When I Hated Painting!

When I Hated Painting!

I don't remember not making art. As far back as I have memories, I was making marks with something. I simply loved to draw. I remember being in elementary school sitting around the living room while my parents read or watched the news on TV. I always had my papers and pencils, magic markers and pens. I copied a lot from magazines. It was something I didn't even have to think about; it was automatic. I experimented quite often with watercolor sets, but I always went back to drawing, which for a long time was my main way of making art. 

This continued into college, until I took my first painting course. It was pretty basic, and I took to color theory pretty well, and since I already had many years of drawing under my belt, nothing was setting off alarm bells just yet. I loved figure drawing and took many life drawing classes. I used pencil, pastels, even Sharpie pens. I loved the spontaneity of the model taking different poses, and practicing until I was good enough to whip off a dozen pieces per class that satisfied me. Fast forward to art school, and everything changed.

What happened in art school was that my goals quickly changed. I no longer saw myself as being potentially an illustrator, because I just fell in love with painting. But there was a huge problem with this; this was a brand new skill. I had no experience and no idea if I could even do this well! As a matter of fact, in many classes I struggled. The only painting that I really excelled at was copying. Typically when you take a good introduction to painting class, you "Copy and Old Master". This entails picking a well known artist and just trying to make an exact replica of the piece with the goal of learning their style and color palette. This came very easily to me and gave me great hope that I could just springboard from those assignments to actually painting well on my own.

Every class was an exercise in frustration, particularly a class on Abstract Expressionist painting, which demanded the highest level of pure creativity as well as knowing color extremely well. The real problem was that I had reached a level of proficiency in drawing that enabled me to do very well for a long time. I enjoyed the attention I got from my professors, and honestly, it felt good to be doing well and have others validate my skills! Now in my painting classes I was the very small fish trying to just survive and frankly just wanting to slink away with my canvases and not be noticed AT ALL. I could very easily have just given up and convinced myself that I was "just not a painter after all". I had many days where I really questioned why I was making what had been so easy into what seemed like a gigantic mistake. Many days I walked into class thinking "I hate this!". But deep in my heart, I knew I couldn't go back. I didn't hate painting. I hated that I was starting over when I felt that I should have been sailing. But the truth was, I loved painting. It thrilled me. Even though I produced one shitty painting after another. I kept my sights on my prize, which was to eventually paint like I could draw. 

I loved painting so much that I made it the biggest priority in my life. After art school I did not get a full time day job. I took temp jobs for a few months at a time and saved my money so I could take consecutive weeks off where I just painted all day every day. When life circumstances dictated that I quit temping and get a full time day job I was extremely disciplined about my time. I got home, ate, and went into the studio and painted for about four hours every night after work. 

It took ten years of painting like this to "discover" and get consistent at my current style. Throw in all the curve balls life throws like moving frequently and having a bunch of kids, then deciding to homeschool as well and there are plenty of excuses to stop painting. Well, I did take a break when I had three in diapers and elementary homeschooling! Fast forward to now and my older kids are in high school. I kept painting. And now my painting feels like my drawing did! That is not to say that it is all smooth sailing. I actually just ripped a failed canvas off some stretcher bars last week. What is the difference now? My brain has now been wired to know that success comes from consistent work and practice. There is a saying now in the world of entrepreneurship "Fail fast and fail forward". In other words, just keep going, don't be afraid to fail because failure it turns out, is the best teacher!

I hope this blog post inspired you to keep going and to not give up on whatever you dream about! 

What new skills have you recently tackled? How do you deal with frustration and a new learning curve? I'd love to hear from you!

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