Kage Baker lived on colour. She associated everything with a colour of its own; she assigned temperments, tastes, scents, weather, and moods with specific colours. There were “green bottle dawns” and “blue days” and “saffron black nights”. She understood Homer’s wine dark sea perfectly, and never mind that scholarly nonsense about all the ancient Greeks being colour-blind.

Her own art was usually in water colours and inks, because they seemed like cleaner hues to her – oils and acrylics, she said, were lumpy. Literally lumpy; texture, for Kage, had no business superseding colour in the eye of the beholder, so the ability pile one paint on another in a 3-dimensional way narked her,

She admired Van Gogh’s  desperate passion, that often led him to lay paint on canvas with his hands, too hurried and determined to use a brush. But it took the singularity of a Van Gogh to do that sort of thing and get away with it. Kage was sure that if Vincent had found a way to layer on water colours with his hands, he’d have used that more translucent medium for his art.

She did. I’ve watched her paint skies and water with a single finger, leading one colour through another more than painting them, weaving them together on the page. Persuading the blends of hue. She finally turned to words more than paint because they were more supple, more pliable, than even her beloved inks.

She loved strong colours – scarlet, gold, emerald. Jewel tones, though paint and fabric can rarely actually display the glassy perfection of the colours in gems. Stained glass enthralled her; so did neon, coloured candle cups, variegated lights … Had Kage been able to dress in glass or light, she would have.

Red-haired and paper-pale, she wore greens and blues a lot – but, unlike many redheads, she could get away with wine-reds and scarlets without looking either flushed or pallid. Momma dressed her in oranges and golds and tropical pinks when she was little – she saw the possibilities, and – also being a painter – indulged them in how she dressed Kage.

In fact, with so many kids to dress and accouter, Momma tended to assign a particular colour to each kid and dress them automatically in that spectrum. It saved some time and thought. Kage’s primary colour, rather than the green one would expect for a redhead, was scarlet. Momma often slid that into pink when Kage was little – it’s the girl colour, after all – but until well into her maturity, Kage hated pink. There were some epic battles.

It was one of the things we agreed on. I do not like pink either. Left to my own devices, I wear blue and grey and black. But everyone who buys me clothes – which has mostly been my sisters, as my native taste is notoriously wretched -buys me pink. Even Kage did it, because the colours looked “purer” on me … but for years and years, she wouldn’t wear it herself.

When she discovered Hawaiian shirts, all that changed. Suddenly pink came in a more heated palette that she quite liked – island sunsets, tropical flowers, drinks made with grenadine. Her first capitulation was a major event – a friend’s wedding, to which Kage wore a pink tuxedo, pink high-tops with gold laces, and a huge gold bow on the end of her braid. It was stunning, too.

Her favourite convention outfits were severe blazers – I want to look like Agent Scully’s eccentric aunt, she explained – over her pinkest Hawaiian shirts. All the girly colours Momma had fought helplessly to get her to wear, Kage finally embraced in her 30’s and 40’s. Teal silk. Pink linen.

I just found a video on YouTube ( that proves pink does not exist. Kage would have been fascinated. Evidently what we interpret as pink is 1) a blend of blue and red; and 2) a subtle misfire in our optic perception. What we are really seeing is “the absence of green”, which is so hilariously metaphysical that Kage would have laughed out loud with delight.

She wouldn’t have believed it, though. She’d have regarded it as a trick, an optical illusion. The limitations of human eyesight, in her opinion, do not trump the realities of light and colour. Pink IS. Any colour you can’t see is your own problem.

But she would have been so pleased to say that she wasn’t wearing pink – she was wearing “the absence of green”.

Man, that is an ultimate colour.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to Colour

  1. Margaret says:

    As a former little blonde kid who got stuffed into pink garments all the time until I got big enough to put up a noisy resistance, I’m with you and Kage. Lately, I’ve had a beloved salmon-colored blouse that has faded to, well, lighter salmon-color, perhaps we could call it apricot? My mother laughs and points, “Oh look, she’s wearing PINK!” Just can’t train ’em. So I’ll be pleased to tell her that from the latest scientific perspective, she was dressing me in nothing (or perhaps absence-of-green), all those years. Ha!

  2. Widdershins says:

    ‘Absence of Green’… Hm-mm … I feel a story title coming on!

  3. Chris says:

    If “Absence of Green” were a story title, I’d want there to be evil Kewpies in it.

  4. Kate says:

    Chris – okay. Notes made, lol.

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