by missfootloose on December 17, 2010 · 23 comments

in exotica, life abroad

Do you like lots of color?  One of my favorite quotations is this one by Danny Kaye: Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint at it that you can.

I never thought much about color or the use of it until I started traveling.  I noticed that people in many less-wealthy places are much more enthusiastic about the use of color than the average citizens in the industrial western world.  They paint their houses in cheery colors, they wear clothes in vibrant shades, or even paint their faces in exotic ways.

Houses in Mexico. Photo by Jubilo

Want an orange house?  Purple shutters? A yellow door?  Not a problem in many places.  But don’t try getting colorful  in an American suburb.  You’ll have the color police at your door in no time.  They’re called the Home Owner’s Association representatives.  A friend of mine had two soberly be-suited and be-tied gentlemen knock on his door and inform him with grave-digger faces that he had broken a rule:  The brand new mailbox he had just bought was brown and mailboxes in his neighborhood were only allowed to be black.

For the sake of accuracy let me tell you that not all neighborhoods in the US are like that.  Right now I live in one without a Home Owners Association.  People are free to do as they please and some do this with abandon.  One of our neighbors has goats and chickens.  One house is painted baby pink and has Christmas lights up year around. The mail boxes have various colors, are gaudily decorated and often crooked.  Still, it’s not much compared to the riots you find in other countries.

My appreciation for color, and my awareness of it, began in Kenya. I loved the kangas, colorful wrap-around cloths worn by women; and the cheery kikois, the traditonal cloths worn by men.

Kenya.  Real men wear kikois.  Photo by Martin Sharman


In Bali there’s nothing more colorful than the processions held during various religious celebrations, but even the small, “ordinary”  daily offerings are vibrant works of art.

Bali, Indonesia.  Offerings.  Photo by Cee-Cee


Recently I spent some time in Ecuador and the indigenous women are a sight to behold in their Technicolor skirts.  In Albania, I loved seeing the old communist-era buildings now detoxified with rainbow color paint.  While living in Ghana, West Africa, I fell in love with the fabrics used for ceremonial clothing as well as daily wear.

Photo by John Nash

Back now to to Danny Kaye’s quote: Life is a great big canvas and you should throw all the paint at it that you can. Of course this is meant figuratively. You can paint your life with color by dancing and singing, by hugging and kissing, by jumping in puddles and being silly, by living enthusiastically and taking some risks, by really looking at the colorful bounty of nature and cooking real food, by being brave and breaking out of your comfort zone, by being curious and discovering the marvels of the world beyond your own environment.

I like thinking of my life as a great big canvas that I have to paint.  I like that the quote says to “throw” paint.  Because you don’t have to go to art school to learn how to do it.  You don’t need to paint properly, according to the rules and to someone else’s idea of what is good art.  Anybody can throw paint.  The real art is, of course, in choosing your colors.

* * *

So, dear reader, what is your favorite quotation or piece of wisdom?  And why?  But if you prefer to wax lyrical about color, I’d love to hear that too.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

alexa December 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Mine is from G. K. Chesterton, and comes in especially handy as a mantra when I’m traveling: “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”


missfootloose December 22, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Thank you! I like that one.


Bianca December 18, 2010 at 4:45 am

Love the quote, and more importantly: it made me think!
Last summer I had a cerebral hemorrhage which left me changed but more inside than out-. I still work a fultime job, I still laugh and have fun. But I speak awkwardly and after work I go home and rest. Whenever I FEEL something in my head I worry. So now I find myself in the darkest days of winter and I know I have to beware. Especially now. And this is where your quote comes in: I have to learn to paint with a different kind of material. Before I used to paint with acrylic, now I can only get my hands on oil paint. I’m struggling. It’s not coming out the way I want to and am used to. But I’m still confident it’s going to turn out beautiful!


missfootloose December 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Bianca, I am happy my quote gave you some food for thought and is helping you to change your feelings about your art. Keep throwing some color around — color is good in the winter. Wishing you cheer and joy and health!


Bianca December 25, 2010 at 4:27 am

Karen, I was speaking metaphorically. Right now, life is my art! xxx


Welshcakes Limoncello December 18, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I love that quote. You are right about travel making us more aware of colour. That’s very interesting about people in poor areas using vivid colour – I never thought about it before but it’s true.

Merry Christmas!


missfootloose December 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Have a colorful Christmas!


Laura@HappyHomemakerUk.blogpost.com December 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm

What beautiful photos – I love color 😉


MartyrMom December 19, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I remember my trip to St Kitt. The people who were given homes by the government has a “competition” going on. They painted murals on their houses. IT was a sight to see.

San Fran also contained splashes of colorful houses.


missfootloose December 22, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I remember seeing a photo of colorful houses in San Franscsco. I think most places have some color somewhere, it’s just not so usual in rich countries. Too bad, actually. Color is fun!


Mara December 21, 2010 at 9:14 am

I always loved travelling through Ireland: so colourful, both the houses and nature itself. And then I travelled through Germany and that comes in one colour: green. And not too many shades at that…

My favourite quote is by Doctor Who: live your life!


missfootloose December 22, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Live your life. Yes, I like that!


GutsyWriter December 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I’m the woman who loves COLOR. Right before we left for Belize, I painted my OC kitchen cabinets, turquoise with a lime green edge and put fish and shell handles on the doors. We put a palm frond overhang on the bar area and I faux finished every bedroom wall with terra cotta, yellows, greens etc. I love those houses in Mexico.


guyana gyal December 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

I think about ‘colour’ all the time, in fact, for a long while, I’ve been composing something in my head about colour.

One of my favourite quotes is about seeing the same place with new eyes. I’m now going to add this Danny Kaye one to my list. He’s one of my favourite people. When I was a child, the radio station used to play the stories he’d performed.


missfootloose December 22, 2010 at 9:25 pm

You have a list too. I love quotes. I know the one you mean:
The real act of discovery is not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust. One of my favorites as well.


carolina December 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Ask me what my favourite colour is and I honestly have no idea. Ask me what my favourite flower is and, again, I can’t choose.
Ask me what my favourite quote is and, this is getting boring, I couldn’t pick one. Or I can, but ask me a couple of hours later (or even 5 minutes) and it can be a totally different one.

I do like the colourful photos. Can’t pick my favourite one. Of course 😉

Fijne kerstdagen en een goed 2011


missfootloose December 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Fortunately you don’t have to decide about a single favorite. When it comes to colors and flowers and so on there are too many and they are all great in their own way.

Ook prettige feestdagen toegewenst, en een kleurig 2011!


Philly Girl Abroad December 23, 2010 at 4:12 am

Love your photos. You are shaping the photos I hope to take on an upcoming trip to Marrakech.

Favorite quote is a simple Indian proverb: That which is not given away is lost.


missfootloose December 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Marrakech is full of color, I understand. I’ve not been to Morocco but love to go some day. Do take lots of pictures! Thank you for the great quote! Very true.


guyana gyal December 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Yes, I have a list 🙂


edj January 3, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Interesting take on other culture’s use of colour. I had a different idea–I thought where the landscape had less colour, the people had more. i.e. in Oregon, where I am now, the land is always green, with many yellows and pinks in spring and summer, and the houses are browns and yellows and greys. In Mexico, in Mauritania, the landscape is browns and yellows, and the houses are pink and turquoise. (in Maur, you see colour in the women’s clothing mostly)
And Marrakech is full of colour and very picturesque, but it is my least favorite Moroccan city.


missfootloose January 4, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Everything I see about Morocco is full of color. I’d love to go there sometime!


Andrew March 12, 2011 at 5:41 am

I have a vague memory of an abstract painting of Lisbon with all the colorful houses. I have never been, but it sticks in my mind. In Greece there really are only two colors, white and blue. Even still it feels somehow very colorful.

I like Danny Kaye as an actor, but had never heard that quote. He certainly did play with words well. My dad had a few of his movies on tape and we used to watch them when I was a kid. Quotes wander around in my head a lot. Currently one from Einstein about imagination being more important than knowledge because knowledge is limited and some vague mix of them about overcoming fear are currently at the forefront.


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