"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?
Teacher Voices: Kate Bartlett - This is a continuation of my series of interviews with former students who are now teachers. The interview on this page features Kate Bartlett, a teacher ...
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