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May 10, 2008

Watercolour painting and Lucky Accidents


Quite a while ago now I took a watercolour painting class over a period of about a year. Watercolour painting is really difficult it seems to me but it's also quite addictive.

There were some unexpected things about taking a painting class that really surprised me. One of the things you begin to notice when you do watercolour painting is how much the process mimics life itself. You begin to notice how your way of painting can really reflect things about your way of being. You begin to notice that, in watercolour painting, as in life, you have a lot less control than you originally might think you do.

Our instructor, a woman from Iran, used to talk about "lucky accidents" in watercolour painting. "Lucky accidents" are when the paint runs in such a way that the end result is actually pleasing and enhances the painting. In painting, as in life, sometimes there are lucky accidents. When you meet the people or a person you need to meet when you need to meet them for example. But, as in life, you need to practice to really get good at something.

You begin to notice the way you use the paint to express yourself. You begin to notice whether you are stingy or generous in the amount of paint you use. Are you afraid to take risks? Do you timidly and cautiously use tiny strokes or do you boldly run the brush over the water and then get the colour dark and luscious and then boldly draw the brush over the page with abandon and confidence.

You begin to see whether you truly are in it for "the journey" or if you're way too focused on the end result. In that way, it's a bit like sex.

Are you afraid to make a mistake? You get to see how big a perfectionist you are and hear how critical you are of yourself in ways that are really tangible and undeniable even if you already suspected it.

You get to see how if you stick with something, then it truly is possible to transform what initially seems like something that has been ruined into something that's interesting and individual and that only you could have created. I think that's a lot like some relationships. They can seem ruined at times or uninspired but if you will yourself to stick with it, then they can come around into something unique to the two people involved and flourish again in spite of, or maybe because of their imperfections. There is great value in vulnerability and imperfection. It has taken me a long time to know this.

You get to be reminded that no matter what is being painted, everyone sees the same thing with different eyes because we each perceive the same thing so differently. Nothing's changed except the person who is viewing whatever they are trying to paint.

You get to see whether you have the ability to stick with something or not and how there's a very fine line between being quick to give up and a painting that has been overdone because you can ruin a painting by overworking it.

What I love most about painting is that it takes you both in and out of the present moment at the very same time. It's one of those things that requires so much focus that time passes and you're not even aware of it. That's a good thing. It doesn't surprise me that studies have shown that people who paint or do something artistic tend to live longer.

In the end it really doesn't matter what you do. It doesn't have to be watercolour painting. But, learning something new, having to improve, feeling committed to it, and getting excited because you can see incremental bits of improvement are bits of time that really matter. It's a way of being engaged that makes getting out of bed in the morning just a little bit more interesting. And, I don't know anyone who couldn't use that at some point throughout the years.

1 comment:

Michelle Evelyn Cook (aka Cookme) said...

I've just been wandering around museums in Paris with lots of watercolour, and other, paintings! I tell ya, it's not as easy as it looks. I'd write more but my internet card is about to run out!
M