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.
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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.