The Stone Institute

Bright Colors

If I have been asked once, I have been asked at least a hundred times, "Why do you paint with such bright colors?" My usual response is simple, "Because I like bright colors." Over the years, I have pondered about why the attraction to bright colors as opposed to muted colors or pastels. My magnetism to bright colors is rooted in my childhood.

During my early formative years, I lived in several different foster care homes. I remember living on a farm in DeWitt, Michigan, in a home with an old couple named Mr. and Mrs. Boyle and in a house with six other children. That was the evil Foy.

Although it appeared to be a pleasant house from the street, it was filled negative abusive energy. My brother and I were confined to the furnace room in the basement. There was a large finished recreation room in the basement also, but we were not allowed to step foot in that room. If we were caught there, we would receive a beating with a thick black rubber hose. I remember several beatings from the father of the family who appeared to be a giant angry man. I seldom cried. I was too proud.

The furnace room was small. It had just enough space for an octopus coal burning furnace that was converted to natural gas and a twin cot. My brother and I slept on the cot, our heads to our feet. It was an odd alignment, but everything in that house was strange. It was dark and dreary. Colors were shades of brown and gray. The odor of the room reminded me of a damp mold filled root cellar. A light hung from the ceiling with a pull chain which turned on a single low wattage incandescent bulb. It was creepy and dim.

I spent hours in that room, fantasizing about what I would do when I got out of that prison. I made up adventures where the good always won over evil. At that time, the best part of my life was walking up the basement stairs, opening the side door and stepping into a world with bright colors and the sounds of nature and other children. Those school days kept me sane. I had no friends, but just listening to the sounds of life, seeing the vibrant greens, reds, purples, blues, and yellows made me smile. I knew I wouldn't always be trapped in that furnace room. And the daily trips to school and back, walking through the neighborhood without threat of violence from an ogre, was one of the best memories of my childhood.

Returning to my foster home was nothing more than returning to a dimly lit dungeon in the basement. The chains of poverty were placed on my hands and feet. But my spirit soared beyond my prison cell, seeing and feeling the bright colors of nature. It was those colors that inspired me, those colors that made me smile.
Remembering our past, not living in it, gives us great gold and insight into our present moment. Nature is alive and unafraid to be bold, sometimes to the level of sublime. Next time you look at a bright, bold color in a painting, think about living in a world where bright colors are absent. Check your mood. And remember some of us lived in those worlds for periods of our life, sometimes in childhood, and I suspect most of us don't wish to return.

I don't. Bright Reds, Blues, Greens, and Yellows forever.

Kevin S. "Kiki" Merigian

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