This week I finished a painting on canvas. My first in years.
It was the story of an African American man called Chris Wilson that moved me to pick up the brush. I was apprehensive. I had acrylics, not oils and I have been using big brushes not small. Plus my past inevitably comes back to visit when I stand in front of the easel and now I’m painting solo that place carries a loss.
Chris was brought up in a violent U.S. community with a brutal stepfather who beat his mother. At just 17 he shot and killed a person and was imprisoned. He spent half his life incarcerated. In his cell he began to imagine a different world for himself. He knew he was a good person and so he worked really hard to reclaim his self respect. He chose to help as many people as possible and he decided to educate himself and volunteer. He wrote a plan, imagining a purposeful life and sent it to his judge who told him he would release him, if he stuck to his plan. He did. Chris, now 34, is a social entrepreneur with two businesses that create pathways for young boys in similar communities to his own. He is about to complete a degree and has been invited by Harvard Business School to attend their Executive Leadership Program. He calls his approach positive delusion.
Positive delusion is something I do every day (my friends will be smiling as they read this!). It is the energy behind the art and it is how I live my life moment by moment. It’s a magical approach that has never failed me or my boys. It is the power of the imagination and the ability to trust it without question. I joke to people that I can’t plan anything, not even a pregnancy … so I’m pretty sure I came across positive delusion out of necessity. Anyhow, it works for me.
I wanted my first new painting to help children who feel powerless in a world where the principle of power over is applied more than that of power with. After reading Chris Wilson’s story I made a beeline for the studio. As I put up my easel and organised my paints and brushes, the line “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down” from the song “Token Angels” echoed in my mind. It’s a song I only rarely hear played on the radio.
And so here it is. A boy and his process to create a better world by first listening to the wisdom of an Elder, letting his imagination birth an idea that is nurtured and propelled into reality through his love and active commitment to the vision.
In that moment of letting go the false constructs that have imprisoned his free will come tumbling down.
I’ve imagined children lying in their beds staring at this painting that hangs on their wall. A portal into a field of dreams.