As an artist, I am filled with self-doubt.
I am not saying that to gain your pity or sympathy, or to fish for compliments, but I truly feel that way. It isn't that I don't like or enjoy what I create. Most of the time, I am pretty satisfied with my accomplishments. The longer that I do this (create and design) the more I understand that there are very, very few people who are able to pick up a certain type of media and create a "masterpiece" with little effort. As with most things in this life, excellence is the result of many hours, days and months of practice and education. One thing I did learn early in my life is "If it is that easy, everyone would be doing it."
I still believe that today.
I often use the analogy that people are like icebergs. It is one of my favorite because it is so applicable to so many aspects of our lives. We only see a small portion of what makes up other individuals, and even though we feel we may know someone intimately, we only see a fraction of them at any given time. And that is only if they allow us to do so.
I feel the same applies to artists and creative people. Most of us don't put our work or creations out into the world until we choose a time that we feel comfortable in doing so. We hide our failures and wait until our work is somewhat acceptable until we feel we are able to show it. I believe the reason behind this is because art and emotional and is created with so much emotion and it is difficult for us to bear our souls to the world for creating art in any form - be it scroll sawing or painting, or needlework or any other type of media – is very judgment. Any artist can tell you that they can receive many compliments on a certain piece, but usually the critique that they recall the most is the not so positive one. I think that is human nature.
Being artists, it is helpful to grow a thick skin and to realize that people don't always like the same thing. (Wouldn't the world be boring if they did?) We need to do what we want to do and filter out the negatives and put on blinders so we can clearly follow our vision. We need to accept that things take time and we not only have to learn to expect (many) failures, but to also embrace them and not look upon them as something negative, but as the opportunity to further our progress and learn from them.
I know – that is easier said than done!
Recently, I purchased a beautiful set of Mission Gold Watercolor paints. (You can find a GREAT price for them here on Amazon – much less than I paid: Mission Gold Watercolor 36 set with Palette.)
I had seen some pretty watercolors on Pinterest and thought how much I would love to create using that media. I had little experience in using them. Probably 15 years ago I took one class through my painting group in the Chicago area and I found them to be oh, so difficult to use.
I am what you call a "tight painter". I like details and I see no problem with painting every single individual hair on an animal, one at a time. I do this with a brush that has about three hairs on it and I like the amount of control that acrylic paint offers for this purpose.
Watercolors are however a different animal altogether. By their nature, they are wild and free and flowing. They reconstitute after they 'dry' meaning there is a danger of muddying and lifting the paint if it is overworked (which is something I sometimes can do as a tight painter). The entire process of painting with them is as different from acrylics as night and day. They can be a real challenge.
So why would I want to subject myself to the torture of learning this new process?
The answer is easy – I want to keep growing and improving as an artist and designer.
The longer I do what I do, the more I find I need and want to learn. To me, the destination isn't always the reward, but the pleasure in the journey itself is what feeds my soul. The process of learning is where I believe my addiction lies. It makes me feel alive and fresh and it is the source of all the thousands of ideas that are swimming around in my head. Each new avenue that I explore opens up yet another world of possibilities and I get so excited about them, that I love to share. Therefore I not only am a pupil, but also a teacher as well. I do believe that the best teachers are still learning themselves.
So after looking at the box of beautiful colors and laying them out in the palette as you see, it took me another three weeks to muster up the courage to try them. (That self-doubt can be a killer!) I don't know why I fear them so, but while I longed to play and create with them, there was a large part of me that didn't want to "mess them up" or "waste" my expensive watercolor paper that I have started to hoard. How silly is that?
I spent much of my time when I wasn't feeling great over the past few weeks seeking out and watching instructional videos on this evasive medium. From the many different teachers, I learned many different tips, methods and techniques just from watching. It got to a point where I no longer was satisfied to SEE others paint with these, I needed to actually try them myself.
I tentatively began painting, just trying something on my own to test the colors:
While it is OK for a first effort, it really wasn't impressive to me. I loved the bold colors of the watercolors, but achieving value changes 'lights' was more of a challenge than I thought. So I watched more videos and I learned more about how to do that.
My next efforts were a bit better.
I first painted the shell, trying to achieve the soft colors from the vibrant colors of paint. I was much happier with that, and found that I really was enjoying learning to mix a bit. As an acrylic painter with 300+ colors to choose from, mixing was something that was very unfamiliar to me. But it wasn't that difficult after all. In fact, it was far easier to get the looks that I desired when doing so. Baby steps.
The octopus was a self-challenge of value. I found that doing this semi-monochromatic painting really helped me in learning to control the light and darkness of the paint. There was a bit of mixing done here, but not a great deal. The focus was more on value than color.
As a result of these two practice paintings, I felt good enough to try something a little more complicated. I found a photo of a seahorse and I want to see how realistic I can make it look using this process and layering the colors of the paint. So far, it is coming out good:
It is like doing 'micro-surgery' but it is looking pretty nice for a novice.
Remember, this is NOT my comfort zone of painting. I got tired last night and decided (wisely) to stop until later on today. If I learned anything over the years, I know to quit when I get tired. It saves me a lot of frustration and heartache.
I guess the moral of this post is that as an artist, I need to put my fears and self-doubt behind me and try new things – even if I feel that I may fail. If I do, there is probably something that I will learn from that failure, and then the next time I attempt it, it will be a little easier because I will be a little wiser. There is no teacher like experience. It is nearly impossible to improve ourselves if we are afraid to head to uncharted waters and at least try. I think that this applies to many, many aspects of our lives. We have more control over ourselves than we realize. There are some days when we just have to block out the doubters (and our own self-doubt) and do what our heart wants us to do. Not only will it build our self-confidence for the future, but it will make us happier today. Even if we fail we will probably learn something for next time. And that is something that only experience can teach.
I wish you all a wonderful day today. I hope you try something new and exciting that you have been wanting to try. You will be amazed at how exhilirated it will make you feel!
Happy Thursday to you all!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"