Ochre, A Travelogue

Ochre, A Travelogue

Mark Chamberlain
Feb 16, 2010

Each year I post a few pictures from my pilgrimage to Puerto Vallarta, which has also included stops in Mexico City and various other junctures. The color difference between a winter New York in grisaille (which I love) to a south-of-the-border color fiesta is astonishing. My easy targets are usually Bouganvelia pink or margarita green, but this year I was struck by something different: OCHRE.

Ochre is an earth yellow, brown and sometimes ruddy; it is often a "first color" adapted into the palettes of indigenous peoples, and is seen in the art, artifact and adornment from cave paintings to the Renaissance, from the Riviera to the Mexican beaches. I don't like yellow unless I love it. The yellows I hate are flabby school bus yellows and limp pancake batter yellows. But ochre is different — it's the color of a farmhouse in Tuscany, or some of these tobacco colored taco stands in Mexico; it's more assertive yet staid, live-inable and natural.

Whereas we don't have taco stands per se in New York, I do think if someone wants "yellow" for interiors, I steer them this way, especially for dining rooms and bedrooms.

I'll close with a few pictures collected over the years. Possible color recommendations: Farrow&Ball has a handsome and time-tested set of deep yellows — think 18th century print room. Also, try Fine Paints of Europe, especially the Mount Vernon or British Standard collections. To my eye, their paints include some of the densest pigments available.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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