colouring outside the lines


Coloring outside the lines is a fine art.  ~Kim Nance

(inspired by Kelli’s post today at The High Calling)

Somewhere after 2nd grade, I took an art class. A motley group of us met in the basement of a community church, and spent an hour ‘being creative’. I remember learning about the primary colors and mixing them together to make secondary and tertiary colors. I know that there was more to it than that, but those particular ‘skills’ are what I remember most about those classes.

When I was at teacher’s college, we had a class about teaching art in the classroom. It was one of my favorite classes because not only did we talk about art and art related things for an hour, but for the other hour we actually DID art. We made collages, plaster casts, charcoal etchings, etc. Each day brought something exciting that I had never done before, and I loved learning about it and then trying.

I don’t remember the context of this particular art class, but we were drawing something on a page…perhaps getting reading to make an ink print or something. As our teacher walked around the classroom, I remember her leaning over me and saying, ‘Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. Don’t be afraid to take your picture off the paper.”  I stopped mid-creation and stared at her open mouthed. Outside the lines, off the paper…what on EARTH was she talking about?! “There are rules of coloring, of creating”…I thought, and those were two of the ones you absolutely didn’t violate.

I own a coloring book from when I was probably 4 or 5. In it there are some beautiful hand-drawn, whimsical pictures of scenes from Alaska. I remember sitting on the floor in the kitchen one day with my mom, and we each colored a page. The crayons were strewn around us as we worked on our masterpieces and I’m sure my tongue stuck out to the side as I concentrated. I was busy coloring, my images very imaginative and colors cascading across the page. I looked up for a moment to check on my mom, busy coloring on her page, and my crayon stopped what it was doing. I sat there entranced, as I watched her color carefully inside the lines, shading here and there as she went along and creating something I’m sure as a young child, I thought was a masterpiece.

Now, there isn’t a day when I sit down with crayons and coloring sheets and don’t think of my mom’s controlled and vibrant coloring that day. There isn’t a day when creativity hits that I don’t think of blending of colors to make new ones. But the very thought of taking something that had meant so much to me (coloring like my mom, having that control to keep the color contained, and discarding it) seemed almost blasphemous to my creative heart.

For a moment, my pencil lay poised atop my paper…caught in the cross hairs of what was and what possibly could be. A war raged within my mind, between control and release, old and new…and I was wary to touch pencil to paper without a firm conclusion in mind. And then I did it…i drew a line off the page. And it wasn’t just any old line, no this was a curving line, a line that vaulted its way off the page…making you follow it from left to right, top to bottom, turning the page over to see just where it might have gone. This was a line that took you on an unknown journey…because unlike my nicely drawn straight lines, and lines that just kissed the edge of my paper…this line spoke of freedom, of release, of unknown (Something that I very rarely am prone to indulge in).

Two Sunday’s ago…I found myself coloring with my 3 year old friend Madelyn. She has a Disney princess coloring book and we had settled down for some ‘girl time’ to color. She had fished out her favourite crayons from her drawing desk, threw her book open to a beautiful untouched page and declared it was time to color. I knew that it was up to me to ask what color she would like me to use, since she is very fond of certain colors and I didn’t want to perhaps mess up the book in some manner for her. I picked up a blue, asked if it was okay and what area of the book I was allowed to color in. She swept her arm across the page, pointing at the hair of a horse and said ‘There’ and I began to color the horses mane blue. If that had been my coloring book, the horses mane would have been light brown with some dark brown highlighting, perhaps a dark brown color for the body and green for its eyes…but there was no ‘my’ here, it was hers and her imaginations joy.

and I thought that while I wasn’t necessarily coloring outside the lines, I was definitely seeing the picture before me with new eyes. After all, who says that in a coloring book, a place full of imagination, that a horse’s mane can’t be blue..or purple or orange, or even rainbow colored for that matter. It was all about the perspective I had and the pre-conceived ideas I had.

and sometimes I wonder, what other areas of my life am I hold back in, following “the rules” I have in my head, in an area that I should be called to freedom in. and how often do I make a list of the way things ‘should be’ and how I ‘should be’ and forget about grace, forgiveness and mercy. In God’s creation, he definitely colored outside the lines, after all he was the one that put together this world full of amazing things that continue to blow our minds, scientifically and creatively. He was the one that set this creative desire within us, that opened our eyes to the colors of the sky, the sea, the sand; who opened our ears to the larks cry, the oceans roar and the wind’s wail and he opened our minds to the wonder of it all, the majesty of it all…

way too often, its far easier to try to ‘live within the lines’, to try to follow the law and forget about grace. There is a place for rules, there is a place for standards, I’m not saying throw it all to the wind, but there is also a place where grace sets us free, to see what lines beyond the lines, outside the colors we’d normally pick.

Perhaps there is an adventure awaiting just off the page…

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7 thoughts on “colouring outside the lines

  1. i LOVE how you and kelli both wrote on art this week… and on breaking off erasers (kelli) and coloring outside the lines. yay to creation!!! and what a beautiful memory of your mother, janel. xo

  2. Janel, I can relate. I love to see the creativity expressed in others through their own diversity and lens of experience and gifting but often stay within the confines of my own lines. I’m always asking God to keep my eyes open to new ways of seeing things. I don’t want to get stuck and comfortable in a certain way of doing life and miss the wide expanse of God’s goodness.

  3. What a wonderful reminder Janel, that God is a CREATIVE God and He is never defined by lines {rules}! Another beautifully written piece of your heart. Thank you.

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