art · craft writing · creativity · fear · flow · growth mindset · illustration · painting · watercolor

Watercolor Painting: My First 100 Day Project

Hello Creative Sojourners,

I decided to start a 100 Day Project, have you heard of this?

Last Fall I fell in love with doodling, drawing, and painting, but I took a break after growing frustrated with my how my projects were coming out.

At the beginning, I felt intense joy at making art. I lost myself playing in watercolor puddles and dabbing acrylic paint like a kid. But as my enthusiasm grew, so did my self-doubt. A familiar pattern reared its ugly head. I discovered more and more artists online as I searched for inspiration, lessons, and ideas. I mooned over their work, longed to be better and make more beautiful things. When I went back to my own papers and canvases, I felt stupid at how silly they seemed. Suddenly, the delighted joy I had felt in squishing paint morphed into intimidation as I started to feel that if I wasn’t good enough, I shouldn’t bother. Wasn’t one creative calling enough? I told myself I should probably stick to yarn and not risk embarrassment with my art.

Also, I was confused. I didn’t know what to work on, why I was doing this, or where it was going. I felt confused about starting paintings, building paintings, finishing paintings. With every painting I did, I reached a point where I had overworked it and felt it was ruined. I often rushed, painting in a kind of frenzy, trying to outrun all of these uncomfortable feelings.

Lately I’ve been feeling the call back to paint, paper, and canvas. I was splashing around with my watercolors on Saturday, and decided to write this quotation in paint. If Georgia O’Keefe, the bold painter of flowers, was as afraid as she says and did her work anyway, then maybe my fears don’t have to hold me back either. I’m often a fearful person, but I wanted to be able to say what she says. I tacked this quote up in my studio months ago, and it always moves me when I see it. It’s good to know that successful people struggle, isn’t it?

Thanks to my learning about the growth mindset, I know that the bridge to becoming better at the things I want to do is cultivating a relentless curiosity, accepting my current level of ability, and PRACTICING. If you don’t have time or inclination to read Mindset, Dr. Dweck has done a TED talk that is worth your time.

The growth mindset asserts that our abilities, traits, and skills are not fixed–we can learn and improve at almost anything we decide to practice. We can grow. This idea has changed my life more than any other in the past three years.

Practice, not talent.

Practice, not talent.

Practice, not talent.

I learned it with knitting and crochet, that was the first time I learned something I thought I couldn’t do. For years I said I just wasn’t crafty, I was a word person. This turned out to be wildly untrue. When I learned about growth mindset, I understood that I had felt its power, but had limited it to one domain–needlecraft. I was still thinking of myself as non-artistic, not a “math person,” and socially anxious, and destined to be this way. The book opened my eyes to how belief in our ability to learn and grow could be applied to many more areas of my life, not just fiber art. It helps with relationships, it helps with anxiety battles, it helps with diets, it helps with learning to play the piano, or cook. It gives you hope. You can do the things you long to do, and become the person you want to be. Don’t write yourself off. You can learn and improve. I can learn and improve.

So I will be practicing watercolor painting for 100 days, perhaps non-consecutive days, but I will work until I’ve done 100 practice sessions.

Today was Day 1. I waited until my daughter’s nap time, and counteracted my starting nerves by setting a basic task: a leaf study. I enjoyed feeling like an artist, going outside to our front yard with scissors in hand to snip a couple of leaf samples. By working very slowly, by paying careful attention to the feeling of the brush in my hand, and by watching colors magically transform in my pan, I found enjoyment in the process. I concentrated. I found flow.

I didn’t feel giddy like I have in times past, but calm and focused, and my first leaf went the best!

The fir twig was next. It was difficult, but became a little more Zen as I experimented with different brush strokes to create all those slim needles.

It’s funny how you think you know what a leaf or a rose looks like, but you really don’t until you look at it and see it, like artists say.

By the end, my paper towel looked pretty to me, and I felt very satisfied and relaxed.

Day 1 is a wrap!

I was feeling so artistic, I decided to wear a headscarf.

Thanks for visiting me today. Is there anything out there that you want to try practicing? Maybe for 100 sessions? Tell me! And keep making your life the way you want it.

Yours in Splashes,

Sara Kay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s