Mixing It Up

It began with a simple question, How do you mix yellow? Well, Ashley, you don’t. It’s a primary color. But that set me to thinking. Over the last few years the Lighthouse art cabinet has been stocked with lots of small bottles of acrylic paint in lots of different colors. I’ve never taken the time to teach the ladies about mixing paint and creating their own color wheels because usually a shade of the color was available. So a few weeks ago the ladies at the Lighthouse, a fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse, spent the morning mixing it up.

Given just the three primary colors – red, yellow and blue, they learned to create secondary colors by mixing adjoining primary colors to make orange, green and violet. Twelve-hued color wheels emerged as they created tertiary colors by mixing primary colors with neighboring secondary colors.  Suddenly, they were over the rainbow with the ability to mix up just about any color they could imagine including different types of browns by mixing complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel). We added white and black to their paper plate palettes and they discovered the wonderful mix it up world of tints, tones and shades. It was a morning of painting empowerment!

The following Friday we restricted their color palette to just yellow, oranges and reds as they created water-colored fall leaves. After an initial wash of yellow paint three leaves are randomly drawn on the watercolor paper. The background or negative space is painted a yellow orange. More leaves are drawn and the remaining negative space is painted an orange shade…and so on until the final color is a deep red orange. Theoretically. This is a somewhat challenging art process to accomplish according to instructions. BUT it is not possible for the watercolors to be anything but beautiful whether the directions have been followed correctly or not! This art activity is a winner no matter how it’s mixed up.

Last Friday we transformed the fall watercolor painting into booklet covers after the women created copy change poems inspired by Chief Dan George’s poem And My Hear Soars . Following the structure of the poem, they were encouraged to “mix it up” using their own words to express what made their hearts soar. Several wrote stanzas speaking of the nuanced aspects of recovery:


The summit of the future
The thunder of the past
The rhythm of the present
   speaks to me


The sparkle of the stars
The sparkle of her eyes
The sparkle in my tears
   speaks to me


The summit of the Lord
The thunder of His anger
The peace of His love
   speaks to me

but Chanel’s poem spoke to many of us. As she explained, her first stanza described when she was in her addiction “popping it” during the dark of night; then the final stanza contrasts the benefits of recovery.

The stars in the sky
The roundness of the moon
The midnight hour
   speaks to me
The happiness of Michael
The adventure in his voice
His hyperactive mischievous behavior
   speaks to me
The love of God
The Word of God
And His keeping power
   speaks to me
The diamonds in the sky
The twinkle in the night
The brightness of the Light
   because it it well worth the fight
They speak to me
   And my heart soars.

If someone asked you a simple question that opened up a wider world, what was it? If you’ve had an empowering experience that “put more colors on your palette,” what word picture would you paint for us? If you were to “mix it up” and create your own And My Heart Soars poem, what would you say?

Your comments speak to me and make my heart soar!



2 comments to Mixing It Up

  • I am so thankful Lynne for the work you do and the way you do it. A simple question that continues to open up new possibilities for me is simply, “Why not?” When I feel free enough to ask that question about my work at church or even in my family, I begin to see new possibilities in all kinds of situations.

    Why not create a worship service in a local shopping center?
    Why not just say, “yes” to every request my kids have for one day?
    Why not ask my wife out on a date for no other reason than to spend time with each other and eat sushi?
    Why not seek out a homeless person to help when I’m feeling in a funk in order to bless them and remind myself who I am in Christ and who Christ is with the poor?
    Why not choose to eat healthy and convince myself that two organges for dessert is inherently more satisfying than a moonpie and diet coke?
    Wny not see possibilities?

    That’s why I love what you do. You’ve helped me to ask the question, “why not?”

  • Judy Siudara

    We in the EPIC program at Cabrillo Village will be benefitting from this particular blog ,although all are thought-provoking. The 2-3 graders love to draw and this Mon. they will have their first experience in our group with paints. I will be using the concept of the color wheel to help them keep defining what the choices they make look like. and a good way to see that is to pick colors and combine them . The layers will probably come as they get more familiar with the paints.
    Thanks for this concept. The Lighthouse ladies have a lot in common with the 2-3 graders! Judy Siudara

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