Yesterday I used three tubes of acrylic paint – red, yellow and blue – plus a tube of white.

I’ve spent small fortunes in art supply shops over the years, buying tubes of colours that appeal to me.

The same thing applies in homeware shops. Those deliciously pretentious names.

pretentious paint names 2

Look at ‘Celebrity’.  It’s a bit sun lamp.

There’s a sense that they’re all invented colours that can only be bought. But they all come from the same place: a careful combination of red, yellow or blue.

It really is remarkable. Here’s a colour wheel that I did yesterday. You start with the outer circle, paint in the three colours. Then you work on gradations in between. Once you’ve done this it gets really interesting. Add a bit of white to each and fill in the inner circle. Look at those colours. It’s amazing. They all come from those three primary colours and a dab of white.


I started to think, as I was sitting there doing it, about polarized positions (as you do) – and at this stage there’s a risk that I’m going to sound all ‘we are the world’.

But just think about it. Say each of those tubes of a primary colour are polarized retreatist positions. Then stop for a minute and look at what happens if you accept the differences and start to accommodate the positions of others and compromise.

Then look at what happens if you add a bit of light (white) to those ‘compromised’ positions.

This might sound like a saccharine analogy to some, but it’s the truth. The possibilities of compromise, collaboration and cooperation are infinite.

This says so much about society, business, politics and more that I’m a bit perplexed that it isn’t mandatory to make this an exercise in any situation where collaboration has gone wrong or cooperation seems impossible to achieve.

Embrace differences! Look at the colours!

I had a situation this week where two parties were at odds and I wish now that we’d been sitting down with tubes of colours and were having a chat while mixing all these different paints and making all these incredible colours.

Perhaps negotiators and mediators should carry paints and brushes around with them all the time.  Honestly, give it a go.  Mixing up paints is no different really than blending opinions.  There’s always a part of what you think in the outcome.  How boring to retreat and just stay pure blue.

The same paint analogy is interesting in the context of social networks.

I’ve been a tedious antagonist for ages about the ludicrousness of ‘social elites’, especially on Twitter.

Twitter, to me, has two sides.  There’s the social network, which is all about exchanges and shades of opinion.  And then there’s the social fretwork. (fretworkˈfrɛtwəːk/ noun: fretwork: ornamental design in wood.)  The latter is occupied by the elite and is fashioned in unyielding wood.

On social media, in politics and in virtually every aspect of our lives, the old ‘givens’ are gone.

Holding true to what we believe is important  – and we all have our lines in the sand, but for the most part shades are better.  Society is all about discourse and debate and nuance and all the shades, tints, hues, contrasts and complementary colours that it creates make our lives and the lives of others infinitely more interesting, enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding.

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