This week, I started a watercolour painting class along with nine other people who have time on their hands during the day. Some of us are retired, some of us are empty-nesters, and some of us are temporarily unemployed. During the first hour, the instructor introduced herself and had the class members introduce themselves by describing their painting backgrounds. It was intriguing to realize that many of us have taken art lessons before but have done very little art work in between classes.
I am one of those people. Forty years ago I drew and painted as a hobby, and subsequently went to art college for a couple of years. I even taught art to high school students for two years. After that, though, I got busy with other things—mostly parenting and distance learning. There just wasn’t time for hobbies. At least, that’s what I have been telling myself.
About thirty years ago I took a watercolour painting class and thoroughly enjoyed it. But, I didn’t do much painting afterwards. Similarly, I took an oil painting class about ten years ago. I still have a lot of the equipment but not many paintings to show for it.
As I was listening to other people saying that they had taken classes but had not otherwise done much art work, I realized that we were all externally motivated. We need the classes to provide that added pressure to do the work. Perhaps we need feedback, or approval, or deadlines, or all of those things. Now I’m wondering what has changed in me since I was young.
Back then, I drew and painted for pleasure and I did it often. It was something I was inspired to do regardless of whether or not anyone saw what I did. I didn’t even care if what I did was any good. I just did it. I can’t say it was a habit, because it wasn’t something I did on any kind of daily or weekly basis. It was a time-filler as well as a means of expression, and it was soothing. Back then, my family members played board games and sports, went outside and explored, read books and magazines, and took up hobbies. The motivation for me to draw and paint was, I suppose, mostly to have something to do when I was alone.
So, now I have come full circle and I am once again looking for something to do when I am alone. I have come to accept that I need some artificially imposed structure in order to be creative. That seems counter-intuitive, but there it is.
During the first class this week, the instructor had us paint a still life directly on to the paper. No drawing. No sketching in the outlines. Just painting. That was both challenging and exciting for me because I am naturally a cautious person. But I did it, and I realized that it was surprisingly liberating. I’m painting not just outside the lines, but without any lines at all!
I feel like a kid again.