This post is the first in a series that I hope will uncover some of the mystery around the creative process. I'll be diving into a bit of watercolor technique along the way, but more generally, discussing the work of art and what it takes to make something.
Thanks for following along!
"I'm just not very artistic." As an art instructor, this is a phrase I hear all the time. And I totally get it. I feel that way about all kinds of things that I don't consider myself particularly good at. I mean, SO many things. But I think there's an important distinction to make when the thought "I'm just not very _____" creeps in. There are those who believe they can't learn something new and those who believe they can. My students, even if they tell me they aren't artistic, are in the latter group. They're in my class because there's at least a tiny part of them that believes they can create artwork. Maybe they haven't picked up a paintbrush since elementary school, but there they are in my class, ready to step out of their comfort zone and give it a try.
My students inspire me a lot.
Trying is foundational to the creative process. In order to bring something new into the world, a creator must be willing to try, fail, and try again. My students inspire me because they have decided to begin this process, even if they aren't sure whether or not they'll be good at it. As I discussed in my last post, starting something, especially a new thing, is hard. It takes courage and humility and a willingness to fail. I often tell my students that for every final piece of pottery or watercolor painting I create, there are usually at least five that didn't work out. Those "failed" pieces aren't a waste, though, because I always learn something through the process, even if it doesn't turn out the way I hoped it would.
In fact, I used to think I couldn't paint flowers. A bouquet was the most overwhelming, perplexing object to me and I couldn't imagine being able to paint something so complex. My first attempts were not pretty. I would get caught up trying to paint every little detail and end up with an over-worked, convoluted mess. Many, many paintings were thrown away in frustration. But I kept trying. And trying and trying.
I still throw away a lot of paintings, and I've gotten comfortable with that. I'm not as intimidated by that blank white page as I used to be, because I know that I'll learn something from painting on it, even if it doesn't become a "final" painting.
So, what's something you've been wanting to try? I know it can be scary. For some people, it's helpful to try something new in a group setting, where other people will also be starting from square one. I love when my students encourage each other and affirm the significance of those first, wobbly steps. Many places have community centers that offer all sorts of classes. Here in Fayetteville, the Community Creative Center, where I teach, has adult classes ranging from pottery to acrylic painting to figure drawing. It's fantastic!
Wishing you the best in your next new endeavor, my friends! It's all about giving it a try.