Embracing Not Knowing – Mind Image #4


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See What?

Have you ever done one of those tests to see if you are colorblind? It shows a whole series of dot in various colors. If you aren’t colorblind you can see a number appear amid the dots. If you are colorblind, you can’t. Why is that? Because your eye’s retinal cones aren’t developed properly and so the color doesn’t register with the brain. In other words, you couldn’t see that color even if you wanted to. maxresdefault

YouTube Color Blindness Test

Trompe l’oeil

The history of art is filled with examples of the artist trying to fool your eye. As a matter of fact, there is an entire genre of art called ‘Fool The Eye’, better known by it’s French translation, ‘trompe l’oeil’.  The goal is to make you think you see something that, in fact, is not what you actually see.


Pere Borrell del Caso, Escaping Criticism, 1874



Andrea Mantegna, Oculus (window to the sky), Palazzo Ducale, La Camera degli Sposi (The Wedding Chamber), (1467?-1474)



Another movement in art that uses the mind’s initial inability to comprehend is Surrealism.  Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte are two who come to mind.  There goal isn’t to fool you into thinking you see something you don’t. It’s to see one thing, then another and not easily understand how or why they go together.  It’s that visual and mental dance of confusion that gives the art it’s power.


Salvador Dali – Three Sphinxes of Bikini – 1947



Rene Magritte, Empire of Light, 1950


What is Possible

The whole point of these and other works of art is to make you think about what it is you are seeing. To be fooled or confounded or challenged.

It’s telling about artists that so many like to fool us.  Artists are great at challenging our pre-conceived notions of what is art, what is real, what is good, what is beautiful. Unfortunately, many of us respond to not immediately understanding something we see by cutting off our curiosity, our wonder, our open-mindedness. We judge and are done.

But if one is willing, in art and in life, to experience rather than judge, to allow for confusion and the unknown instead of demanding all answers immediately, then the rewards can be great.  

Among the rewards are delight in discovering new ideas, enlightenment about how others see the world and inspiration for your own creative journey. And those rewards are definitely worth it in my book. How about you?

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Robertson Davies, 1913-1995, Canadian Novelist and Playwright



Religion, Science and Art – Mind Image #3


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At first I thought this quote was perfect for my ‘Mind Image’ series. Then after I drew the drawing I started to think it was somewhat pedestrian. Then I got it. It isn’t pedestrian, it’s understated.  I can just imagine a upper crust British actor saying this in a period movie as Galileo is being tried for heresy or Socrates is forced to drink hemlock.


History shows us the consequences of new ideas in religion can be extreme.  One need look no farther than Jesus as an example.  He was crucified because of the threat his new religious ideas had on the established religion and the established government of the day. And there have been millions more over the centuries who have suffered and died because the threat their ideas pose to someone else.


The process of proving something in science often starts with an individual having an idea that something may not be as it seems and starts to investigate. As he or she investigates their ideas are not yet fully proven and are often met with skepticism and distrust.  Luckily, science has a built in mechanism, the scientific method, that eventually allows ideas to prove themselves. The recent proof of the existence of gravitational waves proving Einstein’s 100+ year old theory that they exist is a great example.


Name an art movement and it probably started by being disparaged and attacked by the people involved with the more established art movements at the time. Sometimes even the movements’ names often started as a cut. Fauvism (Wild Beasts) was the dismissive name given to Henri Matisse’s art movement of 1905.  Impressionism got it’s name when a critic took it from a title of a Monet painting (Impression: Sunrise) and wrote a satirical negative review of their first exhibition.  In fact most art movements tend to take shape in rebellion against a prior movement.  Pop followed Abstract Expressionism.  Pre-Raphaelites rebelled against Raphael and the Mannerists who followed him.

Open Mind

It’s not likely you, or anyone, has a completely open mind. I know I don’t. We end up believing certain ideas and it’s hard to let go of them, no matter how open minded we are. So, how do we keep as open a mind as possible? Well, the goal, for me at least, isn’t to have a completely open mind. It’s to have a mind that holds on lightly to ideas. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe them, but it means I am willing to accept the possibility that a new idea might come along that changes my mind.  I don’t grab new ideas willy nilly just because they are new. But I do allow my mind to consider new ideas before I judge them.


Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860, German philosopher


Where the Negative Mind Leads – Mind Image #2


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Mind, Not Thoughts

Notice the quote does not say ‘Negative thoughts’. It says ‘A negative mind’ instead. That is because we all have negative thoughts and negative thoughts aren’t always bad.  What is bad is when those negative thoughts become so predominant that one’s entire mind becomes negative.  When your every response is negative. When your every judgment is negative. When your every decision is negative.  Then you have become trapped. You have become automatic. And the automatic negative mind has no bridge to reach anything positive.  

Starting Slow

So, how do you overcome this? You make the smallest of positive decisions.  I have a friend online who has decided to do a half marathon later this year. She hasn’t run in over 2 years. My advice, and the advice of any reputable running coach?  Start slow.  Don’t try to run 13.1 miles tomorrow. don’t even try to run 1.31 miles tomorrow.  Just get out and run 100 yards. Maybe do another 100 yards.  Walk a lot. work up to greater distance, faster pace, etc. Have a plan, maybe a running buddy to hold you accountable.

The Plan

The same is true with our minds. Don’t make some grand proclamation that you are only going to be positive from now on. You know that isn’t realistic. What is realistic is when the next moment arrives where you have to make a choice on being negative or positive, choose positive.  Maybe it’s complimenting food instead of critiquing it.  Maybe it’s appreciating a view from your car instead of cursing the traffic.  Something small, something you can actually do.  Make a plan to do it with some regularity.  Tell a friend what you are working on, maybe they will join you.

What Training Is

Then do it again. Little by little, as each moment arrives, you choose the positive as best you can.  There will be times you won’t choose to be positive, just as in training for a race there will be days you will choose to skip a workout or shorten a run.  That doesn’t mean you have failed, it means you are in training. Training means ups and downs, discoveries and doldrums, greats strides and pride, great feelings of failure.  But training isn’t about success.  Training is about practicing for success later on.

Success in Life

And what is success in life? It’s having lived a positive one.  And you become what you practice.


Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote is a variation on one by Joyce Meyers, 1943 – not dead yet, American Christian speaker and author


Monsters of the Mind – Mind Image #1


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Body and Mind

The quote on my last ‘Body Image’ drawing was, “Loving your body only when it is in perfect shape is like loving your kids only when they are well-behaved.” While we were discussing the quote on Periscope (@thenapkindad) I realized I could switch out the word body for mind and the quote would still make sense and still be important.  One’s body image is important, right? And so is one’s ‘Mind Image’.

What We Think Of How We Think

This can make a huge difference in our daily approach to life.  For example, let’s say you think a lot of fearful thoughts.  A few questions arise.  Do you realize how much you think in fearful terms?  Are you aware of how many stories you tell yourself about the past, present and future that have fear at their roots?  It seems the answer would be “yes, obviously I am aware of that.” But that isn’t necessarily true.

Our Family Story

Have you ever heard a grown up tell a story, or perhaps you have told it, about when you first realized every family wasn’t like your family? That moment you realized not every family had the same rules as you, or the same discipline, or the same food.  It was a revelation, right?  Same is true with how we think. If you are raised with fear being the response your parents have to the world, then you could easily think fearfully and think everyone else must think fearfully as well. This could continue well into adulthood. There will probably come a time when you realize your fearful way of thinking isn’t shared by everyone else, but maybe not.

Mind Image

That is what I mean by Mind Image. it’s how you see your own mind and how it thinks. It’s watching it in the mental mirror just the same way as you see your body in the physical mirror. The difference is there isn’t one mental mirror like there can be one physical mirror.  There can be many mental mirrors, both within yourself and without.  

What To Do About It

It’s one of the best reasons to have good friends and family that you trust who will be honest about how they see you. I don’t mean you have to agree with how they see you, but it’s nice to know they are looking out for you and will tell you if they think your thinking seems to be off in some way. Maybe they notice you are being especially fearful and will ask you about it. Or maybe they will sense you are thinking depressed or anxious thoughts way more than you used to. If you don’t have that circle of trusted people, perhaps you have a therapist or a pastor or someone else who is paying attention.


I think of it like having a coach.  Ever notice in sports that even those that are at the top of their games have coaches?  Serena Williams, the most accomplished tennis player of her generation, has a coach.  Lebron James, the greatest basketball player of his generation, has a coach.  They have someone who can see what they are doing in ways they can’t see themselves.

The same is true with our mental game.  Having someone who can watch and respond, help you see yourself more clearly, is of immense value in life. I am not simply talking about someone you talk to when you are in crisis. I am talking about someone to have by your side no matter what shape your mind is in.  Waiting until a crisis arrives to let someone see how you feel or what you are thinking can often be too late.  Having someone all the time is the key.

Do you have such a person or people?  How have they helped you? 


Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Christopher Paolini, 1983 – not dead yet, American author


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