– by Albert Berkshire
Colour me present.
Most of my life is about describing things. Commercial products someone wants you to purchase, events you may be convinced to attend, companies you might find interesting or useful, a way to help save the planet, a way to contribute to its demise…the list goes on and on, and somedays…on and on and on. I write a lot of material for commercial radio and television, internet content and, much to my delight that they still exist, print publications. I am in the business of expression. This fact alone, if you have ever spent any amount of time with me, may be alarming as I am more recently lost for the words needed to express myself.
But give me a brief and I’m off and running. Or…writing.
I can dream up anything. I can’t promise most people will understand it – because I live on Planet Albert – but with a couple of passes over the material, I’ll polish the language to make it fluid and colourful. And colourful is one of my goals in everything I do. It may not always be what the client wants, but colourful is always the starting goal in my work.
Sidebar: I know we have discussed this in the past, I should address it again. I live in Canada and use the Queen’s English. Hence, “colour” is correctly spelled with a “u” in my neighbourhood. Same with “neighbourhood”. But I think you may have caught that. Just didn’t want you to be confused, annoyed, or feel things are off colour here. Byegones. Onward.
Colours, as ruined forever by psychologists, now represent emotions and moods. This is great news for those of us in the advertising business who wish to pull on your heartstrings. Ever wonder why all the fast food restaurants in world use some or all of the combinations of red, yellow and white? Now you know. A quasi-shrink put us onto it. This makes me feel as though the innocence of colour is gone. We’ve invaded one of the last bastions of our childhood. The little girl with the colouring book doesn’t know why she’s colouring everything pink, or green, or blue, or black. It could be that’s the crayon she chose. But if she has a few bad days at school and the teacher suddenly points out she been colouring everything with red or black (most commonly used for alcohol ads, by the way), they might suggest she is angry or depressed.
When planning a kitchen renovation the decision was made to go with black cabinets and the designer stopped and said, “Wait a minute. Any time a person wants black that sets off alarm bells that there are some serious emotional issues or problems happening.” Truth is, it just goes with the New York Loft style of the house. We got a new designer.
So what does being colourful really mean? Maybe we are expressing something from inside. Maybe we just like to colour with red and black. Maybe the use of colour is a form of expressive communication to which most humans can relate. And we all want to be able to relate.
I once had a client tell me my language was very colourful. Normally, that statement is reserved – in North America, at least – for describing a person who can make a sailor blush. Like my friend Bryan, or the guy at the football game last Friday night. But it is true, in many ways. And I use colour to describe many things.
Warm colours, cold colours, inviting colours, stalwart colours…the palate is almost never ending. If you look at a colour swatch from Farrow & Ball you’ll find thousands of colours. Colour gives us so much inspiration. Almost as much as music. Almost.
But my client wasn’t telling me that I use improper language. I don’t do that. Certainly not in the presence of a client. I’m smarter than that. He was referring to my descriptive language, and the irony that I was using colours to explain the emotion of my message. And I don’t like to use “blue” or “red” or “yellow” or “grey”. Too vague. I like the off colours. I like the descriptive colours. The colours with personality. The colours that pop off the page as much as they pop off your tongue. I like the more passionate residents of the Crayola box. I like aquamarine or scarlet or laser lemon or pewter.
I like the idea of having a colour that defines you. Don’t be orange or pink or green. Be Mango Tango. Be Flamingo. Be Magic Mint.
I’m not okay with Maize. That’s as boring as Corn. Can you imagine that language in a commercial? Let’s try it out:
Annc: “Michael Hill Jewelers presents a stunning one carat of diamonds set in a remarkable corn setting…”
Maybe we can stick with gold for gold.
Sometimes, there is little or no colour in my language. There are times when colour is absent from all creativity. That’s when there’s a nothingness to my work. A void in the cosmos of expression. And the closest I come to applying a colour is the cold black of cheap tire rubber making circles on the bitumen. It becomes a monochromatic existence revolving around creative frustration.
This is what being stuck feels like. It fills every valuable piece of real estate in your brain. (ironically, grey matter) It gives you the shakes. It makes you physically ill. It makes every song you hear all about your failure. It bores a hole through your heart, and then eats you alive.
That’s a monochromatic moment. I’m having one now.
I have the beginning. I have the end. I have loved everything in the middle. I just can’t make it across the bridge to connect the dots. Something prevents me from getting to where I know I am supposed to go.
My crayon is broken. (I’m not the purple crayon; in case you wondered.)
And that renders everything I’ve done null and void…worthless. It makes failure’s eyes glimmer in the dimly lit corners of a colourful life.
It kills a story.
It turns light into dark. The energy of white into the depression of black. Sparkling gold turns into mustard. It turns the understated beauty of pewter into a simple old grey.
It’s a shame, because I always had an attraction to the colour pewter.
Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He makes every effort to live life to the fullest, write with passion, and see the beauty in the colour of language. Telling colourful stories about adventure – and products – is his passion in life, and has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.