Happy new year, you guys! I've been busy doing creative things since I was last here with a new Hug, and I'm hoping you have as well, even if it's been creative tidying. I mean it can't all be an exciting round of eating/remorse/treadmill shopping, right? Here's my prettiest New Year's project:
I gave some friends little watercolour sets for Christmas and decided to buy myself some paint and paper while I was at it. My only real memories of painting are Finger, in kindergarten; Something On A Thick Paste Brush, in high school; and Brush and Roller, as a homeowner with shabby old furniture to make over. It was time.
Ady mentioned she has this little travel tin from Daler and Rowney (complete with a thumb ring for painting at an easel) so I felt it was a good place to start:
But in hindsight, I should have treated myself to the larger set which comes with grey and black, both of which I really missed while I was planning out my project. Black pen to the rescue!
Watercolour is not something you can just pick up and do well - you have to experiment and thank goodness for the internet and Youtube, which in the end I didn't bother with because I found the wonderful site The Postman's Knock first. This is the sort of wonderful artist's rabbit hole where you can dive down and lose yourself for hours, but I particularly enjoyed the posts on laurel wreaths and beginner water colour painting.
My mind doesn't really work the way it has to, to be able to make art in this medium. Artists think about composition and placement, whereas I am more about the overall tactile and emotional experience that comes from different colour and texture combinations. This makes me a shoo-in for knitting and other fiber arts, but kind of a hopeless blob for paint. What on earth would I do with these fun new tools?
One thing I did know: I didn't want to draw flowers because it would just be depressing with so many of Ady's gorgeous paintings for comparison and contrast. That realization deepened some thoughts I'd been having after reading Laurel Bern's New Year's posting (which is excellent, by the way, you should really read it as well as the link she shares, if you're looking for encouragement in your own life.)
My takeaway was how important it is NOT to listen to the voice in your head that says you shouldn't even bother trying to reach your goals, because somebody else will always get there first and your own talent is crummy anyway.
Do you hear this inner voice? I know practically every writer does, no matter how successful. Lots of artists do too. I am guessing it's universal and is just louder when you're actually trying to achieve something, leaving some of us more vulnerable to it than others.
Anyway: I decided to use my watercolour set to decorate a catchphrase I could use to drown out the negative self-talk when I'm trying to write this year.
I did some brainstorming on my own and then with friends and came up with various ungainly options, such as:
Don't try to be the best, just try to be YOUR best
Others may be better, but nobody tries harder
Try now, panic later
All of which are probably useful but I didn't like the negativity. I mean, 'trying'?? I try like I breathe - all the time. I don't need reminders for that.
Finally I said The trouble is, there are just SO many books out there, and who am I to think I have anything new or useful to say? I need to believe there will be room for my writing, with somebody, somewhere.
Everybody liked that idea and one person said, "There's always room for you." So that's what I decided on. It's an open-ended sort of positive phrase and if it works for your situation, please do feel free to use it!
I did a first draft with the very tiny pointed brush I'd bought and learned some interesting tricks that I quite enjoyed.
For example, my set comes with little basins for mixing paint colours together - but I mixed several different combinations in just one basin because all you need to create a new paint is a drop of water, and it turns out one drop is easily separated from others thanks to the type of plastic used for the tin liner. To add minimal drops I used the syringe I kept for some reason after having my wisdom teeth out and being told to use it for jetting water into the spaces left behind.
Also, I learned to let my brush sit for a moment in the area I wanted to colour, so that the water would seep onto the page. After that I could move the water around within the black pen borders for a while, until it dried.
Here's my experimental page, where I worked at getting just the right green for my laurel leaves (the final version was a mixture of two greens, a dark blue, and some brown):
After I did this draft I realized I would have to write freehand on the good copy - my ink didn't flow properly over a pencil tracing. Also, that my little house needed a window, and I should draw bigger socks, and do a black outline on everything and not just the lettering.
Which left me with this:
A house to remind me that I know how to coordinate building one; two socks to remind me that not everybody can knit those and I have many grateful sock-recipient friends to prove it; and a hat, to remind me how many people appreciate my hat patterns (especially the chemo caps.)
There's always room for somebody who can do what I do, and that means there's always room for me. And I can guarantee that there's always room for you, too.
I have no idea what I'll paint next but I know it will be something, because it turns out, painting with watercolour is incredibly relaxing. It's hard not to feel optimistic about personal victories, however small, when you start the year with another tool for your workbox. Hope this gets you thinking about a way to give yourself an encouraging pat on the back, too!