January 15th, 2009


Coloring Outside the Lines

I was seven years old when I first discovered that the world had edges. Everywhere I looked through my new glasses, I could see the sharp divisions between areas of color. Instead of being blobs of green held up by tangles of brown, trees had leaves; I could see the individual branches, and I could see where the colors twisted together to form the old blurs I had known. Mommy, the world has lines!

When I was ten years old, our house was burgled. My brother was hardest hit by the loss of the TV; my mom by the sheer amount of cleaning up and inventorying - we weren't even fully unpacked into our new house. But the hardest loss for me was my entry into a Frito Lay coloring contest. It had been tough: they provided crayons with the entry, and my ten year old brain thought I had to use only those colors. None of them seemed appropriate for the scene provided. This was years before I saw my first Andy Warhol popart and learned about the art of color. The challenge was not the lines, but the colors.

During my time as a mainframe systems programmer, I was responsible for installation and maintenance of a vendor supplied graphics program. Beyond the straight-forward code installation and user interface scripts, I learned about the capabilities of the program. I began to learn about concepts like dithering and anti-aliasing. The challenge in those days of low resolution was simply in getting the lines to appear smooth; anti-aliasing would eventually be used to blur the lines entirely, blending together the colors to provide depth and an illusion of reality.

Yesterday I painted a room. Outline all the architecturally provided edges, then roll the color out in the big flat spaces. Transform a wall whose multiple colors had been turned pastel by primer into a smooth surface of wet caramel. Watch the wall transform from uniformity into a canvas of brushstrokes and patches, as the paint dries inconsistently into a dark, rich, Tuscan clay. Even without lines, there were so many variations in color.

Look around. Look for a solid color, and you will find shading. Look for a single color, and you will find subtle blends of the individual components. In our early attempts to capture the world around us, we draw lines to represent edges, and we choose colors to represent the sense of hue on each side of these edges. As we progress we discover that the art more fully represents the subject when the lines are blurred and the colors are mixed.

Coloring outside the lines of our lives enriches the colors of our lives in just the same way that paintings are richer for their backgrounds and for the blending and shading that replaces any edges. We are enriched by the gifts that we give others. Share happiness, share enthusiasm, share curiosities, share love. See happiness, enthusiasm, curiosity and love grow daily. Age? Color? Money? These are some of the artificial distinctions that separate us. Share life and discover how much we are alike.


The preceding has been my entry for LJ Idol Season 5, Topic 16, Coloring Outside the Lines