Words often fail to capture color. Their nuances, their ambiguity, fluidity all slip through the cracks of words.
Words seem to exist in an eternal state, a place of permanence. Even though their meanings change through time, within a generation or a single human’s life, that might be hard to notice or even impossible. But colors out here in the world, they flow, vibrate and change with the cycle of the sun, the seasons, and the lights we turn on and off in our houses and streets. The colors might repeat themselves in our lifetimes if only for a brief moment each time.
Right now as I walk to the bus, there’s a play of the gold-light from the sun, that slowly rises, and the shadows in the snow. The shadows are drenched in a soft blue or purple. It’s a color with great presence, but also very subtle whispers. It almost emanates the cold I feel on my skin, but also comfort and embrace.
Soon these colors will melt as the day goes on and the sun changes its mood. Maybe around 4pm or 5pm there’ll be some similar colors again if the atmosphere doesn’t change and the clouds stay as they are. But will they be the same? Even their similarity will be different, emphasized by the different state I will find myself in, my chest carrying different humors and responses to the world.
Color is so powerful because of this fluidity and ambiguity. Color is able to contradict itself.
The deep red, purple and orange that may emerge from some sunsets. They’re beautiful, longing and contemplative. They ask of us, “Stop. Take a moment, right here, and see me.” But the colors can also feel ominous, heavy making us maybe even a bit scared — “Will the next day come for sure? Is life going to keep on going, or was this my last sunset?”
And the blue-purple of the snow, and the gold-light, right now they seem to dance and shift between cold and warm and warm and cold. The blue becomes warm for a second, comforting. Then it recedes back into the cold, pulling with it the gold. And then this golden air that so often feels like a soft embrace, becomes cold and apathetic, superior to my experiences and my need of warmth. This all happening in a fraction of a second — it’s like a coin flipping in the air, quickly shifting from one to the other.
In one single moment I feel it all because of color. This slippery characteristic of vision that eludes so many of us. No wonder so often people are most attracted to the color of a painting — even when it’s exactly because the painting lacks colors. Color breathes, flows and changes so quickly it creates in us a sense of continual rediscovery.
So on the 3rd of January I decided to take a break from all my social media. I uninstalled Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and even Youtube and Pinterest from my phone. I logged out of them as well on my computer. I decided to do this because:
- I had just listened to a chapter of an audiobook talking about how we’ve become addicted to these platforms. I noticed how I had been constantly, impatiently, even maybe nervously looking at my phone, expecting that new like.
- I was going off on a class trip to Boston for a 20-day period. This aligned well with my impulse to take a break, it provided me a chance to try and be more present in this new place, as well as to help me make new friends.
- I had been thinking about taking a break for some time already.
I knew it was going to be hard, but I ended up doing it. I sent out a quick post on Facebook and Instagram saying I was dropping out for a little and then deleted everything.
I’d say it was very necessary for me to did this. And I’m happy I did it. The first couple days were hard. I would constantly look at my phone and it would stare back at me and I’d wonder why was I staring at it, and why was I so bored? I also wasn’t travelling with any friends; at that point in the trip we were all pretty much strangers to one another.
One of the hard parts of doing this is when you see others using social media. When you’re all in a group and everyone is laughing because of something that was shared on Snapchat, it’s hard. You feel like you’re outside of the group. Not saying they should stop, just noting that this made it harder. At the end of the trip I wanted to get back on social media so I could connect with them there as well as in real life.
I eventually let myself use Youtube and Pinterest, one, because there were times where I wanted to look up some stuff there, or watch a new music video that came out. Two, because it was awful hard without those two. Three, because I felt these were two media that were easier for me to just watch or use a little bit and stop.
But even though it was hard for a long time, slowly, steadily, painfully, I became more used to it. Rather than look at my phone, I could listen to some music, or talk with someone, or admire the clouds, the trees – their shaking leaves in the white wind. I also started to find other ways to record my experiences besides taking photos. I could also draw, or do a quick sketch of what I was seeing as well as write and journal a bit. I could do a watercolor of the place I was in.
The whole experience helped me notice how addicted I’ve been to social media. And now that I’ve gone back to using it, I can already see how often I want to just scroll through feeds mindlessly. I think I want to take a couple steps to decrease my social media use and I think that I’ll try and use this blog and even social media itself to keep myself on track. I don’t have many practical steps, exactly, that I think I can take, but I tried coming up with a short list of actions I can take and I’ll see how it goes. I guess this will be actions I can experiment with and decide on next steps from there.
So. For the month of February here are some actions I’ll take:
- I’ll not use any social media on Sundays; any posts you see will have been posts scheduled the day before.
- I’ll choose a week in the month to not use any social media except for Instagram.
- I’ll write a blog post at the end of the month with an update and future plans to making social media more manageable.
Ok. I exaggerate, it doesn’t have to be something new every day. It can just be every week. Or maybe every month? I don’t know. Just try and do something new, is all I’m saying.
Today (as in 2 weeks ago, when I wrote this) I went to Dinderbeck Studios, here in Grand Rapids (GR), and took a 4 hour long workshop on screenprinting. Before the workshop, I had never heard of screenprinting, or any other forms of printing besides digital, to be honest. And it was so much fun learning something new.
Screenprinting is a fairly simple process. You just make the image, transfer it to the screen, then apply paint and transfer it to your paper, canvas or cloth of choice. Some people do t-shirts through this process.
It’s great for making hand-made prints. It offers you the chance to make several copies of that one print, but each print somewhat unique – or you can make it be. It will always have, at least when I’m doing it, mistakes or small flaws.
I think that’s part of the beauty of it. It’s not perfect, it’s not the same, each one is unique. Hand-crafted. It allows for the artist to be a part of the reproduction process – Marx would appreciate the ability it gives the artist to be closer in touch with the “means of reproduction.” Bye bye alienation.
The workshop was also just great to get to know some people from GR. There were 5 of us. We each worked on our own prints, but at the end we exchanged ours with each other! So I ended up getting some free art for my room.
Below you can check out the prints I worked on. They allowed us to come for another week after, during their open hours, for free.
But the reason I’m sharing this: it’s because it’s one of those “new experiences” that has helped me get pumped up for art again. New experiences change the pacing that you make art and your thought process opens up to new pathways. However, it doesn’t have to be a new art form that does this – although new art forms can be great – but really just about anything new does it. Open up your brain pores to creativity.
You can explore a part of your city you’ve never dared to go to. Or it could be going to a new city or country. It can be going to a new café, or starting a new type of project – like a blog! It can be to go to a new event. Or even to try and recreate one of your old pieces, under a new light. It can be to go be a reading mentor at middle school. Or to help at a homeless shelter.
Anything that gets you thinking in new ways. Step out of your comfort zone. I know. It’s cozy there. But just do it. It’s fun. Sometimes.
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Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM every Tuesdays and Thursdays.