A Painter’s Guide to the Galaxy
I am gonna tell you about something that makes my heart beat faster and brings life to what I am. I’ll take you through waves of color, impressions, expressions, rain, wind, and sunshine. But before we go there: What does it mean to be a human being?
“What a challenge?” you might ask yourself — just being human. You know what I am talking about. Your daily life. You wake up, you go to work, you go home, get refreshed, make some food, and maybe go out to meet up with friends.
On your way from A to B you might start watching people. How they move, what they wear, you listen to what they say on the phone or to a friend sitting next to them. You may start wondering what they do in their lives. What do they work with? What are their dreams?
If you think about it, you probably do that on every commute — even if just subconsciously.
Whenever you get a little moment of rest, you might also wonder — where are my dreams in all that? What are my passions? What is the thing that I am excited to share with the world around me? How could I make the world a better place?
There could be a lot of answers, but most often one passion will stick out from all the others.
Why don’t you try to get started, doing what you dream of — your passion. Do what makes you happy, because it might be the reason why you exist at this time surrounded by just the people you’re with.
Passion for painting
My name is Sophia, currently living in the beautiful South of Germany, close to the mountains, shining blue in the distance. I work as an occupational therapist and occasionally a barista. Both jobs are very fun and challenging.
Between jobs, I make sure to make time to be able to create — mostly through painting and writing. Today I wanna tell you more about the painting part.
Painting, to me, is the ultimate way of just being myself. It’s the thing that makes me wanna dance all day long. It’s a way of expressing what happens inside of you, but also how you perceive what’s around you.
Sometimes I end up being super frustrated with what I am creating, but when close to finishing a picture, I can feel pure life flowing through my veins. A joy and excitement that I can’t find anywhere else.
When I was a little girl I always watched colors — how they spoke to each other. I love how a yellow tone brings out the shine in a blue tone, and how orange loves speaking to green.
There are a lot of opinions and theories in the world about how to put colors and shapes together. They might each contain some truth, but I figured you need to find your unique way of letting them speaking to each other.
For me it started with my dad painting acrylic pictures during his stay in rehab. He struggled with depression at this time and was surrounded by other people fighting depression and trauma.
I was 10 at the time.
I remember going there for visits, feeling the heaviness but also a huge curiosity for the people there and their amazing ability to bring out their inner lives onto a canvas.
They were able to tell you why they chose red and not blue. Why they put something in order, or let it descend into chaos. Why they expressed deep sadness or strong joy.
At this place, you got the sense that you could’t do anything wrong. You could be one with what you painted. Somehow, that became a new freedom to me. It felt like, all of a sudden, I was able to create a bridge from my inner life to the world around me — but also the opposite.
After a while, I started painting back home. I tried different types of paint. Acrylic, oil pastels, wax pastel chalk, drawing with a pencil, a felt tip pen or ink.
There have always been seasons were I painted a lot, and then seasons of less, but I always end up painting again. It always gives a feeling of being in the moment and lets your inner life speak onto a piece of canvas. Your eyes start to see. Your ears start to listen. And the colors and shapes become your way to speak with no words.
The first wave of an emotion
Now it’s time to introduce you to how a picture gets born. I can tell you from the beginning — there is no recipe. But you can get to know how certain lines and patterns start repeating themselves throughout your painting. That happens when I paint abstractly.
Painting realistic illustrations for a story is something entirely different, but now I’ll talk about the abstract — my biggest passion.
Usually, it starts with an emotion. Something you wish you had words for, but no matter how hard you try, words don’t cut it. So you sit down, take your painting equipment out, and choose one color to start with. You draw one line. Not straight, not completely curved, but something in-between. I often think of it as the first wave of an emotion.
With that step, it is set in motion. You take the next color. You let two colors fight in a beautiful way that makes every color shine. You add more shapes — circles, lines, waves — whatever comes into your mind. After a while, you see the basic shape of the picture.
It’s then time to give the outlines a second depth. You take a step back, and take a look at what you have, and you see with your inner eye what you need to add.
I often see organs — lungs, veins, the heart, the stomach, or other amazing creations inside of your body. I see them pulsing from blood rushing through them. Every organ obeys the rhythm of life. That’s fascinating to me.
People in general are very inspiring. How they move, how they laugh, cry or talk to each other. There is so much you can capture and bring into a picture in colors or shapes just by watching the body language of a person.
What I also often see is the creation that we’re surrounded by in nature. It can be a tree, a stone, the water, the wind, the sky, the clouds, or the colors in it.
Sometimes I wonder if there are colors existing that have no name yet because they are undiscovered. I think about how I would name them, and never come to a conclusion. I am fascinated by how the individual pieces of creation are moving in perfection. There are simply no words to describe what you can perceive when you feel the wind on your skin, or the sunlight promises a bright and shiny day in the morning.
Raindrops are probably the most natural dancers you can ever watch.
You sit somewhere in a car, your eyes following the the flight of the landscape outside the car, the raindrops drawing their lines on the window — every drop in a different way — until the wind is taking them away from the surface of the glass.
Have you ever tried to catch the dance of a snowflake?
On a winter day, you look into the sky and you are almost overwhelmed by the tons of snowflakes that are falling softly to the ground. Every single snowflake in her own pattern of frozen crystal.
Have you ever thought about how incredible it is that every snow flake is unique? And every moment when you watch those snowflakes fall from the sky, are just as unique. You might watch snowflakes fall many times, but the moments — they’re never the same twice.
In each of those moments, I wish I could paint a picture to capture one million motions within a second. I think it’s a gift we miss, if we don’t enjoy the creation in and around us. If we open our eyes we might see a glimpse of a huge perfection.
Each wave blend together
With all that, the base is created. Now it’s time for the most fun part. Your sweating season is over. Your frustration is gone. Your overloaded joy calms down a little bit and your whole being is super focused and concentrated on giving every detail the honor to shine in its perfection.
How do I know when a picture is finally done? You simply know. You look at what you did. Maybe you turn the picture at different angles, you listen to your inside and then you just run with your decision. A process like this can take from a few hours up to months or even years.
I find joy in painting. It gives me a bigger understanding of what healing is. Healing from pain. A pain you might be unable to express in words, but that you could tell in colors and shapes. It gives me new eyes to enjoy joy and peace, after going through all the heavy emotions.
It doesn’t even matter if people don’t get the same experience as you do when they see the picture. I can tell you — it’s all right. You have done your part of sharing and whatever needs to speak to the person next to you, you can be sure the person will figure out herself.
Maybe a picture could give a little push to start a process in a person next to you. Which will be good, because the person will also go through highs and lows in life. Or maybe that picture you made helps her to get through something — or it’s just beautiful or ugly to them and that’s okay as well.
What I never want to stop doing, is watching the world I am in and enjoying her beauty. And if I then am able to share that to you in a picture, I know I did a good job.