The original idea for the graphic goes back a few years.
Long ago and far away I wrote a children’s book called All About Blue. In the story we meet Blue, a girl who is a bit sad, a little lonely perhaps. She is in charge of the color blue – a nice job if you can get it. She paints the night sky. Blue, of course. It was a picture book of rhyming couplets… There once was a girl in the land of all white / She lived on a hill, she painted the night. / Her color was blue. Her blue was not bright. / It is sad to be blue in the land of all white. And it almost found a publisher, but alas, not in the end. The illustrations for the book were based on actual night skies. The double-page spread at the center of the book was the first Indigo Night print I suppose.
Work on the book prompted a genuine interest in the night sky. Observational Astronomy also seemed like an easy way to knock out a few science credits too – being an undergraduate at the time, I was not really that tuned into the concept of sleeping at night anyhow. This turned out to be one of my favorite courses. Observational Astronomy is the perfect science for the hopeless romantic. It involved long walks under the night sky. Stories about Dragons and Heros. Chained Maidens and Winged Horses. Southern Fish. Sea Goats. Serpent Bearers and Swans. Interesting things! Not to be confused with General Astronomy, which is heavy on the math and more suited for Physics Majors.
Years later I found my way to sailing. This was before GPS. Before SatNav. Almost before Loran. We’re talking sliderules and sextants here. A close friend taught me the fundamentals of celestial navigation, and once again I found myself sketching out the pattern of stars in the sky. This time it was to help with locating the navigational stars.
Maori, left, the boat I took my first night passage on. MoonDog right, our Cape Dory 31, which we sold when we moved inland. Proceeds funded the start-up of Indigo Night in 2001.
Celestial navigation is about measuring the height of a star above the horizon at a particular moment. It’s very much about the horizon. At sea, the distant rim of the ocean gives a relatively clean flat line for measurement (depending on wind, wave and the size and stability of your sailing platform: working with those variables is the art of celestial nav). Inland you need to work with an artificial horizon – a device that will let you measure down to the actual horizon even when you are surrounded by trees or buildings, and cannot see the distant rim, as on the ocean.
At nightfall I would often stare into the blue sky, looking for that first glimpse of Arcturus, Spica, Vega, Denebola, Rigel or whatever navigational star was available. The view was often framed by a treeline or rooftop. Something occured to me one day…
Since the stars are in the same position on any given date each and every year (for all intents and purposes) one would only have to calculate the moon phase and position for that date, and the position of the planets along their orbits, to recreate any night sky. Add the local offsets for latitude and longitude, and one could render a local view. Hmm. A celestial time machine. People talk about the ‘Eureka Moment’, but for me it was more of a slow embrace. I just kept thinking about it. It was a cool idea. This eventually prompted me to re-visit the perennial question: was I really born under a bad moon rising? Lets’ see: run the calculations (with a primitive version of the planetarium software we use now)… and the data shows that the sky at the exact moment of my birth held a brilliant gibbous moon standing west (and therefore descending) in Taurus. With Jupiter just below amid the faint stars of Aries. Vindicated, at last.
My friend Greg had an office next door, this was early on, while we were figuring it out.
We’ve been making these prints since late summer of 2001. The look has evolved over the years, and took one of its biggest steps just last spring, 2009, when we re-worked the color palette. This allowed us to open up the foreground, adding a lot of texture and detail to these illustrations that had formerly been rendered as silhouettes. Most of this work was done by our staff artist Morgan King in a three month layered blur of hue, saturation and brightness. Response has been fantastic. Thank you all for your good words!
That’s me below, the last time I wore a suit, fall of 2001, at an Inc Magazine Seminar in San Diego.
Our shop is on East Market Street in downtown Charlottesville. We’re dog friendly. There is an excellent chance you will hear the barking of Mason if you call, as the telephone seems to set her off. A puppy, the wise elder dogs (that would be Hambone and Lou) still haven’t gotten through to her on that.
Hambone on the Beach. The dunes in the background made their way into a recent horizon illustration Beach with Fence
You probably can’t tell from this small image, but the horizon illustration and atmosphere have subtle coloration now. The surf, for example, has some violet in the reflection of the moonlight; there is some soft magenta in the distant whispy clouds, and some quiet color and texture in the sand that was not evident in earlier versions of our beach prints. This is the Outer Banks of North Carolina, by the way.
Well, there you have it. A little bit about us. Van
The night sky print which arrives for no particular reason, other than to celebrate the gift of love that is your beloved, is cherished like no other.
Each of us has a story that begins in a single moment. Poets and philosophers from Shakespeare to Tennyson, from Moore to Jung, share a common fascination with the night sky at the moment of birth, and the idea that the moon and stars stand in timeless, silent witness to this moment.
The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the night you met, the moment of your first kiss, or your wedding night, is an exceptional anniversary gift. Appropriate for any year, especially so for the 1st anniversary, the year of the ‘paper’ gift.
The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the child’s first starry night, with your words – funny, wise, sweet, hopeful, perhaps a favorite quote from a story or song – makes a beautiful keepsake.