When I last posted on Friday, I spoke of being filled with self-doubt. Even though I have had many successes in things that I have tried to accomplish, most of them did not come easily. I don't for one second think that only happens to me. I have always looked upon humans as being an iceberg. We only see a small portion of their makeup and below the surface there is a vast part of them that only the individual can know about and understand. Within that part lies the struggles and victories; the failures and accomplishments; the experiences, feelings and knowledge that is the dictating core of each of our own personality. No matter how intimate we are with another, we still only see small fragments of each other, and a portion of who they are.
I have watched other accomplished people with admiration. As someone who is observing them from the outside, what appears to come to them 'easily' usually took many years of hard work and failures. Those are the parts we sometimes forget.
It is easy to forget the thousands of hours that a musician spent struggling through scales and music theory while we are listening to a beautiful symphony. Watching and hearing them play seems quite effortless, but in reality it is usually the result of years of sitting in a practice room and rehearsing over and over again. The same theory applies to so many other situations.
I believe that the main difference between those who excel at something such as music or art or anything really is the pure desire to learn. As a teacher who taught all level of students in painting and woodworking, I find that those who were the most successful in my classes were there ones who have the greatest desire and passion to pursue whatever they are trying to accomplish. While some may argue that ability is also needed, I believe that it is possible to teach just about anyone anything if they have the proper attitude. In just about every case, if one has the desire and drive to do the work involved in learning, there is a good chance for success.
Granted some things do come easier to some than others. It is the same with numbers, cooking, art, writing, and any other form of learning. But I really feel that if the desire is there, along with the willingness to keep an open mind and put in time and effort, most people can accomplish just about anything they want. We are more in charge of our lives than we think.
With that said, I spent the weekend dedicated to my own learning. As I mentioned in my last post, my current goal is to get a grasp on using watercolor paint. This is something that I have always admired and so far not been very successful in doing. I must admit though, my efforts in the past have been somewhat half-hearted and my attitude toward them a bit cavalier. The resulting effort reflected that. It wasn't until I really set my mind to learning and changed my attitude that I once again felt that I would give them a try. The desire had to be there.
While I was ill for the past several weeks, I wasn't in the mood for creating. I just wasn't feeling it. But a month or so ago, I had ordered some new Mission Gold Watercolors and they had arrived. I felt I was ready to learn something new and expand my artistic abilities. I used the time when I was down to read, watch videos and learn about this medium. By the time I felt better, I felt I was ready to tackle this paint, only with a bit of knowledge and a lot of determination.
I showed you some of the photos of my 'trial runs' last week. While the shell and the octopus that I painted were a struggle, I felt encouraged enough to continue on.
I am on a 'sea life' kick lately and I chose a photo of a seahorse for my reference and first 'real' project. I admit that it was a bit tedious, but I felt I was on the right track:
I used the basic principles that I had learned from my research and reading and although it was quite difficult for me, I carried on:
You can see by the back fin where I botched things up a bit. I was discouraged at that point, even though I liked the head. But I forced myself to step back, take a break, and return to it the next day with fresh eyes.
By the next morning, I had figured out my errors and was able to repair what I had thought I ruined. After all – it is only a practice piece. Everything we do can't be a masterpiece, right? I forged ahead and in the end, I was satisfied with the result:
The above seahorse was created by mixing only five colors, and I really had a lesson in values. Unlike acrylic or oil painting, when painting with watercolor you need to 'leave out' the highlights and not 'kill them'. It is like reversing the process that I was so used to and comfortable with in my other paintings. It really made me aware of the lights and darks of the piece and it was very much a struggle to force my brain to think in that direction. But by the end of the piece, it was much easier than it was in the beginning. I was able to 'change channels' in my brain and start thinking in the way I needed to do so in order to accomplish this. It opened an entire new avenue for me.
But I wanted to do more. As with anything new, I didn't want that feeling and knowledge to 'pass'. I read somewhere in my travels that you will never get better at painting if you don't keep painting. Somehow, that stuck in the back of my mind. Practice really is the only way to feel more comfortable and achieve. So I decided to try something else.
Since my main issue with the watercolor paints is evaluating and observing "values" (light and dark areas), I decided to try the same pattern, only change the colors. This would force me to think in terms of value instead of color, and I thought would be a good exercise for me to strengthen what I just learned. So I decided to create the seahorse in blue tones as well:
This really made me struggle as well, but in a good way. Again after about an hour, I began to be more comfortable with the process. It took me far less time to create the second seahorse, and I felt it was every bit as good:
As I place them side by side, I see the subtle differences in them.
More importantly, I do see some areas of improvement. Not to mention the feeling I had when painting the second piece. I no longer felt that I was sliding down a slippery hill, but rather cautiously hiking down a trail. I am not running yet, but with some more practice, I have no doubt that I will eventually be able to jog and then perhaps run with this medium. It is all up to me.
I know this post is long again, but I really wanted to make these points. So far, when I have shown these pieces, I have had very positive responses from people. Not only does that feel great, but it also encourages me to pursue this avenue a bit more. I did however want people to be aware that I didn't just pick up the brush and paint. There have been many hours of videos, lessons and preparation to learn about what I was doing before the brush ever hit the paper. (That is the iceberg part!) While I have no doubt it made things much easier for me to do things this way, I still want to acknowledge that this effort wasn't without its bumbles and mistakes. Sometimes only application can truly teach us and give us the hands-on experience we need to be successful. I am sure there will be many more mistakes in the future, but I look forward to them, as each of them respresent a hurdle that I will overcome to improve. I will embrace them and learn from them.
Today is overcast (again!) and there is the threat of rain or snow. It is a bit cold for mid-April and I think everyone is getting anxious for the warmer weather. It won't be long now though until it arrives and I believe we will all be very happy to see it. Once again, we need to be patient.
I hope you all have a great week ahead. I also hope that my post here reminds you that some things really do take time. I have a personal saying that comes to mind every now and then: "If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it." It helps me when I am not successful at my first attempt and reminds me to keep trying.
Happy Monday 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"