I had a revelation today while painting. A spring of blue water I painted shooting out of a crackling, worn-down self just didn’t have the “oomph” that I felt inside–the colors looked more gray than anything. I struggled with the lack of contrast but knew what I felt inside was vibrant. And then it occurred to me: Add black to the painting. Once I did, the whites of the rapid waters suddenly had a context against which they could shine, and the blues of the fountain could pop.
I know, this is all more “artsy-fartsy”-technical than we usually get in process painting, but I’d like to use this experience as a metaphor for our lives. I cannot tell you how many times we’ll have a painter at the studio who just wants to paint “lightness”, because that’s what they want to manifest in their lives. They don’t like the dark stuff. And sometimes will avoid it at all costs, even if it means feeling stuck and forcing something “pretty” to be there instead–all the while hating what’s coming out.
What is lightness without the dark? Well, it’s just a blank piece of white paper. We can’t make the white paper any lighter than it already is. What we can do, though, is add our own contrast. We all want to live out the glowing colors and brightness of a vibrant sunset, right? But it’s the deep, dull neutrals around it that makes the actual sun setting so striking. The glow of a lantern on a snowy night shines so warm in our hearts because of the contrast of the dark cold around it.
Darkness makes light perceivable. It gives it impact. The dark parts of ourselves are not something to fear or to hate—they are simply the other part of the equation that makes us who we are.
So I invite you to honor and embrace it all–the darkness, the light, the messy parts, the things that fall apart, and the joy that’s on the other side. Here’s to the process!