And so the adventure begins!
Yesterday, I broke out my new watercolors—an Easter basket goody, courtesy of my mom—and gave it a whirl. But before I get to that…
You know what is interesting about New Things? How scary they are, just by merit of being new. The last time I touched watercolors was probably when I was eight years old, and I was using one of those sets that comes attached to a Lion King coloring book. I used to love coloring and painting and pretending to be an artist. But as time went on, I lost touch with that part of my personality and put more and more time and energy into the pursuits of school and learning and all that.
There’s nothing wrong with academia or being good at school. I’m glad that I spent a lot of time learning and being a student. I bring it up only to say how unfamiliar the artistic part of myself had become to me. My mom loves to remind me of my little kindergarten classmate who told her that “Amy is an arteest!” I loved art more than any other subject back then, and I guess my classmates were aware of this. But as Amy the Arteest got more and more As on grade cards, art class became just another place where I might possibly fall short of the expectations I had for myself.
No, this isn’t going to be another blog post about me and academia, but the same things that made me quit grad school over a year ago are the same things that made trying this New Thing so hard.
Some New Things are really hard. I quickly learned that watercolors were not going to be as easy as they looked in that one video (who knew making a shaded circle would be so freaking hard?!), but they’re not as hard as I’m sure some new things might be. If you’re going to delve into understanding rocket science or learn Latin, it’s probably going to be more difficult than learning to use watercolors. However, if you’re anything like me, the hardest part of any New Thing is probably the same across the board: starting.
Joel and I decided late last week that we were going to spend some time being artistic this weekend. He’s been meaning to work on drawing, and my new watercolor set was staring me down as we watched episode after episode of Parenthood each evening. So the agreement was made: we set aside some time to work intentionally on our pursuits. But I kept putting it off. “Nah, let’s watch TV tonight, and we can do it tomorrow.” “Well, we have to meal plan for this week yet…” “I don’t want to start when I’m tired.” Joel had Monday off too, so that gave me a whole extra day to count as the weekend and put off starting. But Joel’s a good fiancé and can see through my crap. And so Monday grocery shopping included a stop in housewares to grab a cheap mug to use for rinsing brushes. And as he sat down to watch a drawing video, I had no choice but to fill up my mug with water and start.
I took the paints and brushes out of the packaging. I set everything out. I got a piece of paper towel to blot the brushes on. I reread that blog post. I turned to a blank page. And… I sat there. I didn’t really know how to mix the watercolors or what parts of the palette to use for what. I didn’t know how much I needed. I didn’t want to mess it up. I didn’t want to fail.
It’s this attitude that so often stops me from doing a New Thing or just putting myself out there. I can’t track exactly how I went from being little, outgoing Amy the Arteest to who I am today, but the steps I took to get here don’t really matter in the end. What matters is what I do today with who I am now. I can keep saying no to New Things because I’m scared, or I can try. I can attempt. I can be open to failing. Or I can hide behind the things I already know I’m good at.
So after a good amount of hesitation, I opened the purple tube, put what turned out to be waaaaay too much paint on the wrong part of the palette, and I began.
I learned a lot in my first evening with watercolors. After four botched attempts at a shaded circle (seriously, who thought it would be so hard?), I watched the video included in this supremely helpful blog post and made a passable little purple sphere. I played with different strokes, different amounts of water, and generally made a mess of what used to be a pristine piece of paper. I bravely broke out other colors, even daring to mix a couple in an attempt to make orange and a different shade of green. I don’t love everything I did—in fact, I don’t even like most of what I did—but I came away from the time with a few highlights and the knowledge that the hardest part was behind me.
Tonight, I’ve come face-to-face with what I think is the second hardest thing about New Things: showing someone else. Obviously Joel saw my attempts last night since we were seated next to each other while I worked, but I could have probably slathered a page with melted butter and he would have been nice about it. Writing this blog post and including the picture above with all of my messy attempts, not just the pretty ones, is tough. I like being good at something immediately; I don’t enjoy the learning process. But I also don’t like that about myself, so this is my self-assigned therapy: showing the good and the bad in my pursuit of New Things.
I’m not great at watercolors. I may never be, though I hope that’s not true. But I know that I can at least check the two toughest parts of this New Thing off the list. It’s gotta be uphill from here.