Why does my tongue wag when I paint?

A long time ago when working on a presentation about Public Relations, I remember creating a few slides that went a bit like this… “In other people’s minds we are the result of all the previous pictures that we have painted of ourselves. But don’t forget, every artist was at first an amateur and you can always paint new pictures.”

I had a brush with watercolours after many years that brought this memory alive. It was a fun afternoon with my son trying out something new, together. Painting. Connecting dots. Exploring.

He decided to start with an evening sky and I picked a photograph of a shocking pink Bougainville against a backdrop of beautiful sky blue. We started rather tentatively and in no time were making a merry mess. Conversation stopped and I got transported into a different world. One with myself and my exploration of colours, textures, too much water and then too little. Thick brush first then medium and finally tiny tipped. Mixing colours on a palette to find the shade that made me happy. 

Once done, we both quickly moved on to our respective second masterpieces. He chose a sunflower, I decided to go with the view from Dad’s home in Kerala. As we got more confident and allowed our creative juices to flow with the paint, my son said. “Dad it’s weird but when I paint I can’t stop my tongue from wiggling inside my mouth.” I could not believe it but with that comment I suddenly noticed my tongue was doing a happy dance of its own that I had not even picked up on till then. 

Which got me thinking. Why does my tongue wag when I paint? The image I had was of a joyful doggie who could not help but wag her tail when she was happy. Maybe that is what we were both doing. Unconsciously allowing our happy selves to show up. 

I decided to go to Dr. Google and get a second opinion. Here is what I found. There are hundreds of theories. Why do sportspeople stick their tongues out? Why do children? Is it the way of helping the brain focus by reducing sensory input? I will hold my tongue and not give you a clear answer, as I could not find one. I did however enjoy my detour down the various neuro-plastic gateways that this little diversion took me. 

I’m not sure of the science, but I am sure we will be painting more often. As we wrapped up our artistic session, my son said to me “I can’t do all the complicated and intricate stuff that you did”. When I finally shared our handy work on the family WhatsApp group, I felt his broad brush strokes stood out and appealed to me much more than my attempt at a more delicate touch. There is no right or wrong way to paint. It’s about the act of doing it and enjoying the process. You can be the judge. 

If you have been thinking about doing something different, I say don’t think twice, get yourself some paints and dive right in to an exciting and colourful world. Remember you can always paint new pictures. That is the beauty of spending an afternoon in the arms of experimenting with paint and brush. 

All this colouring outside the lines leaves me with a concluding thought about the similarities between painting and the art & science of public relations, that is best summed up by this quote from Edgar Degas…“painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do”…. Time to get some tongues wagging.


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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