Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote,
Ellen Million

Mondaily with a long weekend report... and much discussion of comfort zones.

I am quite good at a wide range of things, and it would be easy to rest on those laurels. I would even go so far as to say I have mad skillz in a few select places, and it is tempting to stay in my places of ease, to do more of what I do well only, to surround myself with yes-men, and attempt to be the best in my circle of acquaintances. I'd probably feel better about myself and my abilities.

Instead, I nurture the company of people who are better than I am, at many things, and I challenge my comfort zones at every opportunity. It's not enough to do the same things I've mastered, I feel.

One of those things I continue to force myself to do is take painting classes.

I am not a good painter. I have moments of adequacy at best. Traditional watercolor is the worst of those, being the exact opposite of the way I work. It's so... messy and imprecise and the people who do it well seem to revel in the way you can't always control it. I am used to doing detailed, refined sketches that are liberal with erasing and editing. I do my work in teeny pens and fine points, and I'm pretty good at making something look like itself and adding lots of fun detail and stuff.

But watercolor?

I am weepingly terrible at letting it do its thing. I overwork like mad and I am wretched at thinking in negative space. My teachers scold me (kindly) for hard edges and I spend too much time trying to mix just the right color instead of glazing to get it. I don't know what to expect when I touch new paint to a worked surface, because I haven't yet figured out how the paint dries, and I can't predict when it will lift off and when it will glaze over and when it will bloom and when it will drip. And dammit, I painted that thing and it looked perfect and I had a moment of triumph, and then I blinked and all the pigment oozed away like disappearing ink and I had to paint it again five times and none of them were as good as the first time and it all looks messy now.

I recognize that much of my frustration is a matter of practice. But I spent a lot of time this weekend growling and muttering and telling my paints that they aren't behaving and wondering why on earth I am torturing myself like this when I could be just drawing with a pencil and inking. I'm good at that, I like it. I find it relaxing, and it gets me good results. Why would I pay good money for a class and spend good money on supplies and then suffer and sweat over something I don't really plan to pursue with any seriousness?

I'm hoping that it makes me a better artist, that getting out of my familiar ruts will force me to look at things differently, to stretch different muscles. I don't ever expect to be a fine watercolor artist, but I would like to be better than I am, and I'm willing to drag my ego through the mud do do this. I hope that it will bleed over into my other artwork, strengthen the skills I do have, and add some depth to the work I love to do.

I suspect it will take more labor than I am willing to shoehorn into my life before I feel anything more than pathetic at this pursuit, but I'll keep swimming upstream.

Probably the best part of this class? Was getting away to take it. I drove my campervan out to Chena Hot Springs for a long weekend of painting and soaking in the hot pools, and Jake came out the last night to join me. It was lovely, and my classmates were charming, and the teacher was a wealth of knowledge who gave me great grappling hooks to use on this learning curve.

I will be sharing my finished (er, mostly unfinished) work from this class with my Patreon patrons. The rest of you will have to imagine what I did.
Tags: artwork, painting

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