4 lessons from my first painting

I’ve always wanted to paint.  In 2001, I took my first painting class from the local recreation program.  I thought of myself as a logical professional at the time, not an artsy type.  I bought the materials relying entirely on the list and the store clerk, shocked at the huge variety of paintbrushes.

I can see myself sitting at the easel in my dad’s old shirt one day, feeling guilty for asking mom to get the paints out for me, staring at the blank paper, needing to create something worthwhile… but completley blanking on WHAT I wanted to paint so badly.  Conclusion: Painting was too hard, too frustrating.  

Turns out, it wasn’t a class as much as an artist walking around the room for 2 hours.  My questions started with, “What do I do?”  Then, “What should I paint?”  She suggested a still life.

Not having brought the requisite vase and fruit, I ran to the car and collected four plastic kid blocks out of the baby seat.  I followed her rough suggestions, outlining the blocks and attempting to shade them.

When I think of that class, all I remember is frustration and disappointment.  I couldn’t figure out shadows.  She didn’t tell me exactly how to do it.  The class was bad, I thought, the teacher was bad.  The teacher even said my painting was good — was she blind?!  I didn’t like the painting at all.  I was experiencing a world crisis!

I used to get a sick feeling thinking of that first painting, but yesterday I dug it out and looked at it for the first time in a decade.  I was shocked to see it has a lot of promise for a first painting, though unfinished and unfinessed.  Looking with my eyes today, in fact, I think it’s great!  (And how appropriate: baby building blocks, LOL. See pic.)

So Many Lessons Learned

1. All my angst was in my head.  It came from me, not the class.  I had expectations about the class, and because it was different than *I* demanded, I got upset.  Really upset.  I created a crisis and then lived the negative emotions and beliefs, for years and years afterwards, to my own detriment.  I did that a lot back then.

2. First paintings are masterpieces too: masterpieces of learning.  Now I see that since you never stop learning, you can let everything in your life be a masterpiece of learning!  Wow, you are SO good.

3. Things you do are never, ever as bad as you think.  Self-judgment is the worst.  We can be more cruel to ourselves than to anyone else.  Believe the compliments you get.  Write them down.  Repeat them to yourself.  You totally rock.

4. Get back up on the bike.  How can you judge your first painting?  Your first book?  Your first song?  Your first client’s results?  Keep going!  You are so much more than any single thing you do.

Will I take up painting again?  …Stay tuned…