Expat Life: Throw Some Paint

by Miss Footloose

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.  As I’m writing this 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.

The Joy of Color

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 fabulous 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.

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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… Read more »


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.

Yes, I have a list 🙂

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.

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

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.

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.

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!

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.


What beautiful photos – I love color 😉

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!

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… Read more »

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

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.”

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