Words and Art by Donna K. Fitch
I have a bachelor’s degree in art, specializing in printmaking (although I started out as a painting major). Color, line and texture are so integral to my existence that I hardly think of them as separate and apart from my self. When I see a rich and delicious color, I say I want to dive into it—especially blues and purples in fabric and yarn. The older I become, the stronger my connection to color in particular. Maybe I’ve gotten over the need to wear “clothes that match” or that are deemed fashionable. I dress for me, not anyone else.
But I digress.
I recently watched a video of craftsmen bringing printing ink to life. To the soundtrack of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, turquoise gloved hands scoop vibrant yellow powder into a mixer. The gray-haired craftsman, khaki-skinned above his filter mask, regards his work through wire-framed glasses.
The mixed powder becomes viscous and pours into the roller machine, immense steel cylinders whirring through it at high speed. The thick and creamy ink at this stage resembles nothing so much as hot lemon pudding, quivering and pulsing. The walnut-skinned craftsman of the rollers patiently scrapes the intensely yellow ink with a wide steel spatula. His expression is peaceful, lost in the motion of his hands. The rich color glows like a vast sunflower in a midday Alabama summer. Every fiber of my being longed to dive headlong into the richness of that saffron mixture, to become one with this color and that color and the next color.
It wasn’t only the color that drew me in, though. The texture was like thick icing for a birthday cake massive enough for the inhabitants of the Greater Pelham-Helena-Alabaster Tri-City Area. The carrier varnish for the powdered pigment in another scene of the video poured down like honey, a visceral feeling in my mind. The rich and lively ink-in-the-making vividly contrasted with the hard, stark surfaces of the metal machines. Amidst it all were the passionate people whose job it was to provide the ink for printing magazines and postcards and books.
“Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
–Clare Herbert Woolston (lyrics), George Frederick Root (tune)
While the color descriptions in this little song from the mid-1800s are a misguided way of thinking about people racially, I think it’s relevant to thinking about us all as God’s children. We know, abstractly, that we are all indeed precious in the sight of Jesus. But this love Christ has for us is more than how we look on the outside. Inside we are all colors, mixed in varying degrees of hopes and fears and aspirations common to all humans. We should recognize that any of us may hide these colors for fear of ridicule or disdain or even disgust, understand that and reach out in kindness all the more.
Sometimes we don’t think we’re precious in His sight when it comes right down to it. We may reach out to others but are so hard on ourselves. We think we aren’t good enough, don’t measure up to others, decide others have no imperfections while we have many. The Lord mixes us inside, though, makes use of our colors and textures, the unique combinations within similar ingredients that create His children.
Just like the visceral reaction to color and texture I described earlier, we should feel viscerally our kinship with the beauty of everyone who is loved by Jesus—which is all of us.