Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 368

Before you start reading this post, do me a favour and press play on the video clip below and read as the song pumps out around you.

There is a guy in the US by the name of Eric Wahl who can do some pretty nifty stuff with a paintbrush. Actually, probably not so much with a paintbrush as with his hands and a canvass. Eric tells the story of how, as a 9 year old, he was told by a teacher that he wasn't very good at art. You see, he wouldn't follow the rules of art. He would colour outside the lines. That's wrong. Apparently. Anyway, he put his colour pencils away at the age of 9 and walked away from the activity that brought him joy.

Fast forward 25 years or so and Eric was a successful businessman on Wall Street. Fast forward to 11 September 2001 and this business man's life changed forever. When the twin towers came crashing down around him, so did Eric. He was physically and psychologically unable to cope with that event. He retreated to the four walls of his home and lost all sense of life. He hid. He lived with depression.

A friend told him to find something that brought him joy. His friend said to look into his childhood and find happiness. Eric remembered that art had made him happy until the day a teacher told him art was not his thing. So he walked into his garage and started to paint. But instead of painting within the rules, he decided to change the game. He was after all the kid who coloured outside the lines. What did he have to lose? Instead of building from light to dark on a white canvass, he decided to build from dark to light on a black canvass. He did the opposite of what he was taught and had his left and right brain working in dynamic tension with each other for creativity (right) and results (left).

Derek and I had the pleasure of watching Eric Wahl in action at a conference in Hawaii last year. Eric is now a motivational speaker using his art to work with people on innovation and transformational change. He is an artist and a visionary.

The moment Eric walked out on stage Derek and I were transfixed. He didn't speak. He had U2's "Beautiful Day" blasting through the speakers completely engulfing all of us in the auditorium. There were big screens up showing the film clip and as the music pumped through us he started to throw paint at a black canvass. Paint was just being slapped on willy nilly. He was using his hands and a paint brush. The whole time the music kept pumping. During the entire song he painted.

And then, with only seconds left of the song, and with one final flick of his paint brush, a canvass awash in random splatter became a picture and the crowd gasped.

I had tingles rush through my body.


No one saw it coming ....

Genius. Pure genius.

This man is a genius. I will never forget how his art made me feel, and whenever I hear "Beautiful Day" I get that rush all over again. Eric Wahl draws with passion and abandon. The way he paints couldn't have been learned if he had gone to art school. He redefines what art is - experience, philosophy, emotion. He looks at the rules and finds ways to strategically break them which sets him apart from other artists.

Ask a class full of pre-schoolers "who can draw?". They will just about all put up their hands. Ask a class full of year 4 kids. Only half the class will say yes. Ask a year 10 class and you may only get one or two hands go up. Kids lose belief. They lose confidence. They are programed that art has to look a certain way. They are told that dogs can't be green, and that trees are not pink. They are told to build dark on light. They are encouraged to colour within the lines.

Every child is an artist, the challenge is how to maintain that as you grow up. We are capable of so much more than we are conditioned for.

We are all artists.



  1. So beautiful. You've got me wanting to go out and buy fantastic colors and just use my hands to mold it on there again. You are right.



  2. Oh, you just made me cry. Again.

    And this is why I walk long distances and run, Because I re-found that soaring joy that I get from hills and fresh air.

    But it is through posts like this one that I understand why.

    Thank you. xx

  3. I'm a fan of your blog already. If only I could sign in on Google and let you know... I'll sort it out shortly! xx

  4. It is a very sad fact that we stifle our kids creativity with rules - I shall try harder not to do that now

  5. This is a wonderful post Leanne. You are so very right about the children and drawing..or anything for that matter. One word of negativity can impact a lifetime of creativity. But it can be reversed if they have someone to believe in them once more.

    What an inspirational story and amazing piece of art! :D .

  6. Fantastic post. I got tingles just reading about it. I am in awe of artists of any kind. I love what my boys produce - here's to encouragement and support.

  7. Awesome post my dear bestie....

  8. I enjoyed your post! Love the painting too :-)


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