Ever since I was a child growing up in Turkiye (also known as Turkey to the English speaking world) my dream was to be an artist. As far back as I can remember, my toys were my pencils, eraser, and paper. Through my teenage years, art was my meditation, the place where time disappeared and my hopes, fears, dreams, sadness, love, and temper tantrums played out on the blank page.
I grew up in a military family. My father was an officer in the Turkish Army for 30 years before he retired. I was a teenager then, and adjusting to civilian life was a struggle for him. In his mind, anything but the military “royal colors” of black, gray, navy, burgundy, dark green, and brown were unsophisticated.
My father held a particular dislike for the color red. I remember sneaking out of the house as a rebellious teenager if I was wearing any other colors. We used to argue about whether or not burgundy was actually a shade of red. I had a pair of red pants and a red sweater that I would secretly wear when I snuck out of the house.
It was his hope that I would ultimately get a “real” job and take care of myself when I grew into adulthood, so that when I became an adult I would not have to rely on others to support me, that I would be able to support myself as an independent woman. And so when it came time to start thinking about college, art took a back seat. I had to consider getting a job, a career, something that would support me in life. I had adopted this belief that art was not a viable career path, a sentiment that seems sadly prevalent in today’s world. We’ve all heard the term “starving artist” and as a fiercely independent woman, that certainly wasn’t going to be me.
As I look back, I realize now that I grew up without enjoying colors to the extent that I should have. For a long time life, school, kids, and family got in the way. Even during that time I still sketched with pencils and charcoal, I did some concept and cover artwork, and I never gave up on my dream, but it’s just not the same without the colors. My heart always told me that one day I would return to my dream.
In 2012 I found myself in possession of a set of acrylic paints, a blank canvas, and a few hours before the kids would be coming home. And so I gave it a whirl. That’s when I remembered how beautiful it is to dance with the colors, like rediscovering a long lost love. I’ve been painting ever since.
What mysteries abound in the deepest blue hues? What raucous celebrations are to be found in the most vibrant yellows? How deep do the passions of red run? What amalgam emerges when these primal elements coalesce in the canvas cauldron?
These are the questions I seek answers to. Every spare second of every single day is thrown into this bucket of rainbows as I delve deeper and deeper into the symphony of colors that comprise this earth. Every painting is its own opera, has its own soundtrack. It is here that we find the lowest common denominator of joy and excitement in this life – color. Here is where my happiness is found.
I choose every new project to match whatever color I’m currently craving, and in a way painting is an emotional healer for me. My hope is that others will get the same enjoyment from pondering my work and find the same peace and healing within them that I have.
Neslihan Ergul Colley joined Fine Art America on May 19th, 2016.