How to express emotions without saying a word

18 months ago a major health problem changed my life drastically. At first I didn’t realize it and just got back to business. The doctors had fixed the problem and by no means would I let a health issue no matter how severe force me on my knees…

6 months later I was back to the emergency room and I had to stop lying to myself : my diminished physical capacities will no longer allow me to work the way I did until then. So now what ?

Being a bit of a workaholic my life simply stopped. I was nothing more than an empty shell. Unable to work, unable to sustain my family financially, letting down my colleagues, letting down my patients, betraying everyone …

The result were panic attacks. Sudden dizziness followed by hyperventilation, my heart beating at 140 and up, a sensation of loosing control and the idea of fading away towards death : “if I close my eyes I will never wake up again …”. After fifteen of these attacks it became obvious that I needed help.

The doctors I then met put me out of business and told me it would take time before I could go back to work. Having time can be rather puzzling for someone used to work 12,13 or even 15 hours a day. I needed a “pass time”. When I was a teenager I dreamt of becoming a painter and so painting and drawing seemed a good idea. Only, when I started to draw I rapidly ran into a mousetrap. The drawings I did were never good enough even though my wife and my kids were surprised by them since they had never sen me do so before. I signed up for drawing classes in order to improve my skills and very quickly it turned out that artwork was to become my new source of stress.

Then I fell on articles on the internet talking about intuitive painting, gesture painting, abstract expressionism and a phrase of Vassili Kandinsky, one of the creators of abstract art. Kandinsky said that “colors have the power to make the human soul vibrate”. I immediately fell in love with this idea of soul vibration induced by color. Now in order to paint through intuition your mind has to be constantly cleared of those high performance thoughts that automatically appear once you start a creative process. Any idea of proportion, harmony, colorscale or composition gets immediately non intuitive. And this mind clearing action can only be done through a process very close to mindful meditation : development of moment to moment awareness of internal processes aiming to stay in touch with the present OR with intuition.

So what’s left when you clear your mind from logical thinking and planification, when you free it from constructiveness and result aiming ? I believe that what is left is emotion. Or if you prefer soul vibration.

During the weeks that followed I tried to stick to that idea of meditative painting. Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t. At first, many times I struggled with automatic thinking : proportions, figures, contraste, and so on. But then, little by little, my work became more interesting, more colorful and now and then I saw right before my eyes what I was looking for : EMOTIONS.

It may sound like “hey I just invented warm water” because many others have gone through this process before I did. But to me this was sort of a revelation. From that moment on the feeling of betrayal that obsessed me became less and the panic attacks ceased almost completely.

The paintings I created seemed to me like the mirror of my soul. I could literally see and even touch my emotional state of the moment on the paper.

Since that moment my creativity is the motor of my life. It made me rediscover what living really means. Nobody needs a 300 HP car, a Rolex watch or whatever. You don’t need a million followers on Twitter or Facebook. All it takes to have a fulfilled life is gaining the awareness of being alive and sharing your life with others. Success is when your child says Dad I love you.

These days I get up early, not to run for money or fame, but to see the sun rise, to feel its warmth on my skin and to listen eyes closed to the orchestra of the birds in my garden. I make coffee and then I wake up my wife with a kiss. And any one of these actions makes me aware of being alive. It took me more than 50 years and a life threatening disease to find out that happiness is in every one of us. Unfortunately we spend most of our lives running for something else … until one day we ask ourselves “am I happy” and discover that the answer is “No”?

My paintings express what I never wanted to look at : my emotions. And they do so far more accurately than words. Words are just an abstraction they are merely the shadow of the real thing.

Kandinsky was right : only colors penetrate deep enough into our souls, without logical filtering, to transpose the vibration of our emotions.

Only music has the same power. But music has become an object of consumerism selling hits you listen to and then throw away by the thousand. So the emotions they create are just as artificial and conformed as their media. So why not go to a museum or a concert rather than bye tons of cheap emotions forgotten as soon as you stock them on the cloud ?