Developing Muscle Memory

Passing Monsoon watercolor painting

So I'm trying to paint more quickly to create a more watercolor-y (is that even a word?) vibe. I think this painting, "Passing Monsoon", which I accomplished in just 30 minutes, is a moderate success. As I look at it, thoughts like, "this spot can use more color" or "this is really too dark" try to make me change it. But I made a pact with myself that when I started painting it, I would not try to 'fix' it after it dried. And here in the Arizona desert, paintings dry pretty fast!

Usually when I try to paint quickly with a particular scene or subject in mind, I fuss over it in vain attempts to "make it right" and end up overworking it and throwing it out in disgust. However, I shouldn't call that a failure. I've decided to think of it as the wrong way not to do again.

Ultimately, I want to be able to lay down a brush stroke and say "yes! That's it!" and move on, one brush stroke after another. Well, like anything we learn, art takes practice to develop that muscle memory, stacking up successes and tossing out the failures. Like learning a sport, you just keep practicing until you get it right. And so, I keep practicing to paint quickly. Eventually I'll get it right more often than wrong!

If you have ever tried to draw or paint and hated what you saw, chalking it up to lack of talent, don't give up! I didn't think I could paint at all and didn't bother trying it until a year ago after my figure drawing teacher encouraged me. I was terrified of paint, thinking "there's no erasing!" and ran the other way. After a couple months of rethinking, I decided to take the plunge and learn what I thought was the "simple" painting medium of watercolor. Calling watercolor "simple" is a whole 'nother blog post, so I'll stop there!

All it takes is one moderate success - even of it it took hours to accomplish - to give you the confidence to try again. So I kept plugging away, sometimes liking what I saw, sometimes not. When other people told me they liked it, I thought at first that they had to say it - my teacher, fellow students, my family and friends.

But that one sentence from my drawing teacher finally convinced me that everyone wasn't just being nice. He said, "with your skill level, you should paint." Thank you Mano!!

So now every time I see a failed painting, I remember his words. He saw my potential and encouraged me to pursue it.

You should too!

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