ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a girl who secretly dreamed of being an artist. She silently envied friends who could draw and seemed so creative. Alas, Art wasn’t offered in school and she would’ve been too afraid to take a class anyway. The possibility of being an artist really didn’t seem like a possibility. So, life continued. Time passed. The girl grew up and married, telling her husband about her secret dream. Guess what? That scoundrel signed her up for a class – a COLLEGE class of all things. How in the world could she go into a college class with people who had probably grown up taking art classes? Oooh, stomach upset. Oh, gnashing of teeth and major self-doubt.
But the desire to learn won out and into the class she went. Was that a cow skull on the table and a-a N-n-n-aked man on a stool? Oh my God. How to sneak out? Over there, the door.
“What? Are you talking to me?” “Okay, yes, I’ll pick up that piece of charcoal”. “Okay, okay! I’ll start drawing already”.
Start s-l-o-w-l-y teacher says. He says to begin at the top d-r-a-w-i-n-g s-l-o-w-l-y d-o-w-n t-h-e a-r-m. Then d-o-w-n t-h-e l-e-g and WHA?????? Ewwwww! Do I really have to draw th-th-that? And do I make it the correct size, or do I sorta, uh, enhance it? What if the model comes by to take a look later and he doesn’t think it’s uh, correct. Oh geez, now my mind is thinking of that episode of Seinfeld where George had been in the pool and there was “shrinkage”. Snap out of it, girl!
Back to reality. I’m a grown woman for heaven’s sake. I’ve seen ‘those’ before. I’ve just never made eye contact with a man while I was drawing his, um, member.
I’m going to save you from the rest of this grueling story. Let’s cut ahead a year or so. You’ve probably guessed by now that the girl this story is about is ME. I made it through that class, but never really felt like I learned much. Years later, though, I can see that it taught me something invaluable – that I have more courage than I ever thought I had. Courage is very important to an artist. As a matter of fact, I know few artists who don’t have fear or self-doubt from time to time – or even most of the time.
Anyway, I no longer have that first drawing I did, although I know you are already using your imaginations and have a picture of that drawing in your head. But here’s a photo of the very first PAINTING that I did. After my college drawing class fiasco, I decided to go a different route and try watercolor. So, I signed up for a small, private class. The picture above is that very first painting that I did with a setup of little Christmas items. It doesn’t look too bad, does it?
No one told me that I was DRAWING WITH A BRUSH AND PAINT! Heck, I would’ve been really afraid of that class, too, if I’d known. But, instead, I went ahead and just enjoyed putting the color down onto the paper. It was fun!
Now, many years later it’s easy to look back and see things in a different light. What would I tell that shy, uncertain girl if I were able to turn back time? Oddly enough, it’s the same things that I tell my own students. Its easiest for me to speak from experience, I guess.
- It’s okay to consider yourself an artist. A REAL artist. Even if you don’t think you can draw. That’s cool, isn’t it? Being an artist is one of the best things in the entire world. Everyone envies us. They don’t know they can be one, too.
- Don’t be afraid, little one. Yes, I know you are afraid, but push it down deep. Don’t allow one bit of self-doubt to creep into your mind when you’re standing above that paper ready to paint. Think instead of how cool it is to be an artist and how much fun it’s gonna be to put paint on.
- It’s okay to make mistakes! IT’S OKAY TO MAKE MISTAKES. They teach you a lot. And, if you make enough of them, you find out they aren’t so bad. Even better, it gives you the confidence that you’ll be able to deal with whatever comes along. Confidence is a very valuable commodity to us real artists.
- You aren’t perfect and that’s okay. You already know you’re not perfect. This should come as no surprise, yet when we paint we forget that. Be assured, our mind loves it when we leave something to the imagination in our paintings. Another thing, our eyes see a partial shape and they fill in the missing part, or join a broken line. Our brains are cool that way. Some artists love to take advantage of that. Some don’t. Try this: if you do something that’s not perfect don’t fix it automatically. Step back, step away, take a good look. Sometimes it actually looks BETTER than what you had planned originally, so you should.
- Keep an open mind so that you can see all opportunities.
- Always, ALWAYS finish a painting. Even if you think it’s the worst piece of poo on the face of this earth. Remember rule 3. When you are dealing with poo, somehow you loosen up. You can now have your way with this piece. You can be brave and unafraid. Never pass up an opportunity like that!
- And hey, if you’re painting one of “those things” that you faced so many years ago, you paint it however you want to paint it, girlfriend! You are the artist, so it doesn’t matter if you paint it how it really looks. The choice is yours! Make it small, make it HUGE, make it twisty and polka dotted. That’s what shows the YOU in your work, your own unique style. Celebrate it!
I hope you enjoyed this post – it was originally published in 2013.
You may have noticed that I have been “off the grid” so to speak, for the past few months. I’ve been taking some time off to rethink, well, just about everything. I’ve discovered this is not an easy task! So, although I’m going to try to get back into my blog a bit, it may still be a bit sporadic. Thank you to all of you who’ve written to ask me if everything is okay. You were worried that something was wrong because I hadn’t been posting. That is the very best compliment you could give me!
Thank you all so much.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!