Monicka Clio Sakki is an award-winning artist, published illustrator of children’s books, creativity architect, and brand strategist. She is the creator of The Sakki-Sakki Tarot–for the artist in each of us, and co-author of its companion book Playing with Symbols.
Monicka’s work is all about color. She strives to bring as much of it to life as possible, in ways both seen and felt. She originated the 6+1 Colors system, a map to help one reveal their creative process and activate their full-color creative expression. Based on this vibrant system, she is soon launching the Self-Magic School–a playground for eye-opening, game changing creative immersions where you get to reveal both yourself and your business.
I first met Monicka in May 2014 when she subscribed to my business blog and then contacted me to let me know how much she was enjoying the free email course I was offering to my readers at the time. After that, we started corresponding, and three years later, here were are! We’ve taken each other’s courses; we meet through Skype to chat; and we’ve grown as close as friends who’ve known each other for a long, long time. One of us being Turkish and the other Greek, we’re both of Mediterranean stock and have childhood memories stamped by two neighboring cultures that are scarily similar.
I remember the first time Monicka considered taking a writing course with me shortly after I launched The Inky Path. She was certain that she could not write and that she was the last person on Earth who could call herself a writer. After a few writing intensives she joined, she realized she could actually tell her stories in writing in the most captivating way.
In the meantime, I learned about her obsession with colors and witnessed how she created her 6+1 Colors system she uses to help women entrepreneurs discern what gets them to stand out even in the most crowded market. Reading her color-related stories triggered for me memories I was astonished to remember. I noticed how powerful mnemonic tools colors are.
At the beginning of this year, I asked Monicka whether she’d be interested in partnering with me for a writing intensive that involved colors as storytelling tools—not for business but for telling our personal stories. We discussed ideas on how we could combine some of her color work and my stories and structure to create a unique group writing experience. And the rest is history! I interviewed Monicka about her relationship to colors and what it means to write with color. Below is the transcript of this interview we both enjoyed. I hope you enjoy it too!
Q: You have three languages: Greek, Hebrew, and English, and you always say none of them is your mother tongue. Could you give us a brief glimpse of your background? Which language is your writing language?
MONICKA: Ahhh… language! (A knife twister!) Greek is/was my mother tongue. It’s a beautiful, rich language to start with, but for me, it only developed and lasted till age fourteen. Then, I moved to Israel, and Hebrew became my main communication tool, but we didn’t gel very well. Up to this day, Hebrew letters look more like shapes than letters to me. I’m 100% fluent in it, but I don’t enjoy reading in Hebrew. When I type in Hebrew, it’s very very slowly, as it takes me a while to identify the shapes on the keyboard. I write by hand with speed, but then I can’t read what I write… As you can see, this is why I don’t hold this as a winning strategy. Then again, this language combo could have been extremely useful if I was to study ancient texts. You never know!
So, since the age of fourteen, English has become my savior tongue (no kiddin’ here, I always said that “English saved me”). I love to read it, hear it (love me some English accent from England), and thankfully, as opposed to Greek, there was enough support around me through the media and plenty of other people who spoke it. I also chose to speak English with my kids, so between them and my online life, English is a winner, and my only writing language.
Although the English language filled a gap, the whole situation stopped me for years from seeking linguistic expression of any kind. Even later on, when I moved to New York, and even worked in Children’s Publishing, as a designer in Golden Books/Random House, I didn’t open the language “box.” I didn’t cultivate my writing, because I didn’t believe that I could. Anything related to words was in deep sleep and completely unrelatable to me.
After my Tarot deck was published, I wanted to complement it with a book, so I wrote one… with the help of a wordsmith. I now consider that to be no less than a miracle, because even then, I didn’t believe that I could write. Anything.
Only when I took up entrepreneurship and had to start writing like there’s no tomorrow, only then, I knew that it was me the one who had to do this kind of writing. I still didn’t believe I could write, but now, I at least wanted even though it still wasn’t fun.
The writing intensives gave me that belief and showed me I have a voice. Writing with no agenda, no checklist of pains and benefits, but only my memories, allowed my tongue to untangle. And now I have to learn to shorten my newsletters!
Q: You live and breathe colors. When were you first fascinated with colors and color symbolism? Is there a story in there?
MONICKA: I don’t believe I was even aware that this was happening—at least until now. I always loved colors and wore bright colors, even before they were in fashion and found everywhere. I remember being the only one at school with a bright turquoise vest and a magenta jacket!
For a long time I believed that my art and creative life supported me, but recently I realised that it was the color part which I couldn’t live without. I get so much energy from looking at a color I love. Can’t explain it. What other people talk about the sun, the moon, or the sea, I feel about color. It has a majestic effect on me.
When it comes to color symbolism, I got into it deeper while working on The Sakki-Sakki Tarot, for the Artist in Each of Us. (Color symbolism was one of the components that added meaning.) How I chose the colors was always an intuitive and aesthetic decision. I started by gathering a custom-made palette made of colors that seemed to fit the subject of the card. Most of the time the color idea remained the same, with a bit of fine tuning and playing with tints and proportions.
What I love about color symbolism is that you don’t have to be a master to do it right. Hot colors make you feel warm. Cold colors make you chill. Bright colors uplift you. And dark colors go serious. No manual needed. The beauty is that if you do take the time and learn about it a bit, then you get inspiration in the form of confirmation. Everything makes sense.
This process of figuring our colors aesthetically may have nothing to do with symbolism, but if you look at it meaning-wise, it works together symbolically as well. At the end of the day, the combination of colors needed to create drama is equivalent to the pairing of words needed to create the same.
Q: Your motto is, “Whatever you do, do it with color.” What does “writing with color” mean for you?
MONICKA: Wow, love that question! “Doing with color” has multiple possibilities for expression.
I recently recalled the advice my elementary school teacher gave me as I was reading for the first time my essay in class. She said, “Color your voice.” She didn’t suggest a particular color, and I didn’t go fetch my pencil case… but I immediately understood what she meant and applied.
So, “writing with color” can be about adding passion, truth, conviction, and of course, details— lots of details to craft a vivid visual representation and make it memorable. We use the expression “paint a picture,” right? You paint with color!
When it comes to details, the most straightforward way to use color is in descriptions. Imagine a story that happens in a room where the walls and ceiling are all a lemon yellow. A lady dressed in a long red dress walks in. A bright blue elephant follows her…
See what I see….? Adding color in words is minimum effort that enables the maximum effect. No need to hire anyone to paint the set!
Another way to “write with color,” is to be guided by the energy of a color. To embody it in the way you write, the style you go about it, and the atmosphere you create.
Let’s say you want to write with a fiery Red: Write fast. Seek action. Introduce a major event upfront. Use short sentences and to the point. Tempo. Momentum. State bold opinions. Strike taboo subjects and daring concepts. Include blood, speed, sweat, or tears.
And of course, color can be a source of inspiration. What stories come to your mind when you think of Blue? Or Brown? As themes?
A beautiful example of using color in multiple ways at once, is the film trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski. These three movies are based on the three colors, Blue, White & Red symbolizing France’s national motto: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Each movie tells a story related to the theme and is portrayed through a color. A must see!
Q: Your roots are in art, graphic design, and illustration. What are a few ideas and best practices from your life as an artist and graphic designer that a writer can also take and apply to feel stronger in her creative process?
MONICKA: One of the most important things when it comes to design is to choose your palette. A limited palette, that is. Of course you can decide to go rainbowy and all, but then you dilute the power of each color, and the bounty of colors becomes your one color, one message, one mood.
So, when you start to write, ask yourself, “What are the leading color of this scene/feeling/memory and so on”? Your answer will intensify how you see scene/feeling/memory and how you make it come alive, even without using one word that describes a color… It’s like your secret weapon!
For example, in one of The Inky Path deep writing intensives, I wrote a story of the time I visited my old hometown. The color I chose for this story was Brown. It’s not a favorite color of mine at all. I hardly ever use it, but here, it was important. Brown brought in the qualities of earthy roots, grounding, soil, maturing, and in this case, also coffee… The story was about a coffee-boy! This story ran like a movie in my head, and it was painted in shades of brown… from a deep dark one to tones of beige. It was an invisible yet present thread.
And if you want to take it further, prepare a handy list of words and expressions that correspond to key colors. Try to create this list yourself, so it will have your voice, your words, your experiences in it.
Q: You have created a proprietary process that enables people to use the power of colors to transform all aspects of their lives from career to relationships. Could you tell us a little about it?
MONICKA: This is a color-based system that takes you through a process that reveals the creative process. It’s a cycle and a round trip. It’s based on the three colors widely known as the Sacred Colors—White, Red and Black which are adopted in every religion and culture. Hence, the name…
These three colors stand for the most distilled cycle of creation. They embody every story/ scenario/idea/process that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. From Act I–Act II–Act III to the Trinity Goddess, these stages have a large variety or representation, but I haven’t seen one that embodies color yet. The magic here happens when you do what an artist does with color: Mix it!
The mixing of any two sacred colors produces three additional hues: Gray, Pink and Darkest Red. These represent the in-between stages of creation, which are less glorified but not less perceived. In fact, we often want to skip them, so this system brings us back to the building blocks of creation (which, of course, includes “blocks”). I have been working on this process for the last three years and am still fascinated as it goes deeper and deeper… It combines color chemistry and physical presence (an actual color that “takes” space), color meanings, and color relationships (as they are positioned inside the color wheel).
My favorite use of this system called “The 6+1 Colors” is towards what I describe as Self-Magic—remembering and activating your full creative expression and revealing yourself as well as what you are about to create.
Q: As you and I were preparing the Five Colors Deep Writing Intensive, I realized that my most unforgettable memories have a strong aspect of color and that a single color is usually dominant. In your experience, how does color influence the way we remember and make meaning?
MONICKA: I believe what makes images memorable is their color. When I try to recall what someone was wearing, I immediately go to my color memory archive! Colors create a structure that supports your impressions. Give me one wall of color and I am supported! (A few years ago we found a magenta-ish wall, the perfect shade, and I took a picture of my kids against it. My daughter was wearing the exact same color tee that day. I have this picture in my Whatsapp profile, and I don’t ever plan to change it! It feels like home.)
The story I told you earlier, about the color Brown being the thread in my telling about the coffee-boy, is an example. I am sure that Brown was present in that story. It wasn’t chosen only due to its symbolism and meaning. It was there and became a protagonist. How would the story be different if the leading color was Orange for example? (He did use to serve me Fantas, which are orange.) I believe that would have been a totally different story!
We intuitively choose the color we remember as the primary. You can write without considering it, but you’ll tap to a new sense if you do. You will build a more vivid world. It can be a powerful filter for words, descriptions and so on.
Q: What’s your favorite color?
MONICKA: My daughter would say Pink. My son would tell you, Magenta. For the longest time, I considered it to be Blue. But my classmates also thought of Magenta, jacket n’all!
Nowadays, I’m the happiest with a deep magenta that slightly flirts with purple.
FIVE COLORS: A One-Week Deep Writing Intensive
This April, we’ll be working with the power of colors and use them to recollect and write some of our richest personal stories in our Deep Writing Intensive . Three things will happen for you at the end of this writing group:
- You’ll have written five unique pieces, which you can publish on your own as standalone essays, submit to a publication, or integrate into a larger piece of work such as a memoir.
- You’ll have learned to use colors as a power tool for coming up with endless, interesting, and emotionally-charged story ideas whenever you need to.
- You’ll have enjoyed the joy and inspiration that comes from writing together in a fabulous group with other women writers.