My husband, life and business partner in all things creative, Tim Lajoie, has been writing more and more these days and this post is written by him. I’m so enjoying how his wise perspective is contributing to the conversation about this powerful expressive arts process.
When I was younger yellow was my favorite color. It wasn’t my favorite color because I particularly liked the color yellow. It was my favorite color because it had the power to blend the other colors together. I loved making transitions and gradients. I would spend hours making curved snaky swirls that blended between soothing blues, to brilliant light greens, to pure hot yellow, to warm inviting orange, and deep passionate reds.
As a child I didn’t realize that there are a lot of colors and shades that can do this so in my box of 16 thin cheap plastic felt tip markers with the caps that always seemed to get lost, yellow was the one color to rule them all. As a result, my yellow pen tips were always stained and discolored. But I didn’t let that stop me from creating these gorgeous blends that unified the entire color palette and made a continuum of aliveness on the page. I was fascinated by nuance of colors that showed up in between the discreet blue, red, green, magenta, et. colors of my pens. When did light blue turn to green? How many different shades of orange could I see before they turned into red?
Looking back I realize that it felt like there was a universe of new unknown colors to explore in between each of the 16 standard plastic felt tip marker pen hues. They were fleeting and mercurial. There was energy, excitement, and curiosity in the mystery of the transition from one to the next.
The Loss of Yellow
Overtime, as I got older and the requirements of “growing up” took over, my yellow pens dried up and I spent less time just playing with colors. I didn’t have the time or space to explore the subtle universe between orange and red or the myriad shades of light yellow green. It became easier and more efficient to just use the colors in the box and stick to the known, safe, tried and true hues defined by the engineers at Pentel corp.
And it occurs to me that this similar to how we tend to live our lives? Generally our experience of ourselves and this world defies easy categorization or confinement. Yet, we are constantly expected to fit into a limited range of expression. We have to define ourselves so that we are acceptable and agreeable. We have become masters of reducing the multidimensional and complex shape of our authentic being into safe and known roles: father, mother, student, housewife, etc.
However, we lose so much in this process. We lose connection with all of those parts of ourselves that exist in between the necessary roles and identities that we play in our daily lives. We lose our ability to perceive ourselves as an entire whole. We can no longer connect with all of the places along the continuum of our own existence and settle for being some version of a defined set of 16 color felt tip markers. We have lost the color yellow and all that it does to stitch us together into a blended continuous whole.
So how do we get that back? How do we bring yellow back into our lives to blend together the wholeness? By embracing the fact that we are a lot more than we think we are. And by embrace I mean celebrate, enjoy, proclaim, express, and encourage all the parts we don’t understand and can’t explain about ourselves. We need to be curious about what happens in between the well defined and safe experiences that we “like” or “don’t like.”
The Practice of Intuitive Painting
Intuitive Painting is a great way to explore the forgotten and unknown aspects of ourselves. If we can allow ourselves to meet the strange, weird, wild, different, lovely, alive, mysterious parts of ourselves that come forward as we paint then we allow a new experience of ourselves beyond our defined roles. Intuitive Painting is the perfect alchemical laboratory to inquire about our own mysterious process of becoming whole. For example, as we paint we might ask:
- What lives between the disappointment of that blue line that once held so much promise befor we painted it and the quiet but growing tingle of desire to add yellow wings and gold glitter to the forlorn mermaid at the bottom of the deep red ocean of grief?
- What happens when we allow the frustration at not being able to paint a face the way want to sit next to the deeper joy we feel at hearing the quiet hiss of the brush as it moves slowly and deliberately across the page as if it knows what it is doing?
- What comes alive in us when we taste the bitter chalkiness of tempera paint in our tea because we absentmindedly rinsed our brush in the wrong cup but also note a sense of contentment because the purple line we just made satisfied something deep within us for the first time ever?
If we get curious, allow, and embrace all of these spaces in between the islands of “knowing” then we become the yellow marker of our soul, blending our different experiences together into wholeness in a way that our rational minds can’t follow. We open the door to a myriad different delicious sensations, ineffable experiences, and vibrant expressions of who we truly are.
And through the Intuitive Painting process we get to practice this blending together as we let seemingly impossible things come out of our brush and live on the page side by side even if they “don’t belong” or “don’t fit.” The more we invite the absurd, silly, joyous, frightened, angry, bored, excited, painful, ecstatic, etc., etc. to show up in our paintings together, the more we tell ourselves, “I am whole. I am home.” We paint ourselves back together and allow the mystery of those places we don’t know to live alongside those we do.