Shades of the New Year

As we sit nearly one month into the new year, wondering what it will bring for all of us as both ordinary people and creators of sorts, we at Shades of Grape are taking a moment to look back at the year passed and how it is colored our view of our future prospects.

We cannot in good faith talk about the year-end without also discussing the way 2016 made us feel.  The truth is, we were all done with 2016 long before December 31st–it’s the one thing the people of the world seemed to agree on. This was the year that seemed to set the whole world on fire, leaving us anxious for this blessed of New Year’s Eves to get here already so we could hose it down, heave a collective sigh of relief, and start fresh with 2017. True, historians and scientists are fond of reminding us that the world as a whole is still far more peaceful, healthier, and happier today than ever before.  But nevertheless, people everywhere felt the burn both within their own communities and across oceans. (We realize this all sounds a bit heavy for a painting blog, but stay with us, there is a relevant connection to wine painting on its way.)


The truth is, of course, that today is no different than yesterday.  There is nothing magical about 2017 that will make it a better time to live the way we want, do the things we should, or view the world as it is—a wealth of opportunities to find meaningfulness rather than a burden of fires to extinguish.  It’s comforting to replace that 6 in our dates with a 7—tangible, undeniable change—but the power to exact our own forms of change was always there for the taking.  It did not magically disappear during the year and return to us on January 1st.

So forget the dreaded and clichéd new year’s resolutions.  And disregard the idea of change as you know it—a problem to be fixed, a bad habit to break, a new routine.  Let’s rather look at 2017 as a doorway to new, enriching, and meaningful experiences, those which may be less visible and monumental than the gym visits and salads and community service—although those are important too!

Naturally, we at Shades are thinking of one kind of experience in particular that everyone can carry into the new year: the creative experience.  Each of us gravitates toward different avenues of creation, diverse enough that we may not even think of our chosen process as a creative one.  This is especially the case when we associate the creative directly with the artistic and find it too daunting, too inaccessible—another mind trick.  Don’t be fooled. With the new year and window for change before us, we are suggesting that this is the year to release any inhibitions you may have had in the past about the creating, and painting in particular, in favor of finding an experience that can open the door to renewed meaning.  Here’s why.

Implicit in the very act of creating—be it sculpting, gardening, writing, cooking—is a process.  It’s easy to want to jump straight to the creation—the sculpture, the garden, the novel, the meal—but the product itself represents a mere fraction of the creative experience, the joy and meaning of which often pale beside the time invested in the process.  Allow us, then, to share our estimation of the meaningful milestones of this process via our own creative experience: wine painting.


pullquote4First things first: inspiration.  We’re not asking you to have a divine epiphany, discover your muse, or find your calling.  But we all know what it feels like to see, hear, or taste something that gets us excited about the possibilities… just think!

Pro tip: when in search of inspiration, simply step into the world.  Leave your house, put down your phone, and observe.  Inspiration is not hiding under a rock somewhere.  It tends to hang out in your neighborhood, right around the corner just waiting for you to look up and notice—so pay attention! Fortunately, we at Shades do pay attention, and have already found inspiration for our new year creativity.  It is the thing, in fact, that inspired this post, which we think hints at a promising year for anyone who has ever wanted to unleash their inner creative with us.

Every year, the designers, stylists, and artists across creative industries—fashion, design, music—offer us a buffet of trends to absorb and get excited about.  A pallet of new or recycled patterns, shapes, looks, sounds, flavors, textures, and, of course, colors will begin to show up in everything we consume, the material and sensorial.  Whatever your general feelings about trends, fads, and bandwagons—we understand your reservations about consumerism and sheep—we are still inclined to think of them as genuine, collective reactions to what came before.  They tend to reflect a shared yearning to be refreshed with something new, or something we forgot we loved (think of the surge of folky pop music a few years ago that started as an authentic callback to the bygone days of real musicianship—come on, we all felt it, some more than others—and ended with 500 days of Mumford & Sons knock-offs).  But we digress.

The point is that one element of the 2017 trends has already emerged and the outlook is promising: the color of the year.  Caveat: there is, of course, no single authority on seasonal color trends and most of the color experts hedge their bets by forecasting multiple pallets of wildly differing hues.  What we mean is, if you so choose to fact-check this report, you will find that the colors of the year, as espoused by experts (i.e. paint manufacturers), are so numerous and diverse as to be rendered almost meaningless.  Anyone could find inspiration in this lot!  So call it cognitive bias if you like, but when we spotted Plascon’s pick for color of the year—the so-called “In the Mood” (see Plascon’s graphic depiction below)—we took it as a sign.


taupeYou may not realize it if you have never put wine to paper before, but this earthy, rustic shade recalls the same hues of a watery wine-soaked canvas.  True, the different grape cultivars provide us with a paint spectrum that ranges from burgundies to reds to blues, but over time oxidation transforms most of our wine art into a silty monochrome.  Ours is the organic paint of the terroir, real and untainted by synthetic pigments.  And like all nature, it changes, never the same today as it was yesterday.  This reality does not escape us in the creative process—it’s very much a part of it.

Without ascribing imaginary meaning to “In the Mood” as part of Plascon’s “Terrain Colour Story” (although we do find it pretty cool that they are feeling the earthy vibe as much as we are—the universe is totally talking to us), we can appreciate it as a source of inspiration for our own creativity that we accidentally stumbled upon while mindlessly flipping through a random magazine at a coffee shop.  (Tip of the hat to Ideas Magazine for that one!)

Andy Warhol said, “You have to be willing to get excited about nothing.”  We get that.  That’s us right now.  Because sometimes nothing is all it takes—a chance spotting, a glimpse of something seemingly insignificant that ignites a spark in some tucked-away neural network in your brain.  If it teases you with the possibilities and points you in a direction, then it’s all you need.

pullquote2So chart the course—step 2.  Once we have embraced the creative process over the product, we can be tempted to get preoccupied with the verb—doing the thing we have been inspired to do.  Pump the breaks, my friend, and savor the road-mapping stage.  This is the time for dreaming, planning, and anticipating—the things that grant you the full payoffs of the doing and product.  If you’ve taken one of our classes you know that we encourage students to plan their artwork before they break out the brushes.  Sketch it, mentally map it, but you need to block out your canvas.  This is not a chore to endure, but a vital step to enjoying the doing—it’s part of the fun.  We don’t dictate the process in our classes as much as we recommend things, but experience tells us that when students skip the mapping and go straight to the doing, they are more likely to get frustrated as they paint themselves into corners.  Yes, pun intended.

So this is the time to translate your inspiration into something workable.  And it can be in more than one way.  We continue to parlay our own inspiration—literally the shades of grapes as recalled by “In the Mood”—into specific paintings, blog posts, and all aspects of our workshops. Indeed, we have started roadmapping some special classes for the coming months.  (More on these in future posts.  Teaser: stay tuned for our extra special Valentine’s Day workshop…we can’t wait!)

pullquote3Just do it.  There is such a thing as taking the planning stage too far.  Particularly for the perfectionists of the world, or the less-artistically inclined, there is yet another temptation, this time to over-prepare, to wait until the perfect plan is assembled before acting.  Another illusion to keep you from fully immersing in the creative experience.  The reflex to over-refine is the same one that told you “you’re just not the creative type” to begin with.  It’s the root of the same myth that perpetuates the idea that some people just have talent—they come out of the womb as brilliant creatives of exceptional skill, so why should we bother?  Savants and prodigies—the rarest of exceptions to the rule—put aside, the so-called “talented” among us built the path to their status, paved in practice sessions, mistakes, and failures.  But of course, we never see their rough drafts, their first attempts.  And another thing: who said this was about creating perfect work to begin with?  Not us!  Process over product, remember?

So now is the time to make your first attempt.  Experiment, play, be bold!  But don’t stop there.  When you’ve finished, whatever the outcome or your feelings about the process, do it again, this time a little differently.  And then again.  Or if process really isn’t gelling, consider returning to step two and channeling your inspiration in another direction, perhaps with another medium.  This is all part of the overarching creative process—it’s what it’s all about.  Pretty meta.


That, good friends, is how we see change in the new year—only through the purposeful seizure of small, sometimes invisible, and somewhat elusive experiences that unleash new thoughts, feelings, abilities, and creations in our own little worlds.  We hope we are leaving you full of energy, excitement, and anticipation of the creative experiences that await you in 2017, and that at least one of them will be with us—see you around our table soon!