I’ve been painting for well over twenty years, and I’m not the fastest learner, but I might be the most impatient one! I was only about two years in when I joined the local art society and started showing my work and making decisions to present myself professionally as a watercolourist. I had no idea that I had so much more to learn, and that my style would evolve so much. I’m glad that I didn’t know, because I don’t think I would have been very patient if I’d known that it would take so long to feel truly myself in my paintings.
You might be feeling a little impatient yourself. You can’t will yourself into skill as a watercolourist; you have to let the “brush miles” do their work. You might be comparing your art to others and feeling like you’ll never get it, or you can’t show your paintings because they are so terrible.
Please be patient with yourself.
Every painting is growing your skills.
Every paper filled with paint adds to your body of knowledge.
Choose to eliminate self-criticism from your internal dialogue. Your last painting may not have had the outcome you hoped for, but you can choose to see it as an opportunity to build skill, rather than another wasted effort. Your paintings may not hang in the National Gallery, but neither do mine! There will always be someone better if we choose to view art as a competition.
I spent yesterday sorting paintings in the studio. Piles were created; “to frame,” “to finish,” “to keep but not good enough to frame,” and “series to show my learning process to my students.” This last one is made up of stacks of the same subject over and over again; paintings that I used to teach myself how to paint a new subject. They aren’t spectacular, but they gave me vital information that helped me to create an eventual successful outcome. If I wasn’t patient enough to start over after an unsuccessful outcome, I would not have much in my “to frame” pile.
Patience says “I am committed to moving forward. I accept that where I am now is a part of the entire journey, and each step is essential to reach the final destination.”
Think how powerful that is! You don’t have to be ashamed of being a beginner, or less advanced than another. You are on the same road, but it’s not a race, because there is no finish line. And you are your own traveling companion, so make the journey fun. Fill your road trip with music and laughter, with lighthearted moments, and passionate expression. Pause to admire the views, and look back over the distance you’ve already traveled.
The line “Be kind to yourself” popped into my head as I wrote, and I had to share this lovely song by Andrew Peterson. Gentleness is not nearly prized the way it should be, and there’s great power and beauty in it.