late-morning air to the clock on the wall. Half past ten.
‘I’m bored,’ I wheedled to the common room at large. Several tired heads lifted from sketchbooks, magazines and biscuit tins around the room, blinking at me blearily. A few people murmured in agreement, then the heads dipped again and everyone went back to their various activities – which were, for a change, mostly art-related. That’s the thing about Wednesday. It gets so boring, you end up doing work. Even if you’re an art student.
‘I don’t know what to do,’ I wheedled, quieter this time – I was mostly directing my voice at Scorpius, who was staring morosely at the ceiling.
‘Have some more tea,’ he said, still staring upwards with a furrowed brow.
‘I just had some,’ I whined. ‘I’m a bit tea’d out.’
He looked away from the ceiling to give me an affronted look. I know, I know – it was rare for me to decline a cuppa.
‘Everyone else is working,’ I said (this was only half-true – Tarquin had embarked on an ambitious project to demolish the contents of the biscuit tin, which wasn’t, strictly speaking, art. Actually, it probably was art, knowing art and artists.) ‘I feel like I should be doing something productive. Like developing photos, except I haven’t used up my film yet. And I would draw, but you know how I’m naff at that. Ditto painting. Ditto life…’
‘Well, I was going to do some printing today,’ Scorpius said. ‘I mean, like, etching. Haven’t in a while.’
‘Really?’ I sat up a little straighter. This was a new technique – and I certainly needed to accumulate more of them, what with being a pseudo art student and all. ‘Can I come?’
‘Sure,’ he said. ‘But I’ve already etched, so…’
‘You’ve already what?’
He sighed, pushed up his glasses, and then started to explain. Fifteen minutes and a long technical explanation later (mostly told through the medium of arm-centric interpretive dance), and I was still none the wiser. He may as well have told me using semaphore.
‘Look, I’ll just watch,’ I said, as his baffling hand gestures and accompanying speech drifted off into awkward silence. ‘I may as well. I’ve got nothing better to do.’
I followed him down the stairs and then along the corridor to one of the small studio spaces, taking care not to trip over my own feet as he had done (er, he tripped over his own feet, not mine, I’m not a sadist or anything). Inside the studio, a huge, rusty mangle had been padlocked to the wall. Scorpius produced the bunch of keys he’d taken from the common room and tried every one in the lock before I leaned over his shoulder, tapped it with my wand, and opened it with Alohomora.
‘Right, well, first things first,’ he said, trying not to look flustered (it turned out the padlock hadn’t even been locked, which sort of defeated the point). ‘Choose the ink. Oh, yeah, wet the paper too.’
First it was washing paper in the dark room, now this – ‘why does everything in art involve making paper wet?’ I said. ‘Isn’t it a bit…well, doesn’t it turn to mush in water?’
‘It’s so the ink can get stuck in properly,’ he rolled his eyes. ‘And we’re not washing it, we’re wetting it.’
‘Let’s just choose the ink, why don’t we?’
‘Alright,’ he wheeled around and flung open a cupboard behind him. The doors snapped back against their hinges and then slammed shut. Looking sheepish, he prised the cupboard open again. Inside, it was a mess – paint-splattered tubes of bright colour, mostly half-empty, had been tossed everywhere. Scorpius rummaged about for a bit, then emerged with two fairly full tubes; one bright orange, the other a harmonious electric blue. Then, he kicked the cupboard shut and wheeled back to face me, thrusting the orange tube into my hands.
‘Best I can do,’ he said. ‘Don’t want to wake up the cupboard gremlin.’
‘The cupboard gremlin?’
‘Long story. Well, at least I got complimentary colours.’
‘Complimentary – opposites on the colour wheel?’
‘Opposites on the what now?’
‘Blimey,’ he said. ‘You weren’t kidding when you said you were new to this whole art thing, were you?’
‘Nope. Not kidding at all.’
‘Look, there’s this thing called the colour wheel and it’s kind of a fundamental of art and…can I just teach you?’ he said, looking a little hopeful.
‘Teach away,’ I took a seat. He followed suit, grabbing assorted scraps of paper (including, bizarrely, loo roll) and a bunch of ragged quills from the table in the middle of the room. He drew a wobbly circle, frowned at it, shrugged, and then divided it into eights.
‘Looks like a pie,’ I said, helpfully.
‘So it does. Okay, this-’ he wrote ‘red’ in one of the eighths, and then ‘green’ in the facing eighth. ‘People always say that red and green should never be seen, right? Well, they’re wrong, because a nice pale green works really well with a muted, velvety red, and if you think about holly berries and holly leaves-’
‘Back to the wheel.’
‘Oh, yeah. So, this is a wheel,’ he added several colour names to the remaining eighths. ‘It’s got all the primary and secondary colours in it, right? And opposite colours are complimentary, like purple and yellow, or blue and orange-’ he pointed to the tubes of ink, now discarded on the table. ‘I really like blue and orange together. Really good combination.’
‘It explains the socks,’ I said, with a pointed look at the offending blue and orange argyle patterned socks poking out from beneath the fashionably too-short trousers.
‘Anyway. The colour wheel,’ he continued. ‘It’s like an artistic code of sorts. What colours work together, how to mix colours – it’s a pretty basic thing. Primary colours are red, yellow and blue, secondaries are orange, purple and green. Mixing two primaries will produce a secondary, etc, etc. But,’ he added, thoughtfully. ‘You know what artists are like. They’ll do anything to mess up convention. So I don’t blame you if you want to ignore all this completely.’
‘I’m not ignoring it,’ I told him. ‘I’m just very likely to forget it. I have a memory like a leaky cauldron.’
‘I’ll draw you a diagram later, if it helps.’
‘You don’t have to.’
‘No, it’s fine. I like colouring, I don’t mind spending an evening on it.’
‘You know me, I lead a quiet life.’
‘Okay, so, ink,’ I held up the orange tube.
‘Ink,’ he echoed. ‘Well, first, we have the etching,’ he lifted a sheet of perspex that had been scratched heavily, almost as if by an angry cat with a temper of the Rose Weasley variety. ‘This is one I did earlier.’
‘Great,’ I said. ‘What is it?’
He shoved the perspex into my face, almost flattening it on my nose.
‘It’s…it’s…’ he faltered, as my breath misted upon the scratched plastic. ‘It’s this development thing I’m doing where I took a pattern then turned it into stuff like embroidery-’
‘Ahha! The cat vomit!’ I cried, forgetting myself.
‘Uh, well, it’s abstract,’ he said, putting the Perspex back down on the table. ‘So…it’s not really anything. It’s, er, open to interpretation.’
‘That’s not a word, but thanks. Right, put some ink on the table.’
He busied himself in taking the lid off of the blue tube and squeezing a sizeable dollop right onto the surface of the table. Somewhat apprehensively, I did the thing with the orange ink.
‘Now we make a pounce,’ he said.
‘What…like…?’ I mimed a tiger, teeth and claws and all (I’ve got to stop acting on impulse, it does me no favours). No, really, I did – I made quite a seductive tiger, if I daresay so myself. But I wasn’t a tiger, I was a person (if that wasn’t already obvious), so, mostly, I looked like a fool. Scorpius laughed before explaining-
‘No, it’s the technical word for the thing you apply ink with.’
‘I don’t really understand art. First you wash paper, then you…pounce…’
‘It’s not that, er, seductive,’ he said, giving a rather half-hearted tiger impression by way of explanation. ‘It’s just newspaper wrapped in an old cloth with a fancy name.’
It took him five minutes to locate sufficient newspaper and old rags with which to make his pounce. I was having a hard time trying to shake his seductive tiger impression, however feeble, from my head. Maybe this was a sign that the dark room chemicals were finally getting to me.
‘We have to work really fast,’ he said, handing me a…er…pounce (still not used to the art lingo, I must confess). ‘This ink dries proper quick. So you basically scoop it up on the pounce and then…uh…put a thin layer of it on the perspex. If I do one side blue, you can do the other half orange?’
‘Cool,’ I said, dabbing the pounce – oh, alright, the newspaper wrapped in cloth – into the orange ink.
‘Thing is, as soon as the ink is on, we have to take it off again with newspaper – the ink goes in the etched bits, you see, so when you put it through the mangle-’
‘I still don’t get art,’ I said, dabbing ink onto the cat vomit etching. ‘You wash paper, you pounce, you spend ages applying ink to something then rub it all off – you artists are all barmy.’
‘I’m not going to lie, that’s a pretty fair assessment.’
It was hard work getting the ink onto the perspex – to get it into the etched grooves, you kind of had to dig in a bit, which was a bit of a strain on the arm muscles, and I had to flip my fringe out of my face every few seconds. I had visions of myself constructing an exercise plan specifically for the art world: go etch, get hench. Moreover, the ink got everywhere – within five minutes, I was orange up to my elbows.
When we were done applying and removing ink (all that hard work – wasted) the two of us sat back and exhaled. I felt like I’d burned off the custard cream binge I’d had the day before.
‘You’ve got orange all over your face,’ Scorpius said, casually.
If you know you’ve got ink on your hands, it’s probably not a good idea to mess about with your fringe. I stared down at my orange hands, then up at him, then down at the hands.
‘Yeah, it takes a while to wash off,’ he added. ‘Sorry. You look like a Satsuma.’
‘Yeah, well…’ without thinking, I grabbed his wrist and shoved his own blue hand into his face. ‘You’re a blueberry.’
It was one of those moments where I probably should have thought before I acted. But I didn’t. Ergo blue handprint on the left side of Scorpius’ face.
‘Suits you,’ was the only comment I could make.
‘We’re a fruit salad,’ was his reply.
Five minutes of terrible fruit-related jokes inevitably passed. Such was our life. After five minutes, though, Scorpius the Incredible Moping Blueberry (for I had named him thus) suddenly snatched up the perspex, with a cry of ‘Ink dries fast! Yikes!’
I (Lucy the Amazing Custard-quaffing Satsuma…don’t ask) jumped up after him, standing idly by while he dealt with washing paper and preparing the mangle and whatnot. Then, while I hovered in the background like a levitating Satsuma, he spun the handle of the mangle – well, I say spun, but it was more like turned the handle with great difficulty and a lot of whinging.
‘Ta-dah!’ he cried, producing the finished print a few minutes later. It still looked like cat vomit, only done in blotchy oranges and blues, and, where the two mixed, a sort of browny-purpley-orangey-blue – a colour I couldn’t quite name.
‘Good work,’ I said, nodding to the cat vomit print. ‘Yeah, I see what you mean about the colours.’
He looked at the print, then at me, then down at his ink-stained hands.
‘Satsuma and blueberry - we’re dead complimentary,’ he said.
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