Living Color

I’m a great fan of Natalie Goldberg. Not long ago I read her book, Living Color. The book is filled with Natalie’s glorious art, in all its aberrant color. Natalie explains her color choices on page 3:
I was delighted one day to paint an adobe house blue. Stepping through the belief that I must paint mud brown, I experienced an explosion of energy and freedom. It was as though that blue paint were a sword slashing through illusion, bringing me into direct connection with the house’s essence. Objects began to dance unhinged from their proper pigment. That man is green, those sheep are maroon, that horse is scarlet, I suddenly wanted to shout with a new-found freedom as I gazed around me from the hilltop where I had drawn the blue house.
Her explanation about using color to learn metaphor is hazy, but I was intrigued with the idea of playing with color that way. It reminded me of a post I wrote in September about the origins of the Inner Critic. I felt bold. I wanted to play with color, and I wanted to do it the easy way, so I Googled my way to The Coloring Spot and found ready-to-color pictures. In the interests of full disclosure and truth, I’ll admit that I did my coloring on a fresh layer in Photoshop® with a virtual felt-tip pens. It would have been easier to print the pictures and color with crayons!

I began with the Great Wall of China. I didn’t give specific thought to choosing color. I just picked orange for the sky and went from there. I did add a big yellow sun, because the picture told me it needed a sun, and I didn’t want to mess with the sun. The sun is what it is. Everything else is negotiable. I also added a person (me) walking on the wall. I didn’t bother to add the other thousands of people who were there with me. I feel lonely without them, so next time I’ll draw more people.

The Great Wall was so much fun I turned to Mt. Rushmore. As I began scribbling, my inner child grew tired. My Brat started arguing with my Good Girl. Mommy had to put the colors away.So, I had fun. I had lots and lots of fun. Did I learn anything about writing? Sort of. I did some writing practice and discovered that I can write nutty, bizarre descriptions, wild as you can imagine. I wrote about a man who needed to have his lawn mowed to keep it out of his eyes, and a walking flower garden (a woman in a wild floral print dress. I can crumple these up and toss them into the trash when I'm done if I want. My mind grows a little wider this way. I’ve put out a few feeder roots out of my thought ruts toward more colorful descriptions.

In a few days I’m going to get out my crayons and color with my three-year-old granddaughter. I want her to know it’s okay to make the sky orange if she wants to (just in case she hasn't figured this out). I’ll invite Natalie to sit with us, in spirit if not body, since she has no children or grandchildren of her own. I know she’d have fun.

Write now: take a break with your box of crayons or marking pens, or Photoshop. Dare to color outside the lines and use unexpected colors. Be brave. Be bold. Have fun. Then go back to your writing and write something utterly ridiculous and audacious. See how it feels to use big juicy words for tiny topics.


C.R. Evers said...

I love that quote! It mesmerized me! I'm currently transfixed on the way a words can be used in a story as color is used in a painting.

I recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and it struck me how she uses secondary characters to contrast her protagonist as a painter would use color to make a painting "pop!" She does it masterfully!

Great post!


Leah J. Utas said...

I have a coloring book and crayons around that I play with on occasion. I usually color things differently. People are orange and purple or whatever color comes to mind, the sky is green and or orange or anything else. It's never occurred to me to continue this in writing. Sounds like fun.