Friday, January 16, 2009


"Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can." -- Danny Kaye.

I came across this quote several months ago and was immediately attracted to the images it stirred up in my mind. It made me wonder what the current canvas of my life looked like and how I might want to add to it and spice it up. It also got me thinking about what it has looked like in the past.

When I was growing up and as a teenager, I think my canvas most closely resembled an insipid watercolor portrait. Watery colors with a few blues and gold sparkles, pleasant enough to look at, if anyone really wanted to examine it. But easy to miss entirely because of the small size and lackluster frame.

Then, in young adulthood, I entered what I refer to as my Beige Period. I did all the conventional things, in the conventional ways and never, ever, gave a moment's thought to whether or not it was what I wanted to do or was meant to do. It was even reflected in my clothing -- browns, tans and grays. A nice nonthreatening canvas that quickly faded into the background even more easily than the earlier watercolor existence. There were always other colors there, buried under the dull ones, but I never let them totally escape. Even when I'd let something peek out from under the gray, I'd cover it back up at the least sign of collective disapproval. I was a waiting room landscape, hanging unnoticed in my own life.

At long, long last, I hit 40 and my peacock period exploded outward. I splashed any and every color I could think of at the canvas of my life. Some didn't look quite the way I had envisioned them, but I merrily continued to add layers and depth and colors, blissfully curious to see what it would turn out to be. And my clothes reflected this activity as well. It was as though all the self-expression that had been bottled up for four decades wanted to spring forth all at once. And I notice that the canvas has gotten bigger as well as more colorful. No longer a watercolor miniature, now nothing will serve but a wall-sized mural and I don't rule out wrapping it around the corner beyond the edges.

These days I am becoming a bit more controlled in my paint splashing. I consider a bit more what to splash and where. The palette now contains rich jewel colors of incredible depth and luminosity, that I scarcely would have touched earlier in my life. The composition is open to possibilities while maintaining a sense of having a unified theme. And there are areas of complete audacity that I would have never thought I was capable of before.

I wonder how many of us allow ourselves to settle into Beige Periods the way that I did? I wonder what colors lie hidden beneath acceptable nondescript exteriors? I wonder how many Van Goghs or Chagalls lurk beneath whitewash? And I wonder why we fear to throw paint?


Carmen said...

I paint every day and I don't worry about beige paints, sometimes I just like beige, but I like being in charge of changing the canvas.

yarnpiggy said...

I've been pretty shy with my paints...maybe it's time to dig them all out and dive into some finger-painting. :-)

Knitman said...

I didn't hit my colour period till my this last year! I was getting there in my 40's but not quite.
Fear ruled my life for most of it. Not now.

Lorien said...

I feel like one of those canvases you make by coloring random patches, then covering it with a heavy coat of black. The more you scratch off, the more color you reveal, but you have to make the effort to look beyond the black I present to the world to see the color underneath. With hope, I can release some of the more colorful patches to the world!