Creating Outside the Lines

Photo of scribbled over mandala with the caption, "I have started coloring to manage my stress and anxiety."

It's hard to believe, but I've been posting to Facebook for The Painting Experience for almost eleven years. We have a large number of Facebook followers -- about 64,000 -- but because of the way its algorithms work, Facebook shows each of our posts to only about 300-1,000 of those folks. Every now and then, though, a post blasts off in a surprising way. That happened last week with this image of a scribbled out mandala below the plain text: I have started coloring to manage my stress and anxiety. It reached more than 54,000 people and more than 7,000 people engaged with it by liking it, sharing it, or commenting on it.

This meme isn't new. It's been circulating on the Internet for a long time; you can even find it on sweatshirts and t-shirts. I reposted it from the Instagram feed of meditation teacher @tarabrach -- whose sense of humor is well known -- and I did so without much thought. I laughed and had the immediate sense that people who know the Painting Experience would "get it" and like it. But what are we "getting" here? Why is this joke so well traveled and why does it make people laugh so instinctively? Why does it do so even when there's a growing interest in adult coloring backed by evidence that coloring mandalas reduces stress and anxiety

Cheering On Your Inner Rebel

We think the appeal goes beyond the basic idea of whether people are able to color inside the lines. It gets to the heart of creative rebellion: Perhaps a gleeful rebellion against the lines themselves, because someone else has drawn them for us or because they exist at all. Or an exasperated rebellion against the need to be appropriate all the time. Or a more instinctively intelligent rebellion against oversimplified, pat methods for "managing" or directing our deepest feelings and creative energies. 

We offer The Painting Experience as a way to give up managing, so that we can deeply enter our singular experience and express it fully from the inside out. Whether or not you also like to color -- and many of us do find it soothing -- we know that you are with us here at least in part because you share our passion for depth, authenticity, and vulnerability. 

Woman working on large process painting at Encino Painting Experience workshop

More Favorites

Over the past six months, people who follow us on Facebook gave the following five posts the most thumbs up. You might enjoy them, too.

Revel In the Joy of Doing Things You Will Never Master (Quartzy)

The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles (Man Repeller)

The Play Deficit (Aeon)

How to Actually Truly Focus on What You're Doing (The New York Times)

You're All Just a Bunch of Naked Weirdos (DailyGoalCast)

A 200-Year-Old Guide to Color, Redesigned for the Internet Age (Fast Company)

Coming Up

Here's where to paint with us next:

Elohee Retreat Center, near Atlanta, Georgia (5 days with Matt Beley)

Omega Institute, near Rhinebeck, New York (5 days with Stewart Cubley, Matt Belay, and Wendy Shami)

Breitenbush Hot Springs, in the Oregon Cascades (5 days with Stewart Cubley and Annie Rousseau)

San Rafael, California (weekend with Stewart Cubley and Aziza Balle) 

For many more onsite workshops, see our full schedule of upcoming process painting classes and retreats.

To support your painting practice at home, check out our online painting programs or one-on-one mentorship offerings.

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