New painters, I see you. I see you looking at art on the internet and wondering if you should just pack up your brushes; there’s no way you’ll ever be THAT good. I know you’re reading about “happy accidents” and thinking that anything good that happens in your paintings is always an accident.

You heard that art instructor say she NEVER uses a pencil to sketch first, and another say that NO ONE should paint from photographs but only from life, and you shrank as you looked at the pencils and photographs spread across your work surface.

I see you finishing a painting you are proud of, posting it online and just hoping one person will like it.

You have a question about a technique you heard of, but you don’t want to ask because it seems like everyone already knows this stuff, and you don’t want to look silly for asking.


Here’s the thing. There’s no shame in being a beginner.

You said YES to something you’d always wanted to do! You started!

Everyone else that seems to know so much? They began once too, only their timeline fell in a different place than yours. If they remember how it felt to be a beginner, they will be kind, and if they don’t remember, they are probably too self-absorbed to care about your art anyhow. (who needs them anyway!)

You get to choose to paint. 

Paintbrushes do not require a permit to use. Whether or not you want to follow an instruction manual is totally up to you. There is no age restriction, no task force aimed at keeping art in the hands of the “right people.” If you want to paint all day or for only ten minutes a day, in your basement, living room, garage or backyard, it’s all allowed. You can even paint in public places, in fact, if you do so, you might find yourself distracted by too much positive attention, rather than being forced to stop! The funny thing is, even though many people dream of making art, they let fear hold them back. But not you. You said “Yes!” Be proud of that!

You get to choose what to paint. 

Yes, there are paintings you admire. Ideas you wish you had thought of first, with the ability to bring them to life. There are many artists with incredible skills at making art. I know you envy them their work. I do too! Do you know what they call it if you succeed in making art just like them?

Copyright theft. Plagiarism. It’s illegal.

Don’t make art like someone else. My favourite part of making art is that I can do whatever I want. If I feel like it, I can make it, because it’s my choice. There are very few places in life where we have complete freedom of choice. Let art be that place for you. If you feel like painting abstracts using only your thumbprints, go for it. If you get excited about painting tangled balls of string, let that be your happy place! If you want to cover your watercolour painting with white paint, don’t let the transparent watercolour purists shame you. Your art, at any skill level, should be an expression of you. If you can tap into that inner place of self-expression, your heart will overflow with joy, and envy will be a lot harder to find.

The best art is always the fullest expression of the artist. Let that be your goal.

There is one thing you don’t get to choose, at least not completely.

You don’t get to choose how quickly you will learn. 

Practice helps. Logging many “brush miles” as you learn techniques and expression is the way you build your skills, but there is no set date where you will be able to say “I just need to work this skill for two more days and I’ll have it mastered.” I’ve dedicated myself to watercolour for over twenty years, and I still feel like a student. I am learning every time I paint, and knowing that I will never feel like I’ve learned everything there is to know about my chosen medium helps me settle in and enjoy the journey.

If you can’t choose how long it takes you to learn something, should you be ashamed of not having mastered it yet? Be proud that you are painting! Make your accomplishment the knowledge that you haven’t quit! That you are taking steps to grow your skills, caring for your creative health and making your dreams come true.

The feeling of absolute mastery is a myth. The perfect painting is always just out of reach. Recognition and commercial success only leaves you striving for the next big award or big ticket sale. Satisfaction in art is found in the process of creating it, even if you never see a perfect painting come off your brush.

Need more encouragement on your artistic journey? Sign up for my weekly live lessons & emails aimed at helping your build your watercolour skills here.

I teach watercolour lessons to help you paint more loosely and develop your personal style. View the course menu at http://learn.angelafehr.com