I love the word “training.” It’s so…serious, speaking of focus and determination, working toward a goal or a specific objective. When you are training, you are building something, and it’s intentional and deliberate. When you are training, you are not trying to achieve a personal best in every training session, but are implementing steps toward an outcome.

Angela Fehr Watercolour painting

I’ve been training with the goal of improving my running stamina, and part of the process is running at a low heart rate. Basically this means that I’m creeping along at a barely jogging pace, and it’s kind of embarrassing. Running that slow doesn’t look cool, but I do it because I trust that it will achieve my purpose, and wanting to be a better runner in the future means I have to be willing to look a little awkward in the process.

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There are parallels to this in the process of creating art, and it’s something I need to remind myself of frequently. Were I to fix my mind on painting a perfect painting every time I pick up my brush, I actually can hinder my growth as an artist, because in order to grow as a painter, I need to be willing to take risks, to experiment, to allow paintings to fail in the process of understanding not only what works, but what doesn’t.

Angela Fehr Watercolour painting

A lot of new artists worry that they don’t “have what it takes,” as they wrestle with learning techniques and developing a style and voice for their art. Choosing to adopt a perspective of “I am in training,” gives the struggle structure and focus, and helps make peace with the ugly, messy parts of the process of learning to express one’s self in paint. It can become a lot of fun to remember, “Oh, yeah, this painting is supposed to be a disaster. Look how much I’m learning!”

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