Artistic License

I dip my brush into the murky water and blend together ultramarine and ochre together, determined to master watercolor. Really, it’s all just guessing for me. But, I have Lonni, and she tries to help, poor woman.

My colors are thin and muddy. “You don’t have a big enough water container, change your water!” she tells me. I do, then sit back down to paint, laying down too much water and not enough pigment. I try again.

“Your paints are too cheap. You can’t get a rich pigment. You need new paints,” she says. So, I went and bought new paints. She was right, and it made a world of difference, like when I bought new brushes later because of another teacher.

I make it seem like I took all this advice easily. Oh, no. I assure you I took these simple pieces of advice very personally, as if I were a crappy painter. Well, I knew I wasn’t a very good one, but I didn’t need other people to tell me that.

I painted my landscape she was critiquing with my student-grade watercolors, the pigments washed out and not doing justice to the bright orange of the fall foliage. But, here I was, focusing not on the beautiful foliage in the foreground, but the lonely barn in a field in the background.

Lonni looks at my work and immediately tells me what I’m doing wrong. “You’re focusing too much on the details,” she says. “If you paint every detail of the barn in the distance, you’ll need to paint every leaf in the foreground!” I pursed my lips in annoyance. I certainly didn’t want to paint every leaf.

“You need to look at that pictures as a whole.” She points to my reference image. “Less focus in the background, more focus on your subject in the foreground, the trees.”

My shoulders slumped, but I tried not to let her see my disappointment. I felt like the painting was a metaphor for my life, and Lonni was being more of a therapist in many ways, more than she was aware – which was not at all. I preferred it that way.

I painted to be happy, which was an emotion that was hard to come by for me. Painting with watercolor has been one of my most difficult but rewarding hobbies, and I’ve had many hobbies.

This was my first real shot at watercolor. As soon as I bought my first set of professional watercolors, I quit. It was too hard, and I wasn’t worthy of those paints.

This was how I lived my life. If something was too hard, I’d quit. If something was easy, I’d master it, then I’d quit.

I did go back to painting, embracing it as a lifelong passion after I realized that I didn’t have to paint the barn, and I could use my artistic license to not even paint the leaves. A painting could be whatever I wanted it to be. It was an opportunity to learn and grow constantly. If I could look at the rest of my life the way I look at my art, then maybe I could change how I lived my life and live it better.

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