My art teacher is on sabbatical until February, and I've joined a new class. It was listed as intermediate-advanced watercolor. Well, it turns out most of the people in the class are advanced with a capital 'A'. We critique students paintings at the beginning of class and my only comments are 'sign it, frame it, sell it.' One of my classmates also teaches watercolor and others have taken from this instructor for years. They whip off these beautiful masterpieces within minutes. It is as inspiring, as it is intimidating.
I'm not a beginner painter, but I have so much to learn to catch up to them. I'm still struggling with learning to mix color correctly, the amount of water to use, brush strokes, and various techniques to employ to make a painting come alive and sing. I want to learn, love the process, but this class has been hard for me. I feel like I'm wading in the shallow end of the pool, while they are doing flips in the deep end.
Frankly, I wanted to quit. Then one class, instead of tackling a whole painting, I took the techniques demonstrated in class and applied them to smaller pieces. We were working on a huge still life arrangement featuring pumpkins. I couldn't finish painting the whole set up, and my pumpkins looked like oranges (that's being generous). Discouraged at being unable to complete my painting and at my citrus pumpkins, I came home and dove into painting just pumpkins, lots and lots of pumpkins. My teenage son finally groused, 'I don't mind the paintings all over, but please don't ask me what I think of your pumpkins again.' Okay, so I got carried away, not to mention missed the whole double entendres so intent was I on getting it right.
I brought a couple of my pumpkin studies into class and my art teacher really liked them. He said he thought I had pumpkins down and demonstrated good use of watercolor technique (see above picture). I was thrilled. I felt like I had succeeded.
It made me realize that sometimes in order to grow and challenge ourselves, we can start small and work our way up to the more difficult. We shouldn't always focus on the complete picture, but perhaps tackling a piece of it. More importantly, we need to work at our own pace and at our own level. Mastering creativity is not a competition unless made into one.
It is the same with writing. If you can't finish 10,000 words/day on your WIP, maybe try 5,000. If you can't churn anything out that day and suffer writer's block, work on revising a scene that isn't clicking or try plotting. So you're not published, there is still incredible accomplishment to be derived from typing 'the end' when you arrive there -- published or not.
So, instead of becoming intimidated when something appears beyond my grasp, I'm going to take smaller steps, enjoy the walk, and arrive at my destination in my own sweet time -- but I won't quit. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. No guts, no glory.
Next week, we turn to landscapes in my art class. Perhaps I'll concentrate on trees....