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Could Painting Fluid Colors Before Bed Catch Our Dreams or Induce Sleep?

Reading an article in Scientific American Mind on how the brain builds memories and solves problems as it sleeps, I am wondering, "are there ways that we can better prepare our brain for sleep each night?" I am particularly thinking about this because of yet another experiment with a drawing or painting process that I have given my art students at Folsom Lake College here in California. I give assignments that I am curious about and they give me usually unsolicited feedback with some pretty amazing results albeit individual and only experiential.

Lee Ann, a student in my college level Color Theory class, worked the assignment that I have named "Color Fun" for a week and reported increased dream recall and what seemed like increased dreaming. She knew for certain that she was having more dream recall and did not know for sure if the dream activity was increasing or if just her recall was improved. She knew for sure that she was more aware of her dreams and that her dreams were more vivid and surreal than before she started making a brief bit of fluid and colorful art at bedtime.

Several years ago Chris, a student in my college drawing class in his late teens, found that by making the "Color Fun" before going to bed, he could fall to sleep in about 10 minutes instead of experiencing insomnia for one or more hours as he had for several years. He has continued to use "Color Fun" for this purpose with the same continued results.

One day our librarian at the community college center where I teach told me that during a research session she had seen an article on how being near fountains of colored water had produced observable positive changes in the abilities of children with autism. I thought, "Wow! Color and water in motion could help the brain of someone on the autistic spectrum!" Thinking about this, I realized that a home version of this could be to use watercolors and paint into wet or dry paper. This is slightly different in scale and dimension than the larger fountains but it would still include color and the fluidity and action of water.

Over the years my students have reported to me many improvements in their ability to learn and concentrate that they felt have come from making art especially with color. Art has been called the language of the soul and possibly it is a neural enhancing language of the brain as well.

The "Color Fun" exercise is assigned in my art classes to give the students a time to experiment with color without restrictions or objectives. Rather than focus on making assigned objects, designs or paintings the students can develop a personal color palette that is a unique expression of their own non-verbal or visual self by simply playing with color for a brief time each day.

This easy exercise consists of having a stack of paper readily available along with a brush, a cup of water and a tin of children's watercolors. Total cost using reclaimed computer paper is under five dollars. Sometime each day or before bed you dip your brush into water and the watercolor paint and let it flow onto the paper. You can pick up more colors and cross them or swirl them in any configuration that comes to your mind or hand. Work the color this way for around five minutes and this day's session is finished.

You can easily pair this daily art making activity with another daily activity such as brushing your teeth. Just make sure that along with your toothbrush you have your art making stuff set up and ready to go. Easy access is the key. Adding "Color Fun" to something that you already do everyday is the way to make "Color Fun" happen in your life everyday!

Mon, May 30,2011 - D.R. Wagner wrote:
I have been teaching color theory for many years at UCD> i usually start the class with color that is translated to b/w exercises. This has shown me the same effect. i like your exercise and may use it this summer with "the interaction of color" by J. Albers.